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Bi-partisan bill gave a shot at being pro-vaccer
By John Sanford Friedrich
Vaccines seem to turn normal politics on its head and leave everyone dizzy. As I hoped to note in an earlier RestoreNC article, the motivations behind anti-vaccers perhaps has its origins in a sense of fear relating to the rise in the prevalence of autism.
Some of the derision against the anti-vaccers has come from pointedly liberal corners – yet let it be noted that Buncombe County, wherein Asheville sits, has the state’s highest rate of vaccine non-compliant parents, 4.5 percent. Were anti-vaccine fears based on a general lack of education in a community, one would expect to find these sentiments not in a college town with a rather cosmopolitan population by Appalachian standards.
Buncombe County is liberal enough that they can even boast of a Democratic senator in these bleak days for the party. Terry Van Duyn (D-49) is a solid progressive but she joined with several Republicans in a bold attempt to remove the “religious exemption” which allows parents to avoid the enforcement of mandatory vaccination schedules for public school students.
These exemptions are as easy to acquire as a “written statement of the bona fide religious beliefs and opposition to the immunization requirements.” No priest or “faith leader,” as former President Bush used to term them, need sign off.
SB346 would have completely eliminated this category of exemption, though it would maintain a medical exemption with the authority of the child’s doctor.
Whether removing the religious exemption strengthens the “separation of church and state” or is evidence of a war on religion depends on one’s pre-existing worldview. The de facto result would be a far higher rate of compliance since the whims of parents would no longer suffice. 1,204 children were allowed into the school system without immunizations under religious waivers while only 179 qualified for medical exemption.
Sen. Jeff Tarte (R-41 Mecklenburg) is about as conservative as they come but it was his impetus that moved the bill forward, for a time. A progressive and several conservatives all agreed that the threat of re-emerging measles, whooping cough and polio were worth directly challenging the vague notions of religious North Carolinians. These voters are the sorts that most politicians bend over backwards to avoid discomforting.
Cary’s Senator Tamara Barringer (R-17 Wake) was also a key sponsor, suggesting that the fault lines on this issue are not liberal/conservative or even urban/rural but whether one believes in 20th century science.
SB346, unlike many bills, died a particularly glorious death. It was killed by popular opposition. Unlike the recent medical marijuana committee meeting where dozens of supporters were locked out and generally disregarded, when “dozens of protesters picketed the General Assembly” over the religious exemption, the bill was withdrawn. The bill’s aims were “lost in the noise,” according to Tarte.
Anecdotal and sociological data suggests that abuse of cannabis can lead to sub-optimal human performance, however so can a range of vices such as over-eating. These sorts of vices only hurt those who engage in them while going unvaccinated threatens the affliction of polio across a classroom.
Legislators from the progressive to the solidly red recognized this problem. Bi-partisan politics to deal with actual problems are rare in today’s politics. Even rarer is when a group of citizens mobilizes and is not only heard but are able to see their wishes reflected in law. Alas this prime example of "democracy in action" is for a backwards policy.
Hopefully the dizzying sensation of all of this is not an early symptom of whooping cough.