Arizona has cancelled an optional, statewide vaccination program aimed at educating citizens through the internet… all because some anti-vaxxer parents complained about it.
Arizona’s program was based on successful ones in other states, but parents who refuse to immunize their children successfully intervened. Their irrational pushback will further hurt Arizona’s ability to increase its dismal vaccination rates.
The pilot online course, modeled after programs in Oregon and Michigan, was created in response to the rising number of Arizona schoolchildren skipping school-required immunizations against diseases like measles, mumps and whooping cough because of their parents’ beliefs.
But some parents, who were worried the optional course was going to become mandatory, complained to the Governor’s Regulatory Review Council, which reviews regulations to ensure they are necessary and do not adversely affect the public. The six-member council is appointed by Gov. Doug Ducey, with an ex-officio general counsel.
Members of the council questioned the state health department about the course after receiving the public feedback about it, emails show. The state responded by canceling it.
The complaints that ended the pilot program came from about 120 individuals and families, including 20 parents who said that they don’t vaccinate their children, records show.
The reaction from those who fought for this initiative leaves a lot to be desired, too. They openly admit that anti-vaxxers and “political” forces were able to thwart their attempts.
“We’re so sorry we couldn’t make a go of this — strong forces against us,” Brenda Jones, immunization services manager at the Arizona Department of Health Services, wrote in an Aug. 6 email to a Glendale school official, along with a notification about the course’s cancellation.
In an email to two Health Department staff members on Aug. 14, Jones wrote that there had been “a lot of political and anti-vaxx” feedback.
“I’m not sure why providing ‘information’ is seen as a negative thing,” said state Rep. Heather Carter, R-Cave Creek, who spent the last three legislative sessions as chairwoman of the House Health Committee and helped create the pilot program.
“Providing information doesn’t take away a parent’s choice to seek an exemption. … This is a major concern. Vaccines have saved lives for generations. We all want to live in safe and healthy communities.”
Carter, a Republican, is right on this. This program wasn’t going to force anyone into anything — it was simply a way to educate and inform an Arizona population that we know has problems with vaccinations. Instead, the ignorance will continue, putting the health of schoolchildren in even more jeopardy.
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