Actress Jessica Biel joined anti-vaxxer Robert F. Kennedy Jr. in California to lobby against a bill that has been opposed by anti-vaccine advocates.
The California state senator who introduced a proposed law that would limit vaccine exemptions for school-age children appears unmoved by actress Jessica Biel’s explanation that she lobbied against his bill not out of an opposition to vaccines but out of concern for friends whose child has a medical condition that warrants such an exemption.
Sen. Richard Pan, a pediatrician and Democrat in the California State Senate, introduced Senate Bill 276, which would make it harder for parents to avoid rules requiring children to receive vaccinations before entering elementary school. If it passes, parents seeking an exemption to immunization requirements would need the approval of a public health official.
Pan told The Hollywood Reporteropposition to the bill “starts to be about privilege. The only reason that (individuals like Biel) are able to do this is that they are counting on others to vaccinate their own kids for them. How many people have to be hospitalized before people think, ‘This isn’t right.’ I wish the 1 percent would stop spreading disease to the 99 percent.”
Lea Russin, the head of pro-immunization group Vaccinate California, told the trade publication if, in fact, the Biel’s friend’s kid “is truly immune-compromised, that child will benefit from this bill.”
The controversy started Tuesday when Biel appeared alongside vaccination skeptic Robert F. Kennedy Jr. at the State Capitol in Sacramento. Kennedy shared photos of her visit on social media.
“Please say thank you to the courageous @jessicabiel for a busy and productive day at the California State House,” Kennedy wrote on Instagram Wednesday.
Following criticism of Biel’s appearance with Kennedy, the 37-year-old actress shared an Instagram post Thursday clarifying her stance on vaccines, writing, “I am not against vaccinations — I support children getting vaccinations and I also support families having the right to make educated medical decisions for their children alongside their physicians.”
Biel added that she was lobbying against the bill due to its handling of medical exemptions, which she views as harmful.
“My dearest friends have a child with a medical condition that warrants an exemption from vaccinations, and should this bill pass, it would greatly affect their family’s ability to care for their child in this state,” she wrote. “That’s why I spoke to legislators and argued against this bill. Not because I don’t believe in vaccinations, but because I believe in giving doctors and the families they treat the ability to decide what’s best for their patients and the ability to provide that treatment.”
The bill arrives at the California statehouse amid a national rise in cases of measles, mumps, pertussis (whooping cough), tuberculosis and other infectious diseases that were all-but-eliminated by modern medicine, with experts attributing the return to parents choosing not to vaccinate their children.
Outbreaks across the U.S. have forced officials to declare emergencies. Why are we starting to see the rise of these outbreaks? It dates back to the anti-vax movement.
Just the FAQs, USA TODAY
In an interview with The Daily Beast, Kennedy claimed that Biel supported “safe vaccines” and “medical freedom.”
“She was a very effective advocate,” Kennedy said of the actress. “She was very strong and very knowledgeable. Extremely well-informed. An extremely effective advocate. She knows what she’s talking about… She’s upset about this issue because of its particular cruelty. She has friends who have been vaccine-injured who would be forced to leave the state.”
Kennedy, the son of Robert F. Kennedy and nephew of President John F. Kennedy, is the founder of anti-vaccination organization Children’s Health Defense, which has led campaigns and petitions arguing that children should not be vaccinated.
Several Hollywood names praised Biel’s involvement in the comments of Kennedy’s Instagram post. Kimberly Van Der Beek, wife of James Van Der Beek, thanked Biel for “enlightening people with grounded information and science today,” while Rosanna Arquette wrote, “Thank you Jessica.”
The same post was met with widespread criticism on social media, with critics calling her “pro-killing people” and “pro childhood death from measles and influenza.”
Seth MacFarlane didn’t mention Biel or Kennedy Jr. by name, but tweeted his opposition to the general anti-vaccination movement, writing, “Refusing to vaccinate your children cannot be justified by “personal belief.” You’re endangering their health and the health of the public. Your right to your “belief” ends where it harms others. Or as they say: “Your right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins.”
“One of the many reasons I absolutely fume over this stuff is that celebrities have *so* much influence and one Jessica Biel can drown out the wisdom of 100s of doctors/scientists,” one commenter wrote, with another joking, “I disagree with Jessica Biel about vaccinations, but she’ll still remain my #1 source for all other medical information.”
Biel has one child, 4-year-old son Silas Randall, with her husband Justin Timberlake. Biel and Timberlake have not previously spoken about vaccinations or whether they chose to vaccinate their child.
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