(In Colorado, “anti-vaxxer” is spelled G-O-P – Promoted by Colorado Pols)
Last Wednesday morning, Rep. Lori Saine (R-Firestone) and Sen. Vicki Marble (R-Greeley) hosted the second public “Vaccine and Health Choice Summit” at the Colorado State Capitol.
The summit featured two head speakers: Cynthia Nevison, Ph.D. in Atmospheric Science, and Dr. John Kucera, M.D.
The meeting also featured panelists, including Rep. Rod Pelton (R-Cheyenne Wells) and Theresa Wrangham, executive director of the National Vaccine Information Center, a non-profit “dedicated to preventing vaccine injuries and death,” who followed up the presentations with their own questions and comments.
The event circled primarily around the issue of exemption law. Colorado lawmakers tried to introduce a bill in April 2019 that would require parents to acquire an in-person signature from a health department in order for an exemption due to religious or personal beliefs, with pushback from those who oppose vaccines. The bill “died” in legislature before it could pass last session.
Nevison’s presentation focused on data and statistics intended to support why “changing vaccine exemption laws in Colorado won’t improve children’s health.”
Nevison made several false claims during her presentation, including that measles vaccination lowers herd immunity, which can only be achieved through natural immunity; that “the four ‘As'” (autism, asthma, food allergies, and ADHD) have risen in direct correlation with, and possibly due to, vaccines; and that boys have no need for HPV vaccinations because they cannot get cervical cancer.
In fact, in order for significant herd immunity to occur, a large portion of the population must be vaccinated in order to prevent the spread of the disease. Likewise, there is little evidence of a causal relationship between vaccines and major chronic health issues, especially autism; various studies have even expressly rejected a causal relationship. Additionally, HPV vaccinations are necessary for both males and females because males are still carriers of HPV (an STD), and they can still get genital warts and several other types of cancer from the disease.
In response to a question about how she gathered her data, Nevison said, “There was a sort of culture of secrecy surrounding the data where many of the reports on autism were not sharing the original data set. We want more people looking at data, not fewer.” She went on to suggest that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) were to blame for purposefully hiding raw data in their reports.
Nevinson’s primary area academic focus is studying climate science at University of Colorado’s Institute of Alpine & Arctic Research. She was profiled by Dr. David Gorksi, a surgical oncologist and noted pseudoscience debunker, in 2015:
It’s ironic in the extreme that someone like Nevison, who belongs to a discipline whose legitimacy and science have been questioned by denialists using intellectually dishonest tactics would use exactly the same sorts of intellectually dishonest tactics used by antivaccinationists to attack epidemiology and vaccine science.
Following Nevison’s presentation, Dr. Kucera discussed the ethics of exemption, specifically how “informed consent and freedom to choose” is “a necessity in the ethical use of vaccines.”
Dr. Kucera made headlines in 2005 when he advocated for the use of chelation therapy–the use of drugs to expel metals from the body–for treatment of individuals with autism. Experts say that chelation is dangerous for those not suffering from heavy-metal poisoning, and should be avoided as an autism treatment, as it is ineffective. The New York Times reported that Dr. Kucera saw testing a “waste [of] people’s money”:
Chelation is approved by federal drug regulators only after blood tests confirm acute heavy-metal poisoning. Yet some doctors say they skip the tests for autistic children. “We try not to waste people’s money on tests,” said Dr. John Kucera, a physician in private practice in Colorado Springs. “Some are of the opinion that everyone deserves a chance at chelation therapy whether they show the signs or not.” “Experts Reject Some Therapies,” New York Times, June 25, 2005
At the Kucera suggested that medical professionals could send lab results of the antibodies in children’s blood to their schools as evidence of their natural immunity instead of giving those children vaccines–an idea which appealed to Saine at the summit, as well:
“Is that a potential solution that we can stand on so that we can reduce the amount of vaccines given?” Saine asked Kucera during the panel.
“Yes, I’ve done that… There’s no ethical reason not to do that,” Kucera responded about his method of sending blood test results to schools.
Kucera heavily criticized the pressure on medical professionals to give children vaccines, stating that it left families with few medical practices to turn to and unfair amounts of “coercion,” a practice that he and most of the people in attendance seemed to agree could be attributed to the influence of “big pharma.”
A third summit to discuss possible legislation is expected to occur sometime in October.
CORRECTION: This post was corrected to say that the House Bill 19-1312 failed to pass last legislative session, and was abandoned.