Vac­cine bill op­posed by black group

Na­tion of Is­lam leader warns African Amer­i­can law­mak­ers of reper­cus­sions if they sup­port mea­sure.

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By Pa­trick McGreevy

SACRA­MENTO — A split among African Amer­i­can lead­ers on the is­sue of gov­ern­ment- re­quired vac­ci­na­tion has roiled the Capi­tol as law­mak­ers con­sider whether to elim­i­nate most ex­emp­tions to state im­mu­niza­tion laws.

A leader of the Na­tion of Is­lam has warned African Amer­i­can law­mak­ers of po­lit­i­cal reper­cus­sions if they sup­port a bill that would re­quire many more chil­dren to be vac­ci­nated. A coali­tion of other black or­ga­ni­za­tions on Mon­day coun­tered that mes­sage with sup­port for the mea­sure.

Na­tion of Is­lam Western Re­gional Min­is­ter Tony Muham­mad has told mem­bers of the Cal­i­for­nia Leg­isla­tive Black Cau­cus that they will face a back­lash from their com­mu­nity if they sup­port the bill, which may come up for a vote in the Assem­bly on Thurs­day.

“That is a trai­tor­ous act,” he said of black law­mak­ers vot­ing for the bill, which al­ready passed the state Se­nate.

“They will not be welcome in the black com­mu­nity if they vote like that.”

The leg­is­la­tion would elim­i­nate par­ents’ abil­ity to claim ex­emp­tions from hav­ing their chil­dren vac­ci­nated based on per­sonal be­liefs.

It was in­tro­duced by Demo­cratic Sens. Richard Pan, a pe­di­a­tri­cian from Sacra­mento, and Ben­jamin Allen, a for­mer school board mem­ber from Santa Mon­ica, in re­sponse to an out­break of measles that author­i­ties traced to Dis­ney­land.

In a re­cent speech and in an in­ter­view Mon­day with The Times, Muham­mad said he and other re­li­gious lead­ers are con­cerned that some vac­cines may harm young African Amer­i­can males.

He likened the vac­cine man­date to the gov­ern­ment’s Tuskegee Syphilis Study, in which fed­eral re­searchers, start­ing in the 1930s, with­held treat­ment from African Amer­i­can men who had the dis­ease.

“This hap­pened to us in Tuskegee, and we refuse to al­low this thing to hap­pen to us again un­der the name of health,” Muham­mad said. “Be­cause they came in the name of health in 1932 ... and watched men die when they had a cure.”

Muham­mad cited a widely re­jected study by one re-

searcher who in­di­cated that there might be a higher in­ci­dence of autism in African Amer­i­can boys who re­ceive the MMR vac­ci­na­tion against measles, mumps and rubella.

Sev­eral groups dis­puted Muham­mad’s com­ments Mon­day.

“Un­for­tu­nately, re­cent at­tacks on the mea­sure have been vi­cious, un­founded and dis­tort the science and history of child­hood im­mu­niza­tion within our com­mu­nity,” said a state­ment by the Cal­i­for­nia State Con­fer­ence of the NAACP, the Na­tional Coali­tion of 100 Black Women, the Charles R. Drew Med­i­cal So­ci­ety, the Cal­i­for­nia Black Health Net­work and the Net­work of Eth­nic Physi­cian Or­ga­ni­za­tions.

“Our or­ga­ni­za­tions de­nounce as­ser­tions that vac­ci­na­tion of black chil­dren would be another Tuskegee experiment,” the state­ment said.

The groups said vac­cines save lives and there is no rep­utable science that shows they present a greater health risk to black chil­dren.

The is­sue has gen­er­ated heated de­bate for months as hun­dreds of par­ents have at­tended public hear­ings to protest the mea­sure, ar­gu­ing that the state should not in­ter­fere with their de­ci­sions about what med­i­cal treat­ment to pro­vide their chil­dren.

When the state Se­nate passed the mea­sure, those vot­ing for it in­cluded Demo­cratic Sens. Isadore Hall of Comp­ton and Holly J. Mitchell of Los An­ge­les, the two mem­bers of the black cau­cus in the up­per house.

On Mon­day, the African Amer­i­can groups sup­port­ing the bill sought to re­as­sure cau­cus mem­bers that Muham­mad did not speak for the en­tire black com­mu­nity.

“As leg­isla­tive de­lib­er­a­tions con­tinue, we hope the Cal­i­for­nia Leg­isla­tive Black Cau­cus mem­bers know that re­crim­i­na­tions against those sup­port­ing the bill by op­po­nents do not rep­re­sent us,” the groups said.

“We con­demn the tar­get­ing of our com­mu­ni­ties with dan­ger­ous mis­in­for­ma­tion about vac­cine safety. We are in­cred­u­lous that this is be­ing painted as a civil rights is­sue,” the group said.

The cau­cus is­sued a state­ment say­ing that the bill, SB 277, is good for public health.

“We feel that SB 277 was thor­oughly vet­ted, and we stand by the po­si­tions of our in­di­vid­ual mem­bers on the mea­sure,” the state­ment said.

Some of the claims of health risk were voiced at a re­cent town hall meet­ing by op­po­nents in a com­mu­nity cen­ter owned by the Church of Scientology, a venue that led sup­port­ers of the bill to ques­tion whether the church is be­hind the op­po­si­tion.

How­ever, spokes­woman Karin Pouw said Mon­day that the church has not taken a po­si­tion on the leg­is­la­tion.

“The event you asked about was held at our Com­mu­nity Cen­ter,” Pouw said in a state­ment. “We fre­quently make the Com­mu­nity Cen­ter avail­able to fa­cil­i­tate the open dis­cus­sion of is­sues that are im­por­tant to mem­bers of the com­mu­nity. The church does not take a po­si­tion one way or the other on SB 277.”

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