It's time for Vax Talk. Let's talk VPD we're shaping the conversation about vaccines. To learn more, visit backstock.org Hello,
and welcome to Vax Talk. This is the podcast for people who vaccinate. Even if it's not spread from person to person, for example, they vaccinate against tetanus.
Yeah, crazy. And who even think it's okay to require a vaccine that doesn't spread from person to person, especially when it comes to kids health.
It's true. Now we're not gonna mess up this time, we're introducing ourselves from the get go. My name is Karen Ernst,and I'm the Executive Director of voices for vaccines.
And I'm Dr. Nathan Boonstra pediatrician here Blank Children's Hospital in Des Moines, Iowa.
And boy, do we have a show for you? We are gonna pivot a little bit away from COVID as much toward policy and legislative activities. So we have it on
Hold on to your seats.
I know, you paid for the whole thing, but you only need the edge. We need the we had our I actually had an interesting discussion with Northe and Becky from Safe Communities Coalition, which is a brand new 501 C 4 involved in really making sure that what our state policy makers and legislators are doing is based in science.
I'm very sorry that I missed that interview. I just couldn't get it to work out. But I'm excited to listen.
He was busy doing Doctor stuff. Yeah, that's what I tell people. That's right. Really. He's just hanging out like writing Hip Hop missions, still
memorizing the lyrics to family madrigal at the time.
I mean, it's pretty impressive. Thanks. In the meantime, though, I want to do some around the web. And I have a really exciting one. Okay, go to like, amazingly thrilling,
I think you're gonna only use the edge of your seat kind of thrilling.
Exactly. So last week, voices for vaccines got its app approved in the Apple Store, which is no small feet. So I am way excited about this. This app was like a year in the making. And we'll be refreshing it every week with new content. And it has just a number of things that I want to talk about. First of all, it has a debunking tool. So you could go in and choose you know which vaccine and what concern and if there's any ingredients or anything that you want to look at as far as being debunked, and it'll come up with a series of articles and videos and graphics that you can look at. It also has a start a conversation tool, which helps you sort of launch a vaccine conversation with somebody who might have questions and concerns. And so you can kind of pick who this person is how well you know them, where their feelings are about vaccines. And it'll sort of give you some pointers to talk to them and point you towards some tools to share with them. And then it has a Take Action tab, which is where you really get to be the person involved in advocacy, whether it's sharing a graphic on your social media, whether it's sharing a photo with us of your fabulous vaccinated family, or volunteering to do some real action. All of these things are contained in this fantabulous app that is now ready for free download our gift to the world
pretty. I like the interface. You know how many times I've been on the internet and there's been a bunch of bunk everywhere. And I was like, I just need some tools to kind of scrape this off. It's got so it's got some debunking tools right there at your fingertips. Like that.
I really imagined the debugging tool. I was just thinking about you know, when you're standing on the playground and someone says something and you're like, I wish I had access to information about that right here. Well, now you do. It's just right there on your phone, which you always have on here and you can just go through and be like,
oh bla bla bla bla bla bla bla. So it's good. To get that bunk off of there.
Yes, well, strong work. This is great.
need to go download it. It was easy to find on the App Store.
It was and if you can't find it, just go to the Resources tab on our verses for vaccines.org website. And I have it linked there as well. And as soon as it's accepted on the Google App Store, which is probably going to be by the time this podcast is published, that will be there as well.
Very cool. Well, I don't know if this Birchmeier around the web has made it in there. But I was going to talk a little bit about at least one particular canard that has some developments. All righty already. So um, well, this is both exciting and kind of like, wow, that Japan relaunched its HPV vaccination drive. So if you've been doing so, first of all, everybody remember that there are vaccines out there besides COVID? Remember, there's a vaccine called human papillomavirus vaccine that prevents viruses that cause several kinds of cancer, including Cervical cancer is one of the main ones but also some other genital area cancers and head neck cancers. And so it's a big deal. And one of the anti vaccine talking points has always been well, look at Japan, they had all the safety problems and they took it off the market. You think that Where's you know, what are they doing? Right, that we're doing wrong? What are they looking? There's a great article in Science Magazine, which we will link to in the notes on the kind of goes through that about the the kind of rationale or kind of lack thereof for pulling the HPV vaccine off of the list of recommended vaccines in Japan, in I think, around 2013. And, you know, similar to a lot of other things that we see it just was based on some reports, some things hitting the media, and a recommendation was made by an advisory group to the ministry that oversees this, and they pulled it from their recommended vaccines and the the rate of vaccination in Japan for HPV vaccine plummeted from I want to say it was from I can't remember what high percentage from 70% to less than 1% Just dropped. That makes sense, right. I mean, it wasn't I don't think it was, I don't obviously know the entirety of how the health system works in Japan. But my sense would be that it was, you know, not recommended by doctors. It was not paid for most likely. And it had a now bad name. So people were not seeking it out, I presume. So. Now they've reinstated it. And the sad thing is that it's I mean, that damage has already been done. There was a modeling study in 2020, that looked at what is the impact of this negligible vaccination rate from this like six plus year period, while this was looking at a six year period, so this was 2013 and 2018 period they're looking at, and they estimated that it would result in 25,000 preventable cervical cancer cases and up to 5700 deaths, or over that period, like from that period of times lack of vaccination. So I am glad that is back and going. It's gonna save a lot of lives. And it's nice to be able to say to anti vaccine activists who bring up Japan and say, No, look, they've figured it out, took a while, but they realized that people that this vaccine was safe and effective, and they put it back on their schedule.
Well, thank goodness, that is such a relief to me, not just because of its use in disinformation, but 5000 Women is a lot. And you know, sometimes I feel like maybe we have to reframe that for people during COVID times, because you know, when a million people in a country die from one disease in the course of like, two years 5000 Maybe doesn't sound like a lot anymore, but it is 5000 Women who are usually in their mid 30s, late 30s. That's a lot of people to die a really painful, horrible death. And it doesn't count all of the, you know, head and throat
cancers admit cancers in the other cancers. And that's one of the things that I want to emphasize every time that I talked about this vaccine is it is a vaccine that is not just a cervical cancer vaccine, it also has a great amount of benefit in reducing other cancers including those head neck cancers, which means there's a great amount of benefit for males to receive it as well.
Exactly. And you know, just to put a point on it too, you know, when we when we look at deaths versus the burden of disease, all of these cancers the HPV vaccine can prevent are horrible cancer cancers to have treated and cured. You don't want your children to go through that. Yeah. And that's really all I'm going to say. Because honestly, I was almost passed out at a large conference where they were showing photos of the treatment, because it was so terrible. And I don't, you know, I don't want that unnecessarily in people's minds. But I just, that is not something I want my son's to go through, at all. Full stop. In addition to I don't want them to pass something along to their partners, right. So I mean, that's fantastic. It also kind of calls to mind. You know, the United States, likes to wax poetic about things that happen in other countries, even though our imperfect public health system is actually pretty great. For whatever reason, we like to say, oh, but hey, Japan doesn't give this vaccine. The other country that we've been looking at for two years for reasons I don't get is Sweden.
Oh, look at Sweden just just pretending like there's no pandemic and everyone's happy. And it's lollipops and unicorns in Sweden.
Yeah, it worked out really well for them.
It did not. In fact, there was a Nature article that really looked at what actually happened in Sweden. And apparently, it was a lot of people getting sick and dying. Yeah.
Yeah, I don't have that. I don't have the stats off top of my head. But it is is far more concerning than, you know, the those kinds of impressions would make you think the big
one, that's the big piece of that article that stood out for me is how elderly very ill people would go to the hospital during this time of Swedish COVID denialism. And they would be clearly sick and instead of being admitted to the hospital, and treated and maybe put on a respirator of some of some kind, like they would have in the United States, they were given morphine, sent home and died. So it wasn't just incredible spread of the disease throughout the country. But it was an entire denialism that leaked also into not treating the disease, not even, you know, giving supplemental oxygen to people who couldn't breathe. So, you know, I've been on this drumbeat of you know, I'm glad I'm not in Sweden, while you know, all my telegram and gab feeds are all crazy about Sweden. I'm just kidding. I'm not on gab. But I do monitor anti vaxxers on telegram. Yeah. And it's really just like, as it turns out, we had, you know, some A B comparisons between, you know, how Sweden did it, or even ABCs, right, like, we've got like Sweden, like a country with high vaccine uptake, like, you know, UAB or Singapore or Korea. And then we've got the United States, which is a mishmash. And we can see that even the United States fared better with its pockets of COVID denialism, and it's on uneven policies and all the things that make the United States what it is, it turns out, our public health system still does a pretty great job.
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, obviously, there's a lot of things you can point to that were done. Wrong, or could have been done better. But I think you're right, I think we have just one of the things that can't be said enough is how passionate public health workers are for public. So even if you don't always have the greatest things coming from the kind of science communication and leadership and stuff like that, you have a lot of people on the ground who are working really hard to reduce the risk for people.
Absolutely. I mean, let's just think of I mean, let's just say who, right are public health workers right now, because they had two years where people were run out of their jobs, they were threatened. They were underfunded, they were given tasks to do that didn't make any sense. They their their jobs were limited, and they still were able to go out there and save lives with the strong belief that what they did was important, and I'll say this too, like when it comes to public health, right, and this is something that Dr. Alan Hinman first told me and that's that, you know, if you're looking at St oncologist Someone who works in cancer, they can sort of look at a person and say this person had cancer and I saved their life. Everyone in Public Health says, I know I'm saving lives. But we've none of us know whose life I'm saving. Right? Yep. And so that's why they've remained unsung heroes, it's really easy to say, but look at these people died. So obviously public health failed. But I mean, the truth of the matter is that against great odds, I just I am feeling very positive about the people who work in public health. And I think that that is definitely something that we can celebrate. That being said, I know that funding for public health has actually dipped this year, that there are places in public health that, for example, funding of COVID vaccines has dipped, so that if there's a universal call for fourth dose, we don't have that, that does that doesn't actually exist in the funding. You know, also just put a little funding note on there for everybody. There's a little budget item in the proposed budget from the president that would make sort of a companion to the Vaccines for Children program, that would be vaccines for adults. So all those uninsured and underinsured adults could get free vaccination the way there kids could. So you know, there's all sorts of ways we can support public health in our vaccine program. And I hope everyone's paying attention. All right, that was that was sort of a journey. I'm sorry, we went from your thing. And
we went all the way around the web that time,
though, actual world and the web. That was fantastic. Well, let's go to our interview with Becky in north from safe communities, and listen to what they have to say.
And we are joined now by Becky Christiansen and North Saunders from Safe Communities coalition, and Action Fund. Becky is a former surgical care nurse from Colorado. And North is a grassroots organizer who has worked in Maine, particularly successfully in the vaccines fear tool, I will say, and so we're thrilled to have you here today. Welcome, Becky and north.
Thank you for having us, Karen. We're really excited to be here.
One of the reasons I wanted to have both of you on our podcast today is that you're sort of newer to the game. And there are probably many of our podcast listeners who do not know who safe communities is. And so I'm hoping you can sort of give us some background on sort of who are you what what should we know about Safe Communities coalition?
Yeah, well, we're excited to introduce ourselves to your audience. So the Safe Communities coalition, we're a 501 C four political advocacy organization. And so our mission is to support pro vaccine legislation, support pro vaccine legislators and then hold anti vaccine legislators accountable to their constituents. And the reason that we're here in this space is based on our own personal experience doing vaccine advocacy. And so like you mentioned, I live in Maine, and my professional background is in grassroots organizing and political fundraising. And when Maine was attempting to remove non medical exemptions for school entry in 2019, my partner who's a pediatrician, encouraged me to go testify, and I thought it was a an interesting political diversion. You know, I've worked on presidential campaigns and national issues for a long time and thought it'd be fun to go up to the statehouse and testify and when I arrived, I was blown away by the the anti vaccine activists. They were many more of them in the pro vaccine folks. And they were well organized, had developed talking points. And so I realized there's gonna be a real political fight to get this common sense. Legislation passed and make sure that our schools and communities were safe from preventable diseases. And so with a group of other parents, we formed a volunteer led organization called main families for vaccines, recruited constituents, in particular legislative districts to put pressure on the elected officials and got the legislation passed by by just one vote in the main Senate. The anti vaccine organizers then went out and collected 75,000 signatures Here's to overturn the legislation through what's called the People's veto. So any bill in Maine that's passed by the legislature can be overturned through a referendum. So they collected their signatures, and our ragtag group of parents quickly professionalized, formed a state political action committee to oppose the veto effort, raised a bunch of money. And eventually, 170 3% of Maine voters supported the removal of non medical exemptions for school entry. And it was it was a great, great victory is the largest referendum win in Maine's history. And so through that effort, I got introduced to a bunch of other pro vaccine activists across the country. They wondered how we did the work and how we organized. And through those connections, I met Becky, who was in Colorado, and she has a wonderful story about how she came to the pro vaccine work that we're now doing.
Yeah. Hi, thanks so much, Karen, for having us on. Like you said, I am in Colorado with background in nursing. And a few years ago, I shifted gears and went into politics. So I did some local state and local campaign management. And then for two years, I worked as a legislative aide at our state house. While I was there, there was a vaccine related bill. Unlike main, we were not removing non medical exemptions. It was simply modernizing the exemption process. Prior to that a parent could basically write on a napkin, we don't believe in vaccines and hand it to the school nurse. So during that legislation, like north, I was blown away at the anti vaccine activists and how politically sophisticated they were working inside the Capitol, they very much understood the process. And there were a lot of them, they were loud. And they were angry, we experienced death threats, you know, negative messaging being posted all over people's neighborhoods, like put on people's doors. And when I heard representatives on the House floor, repeating vaccine misinformation in 2019, I was odd, it was obvious that they had been lobbying in that building for many years before this legislation was introduced. So in January of 2020, out of concern for this growing movement, I started calling around the country to anyone that would get on the phone with me and saying, you know, is this a problem? are, you know, is there anybody that's combating this because they're starting to work in elections, as well as lobbying inside the Capitol. And so when I found out was there wasn't, and you know, that it was very much needed. So we spent all of 2020 kind of, you know, once I met North spring of 2020, getting this concept off the ground and deciding kind of what we wanted to be. And I just have to say that in that process, while I was kind of navigating the various different state legislatures and legislation that we were seeing, I also had to navigate the world of vaccine misinformation that I would hear, be it from the people that were lobbying, or the lawmakers themselves. And this podcast was a huge help for me in learning to navigate some of those pieces of misinformation. And what, you know, what little hint of truth might have been in some of the things that I was hearing. So thank you very much for helping us get off the ground.
Thank you. That's, that's really heartening. And I appreciate that. I also appreciate the work that you do. One of my questions really is sort of a technical question. And that is that, you know, the work that voices for vaccines does is different than the work that you do. Mostly because we are a 501. C three, we have a wonderful big umbrella organization known as the task force for global health, which does amazing things, to bring health equity across the globe in ways that no one else is doing. We're really happy to be a part of that. But because of that, we basically don't support legislative legislation at all, and I know we're constrained. So why do you think it was important to start a 501 C four, given that, you know, all the constraints of 501, C threes and other reasons that we might not even be able to see?
Yeah, I think that's a that's the role that we hope to fill in our filling on the ground and, and state legislative advocacy across the country right now. There are a lot of organizations just like voices for vaccines that do great vaccine education work and in our role is to work with them to have great science based policies. But make sure our legislators know that it's not just the metal All professionals, it's not just the public health professionals that are advocating for those policies, that there's a pro vaccine majority in this country, that there are everyday citizens, the vast majority of whom vaccinate their kids and are vaccinated themselves. And to show those legislators that we trust our scientists, we trust our doctors, we trust our public health professionals, and that we need to have policies that reflect good scientific evidence. And so we're we go the last mile. There's lots of great groups, but we help organize them, we recruit parent advocates, to testify at state capitals, to contact their legislators, and really make sure that the great work that voices for vaccines and others is doing is amplified in the halls of the the legislatures.
And, you know, I can't thank you enough for doing that. It's really actually pretty amazing. I'm going to ask you in a while about that whole majority thing. But first, I really want to talk about what we're seeing in our state houses across the country. Are there sort of buckets or themes in the legislation that we're seeing as a whole? is? I mean, is there like a song book? And and are there particular songs being sung to our legislators?
Yeah, you know, that's really interesting, because when we are forming this organization, as you can imagine, in the middle of a pandemic, around March of 2020, when it all hit, I thought, oh, there's gonna be no need for this project I'm working on because everybody's going to see what the world looks like with vaccines, and bad vaccine legislation is just going to go away. And of course, the opposite happened. And so what we've seen this year, so far, over 1000 pieces of anti vaccine legislation submitted in state houses across the country. And they do seem to fall in some pretty, pretty clear buckets. One of those is, of course, a ban for employees or governments for a COVID 19 vaccine. It's pretty specific. We also are seeing our state public health organizations and departments targeted by that, whether it be through funding through their authority, or their ability to market vaccines, which we know is a very important part of our state health department's role. Another one is to make vaccine status a protected class just like race, religion, or ethnicity with either civil or criminal penalties. And then another one is natural immunity, where they come in and bring in so called experts that argue that natural immunity to COVID should count in lieu of a vaccine card, claiming that it is either superior to having had a vaccine, or in some cases, they're claiming that it's dangerous to receive a vaccine, if you've already had COVID. So those are kind of the ones that we've seen a lot of so far this year, the new one that's popped up as consumer protection from indemnified products, meaning that you require someone to have a product, a consumer product or use a product that the manufacturer is liability, or has no liability or liability free product, which sounds just like to me that Dell big tree wrote that bill, that's very much anti Vaxxer 101 language,
Dell big tree. So that sounds very sneaky. To me. It sounds like they're trying to pull a fast one on legislators who perhaps aren't paying close attention to that particular issue. You know, is do you think that's what's going on? Are they just being coy, and trying to spread misinformation?
I think that they are I think both I think they're trying to be coy with misinformation, and I think they're trying to keep it from being understood as anti vaccine legislation because they don't have to use the word vaccine or immunization in those bills. They're simply coming at it as a consumer protection, lead piece of legislation, which generally legislators support, not, but they may not understand that they're not really protecting consumers. They're putting their constituents at risk. And so
when we think about oh, hang on a second, Kevin, I'm going to ask North a question.
Yeah, I just want to kind of echo that. Legislators and anti vaccine activists, they are trying to be sneaky. And given the opportunity they see with the the pandemic, they're throwing every idea they have up against the wall to see what sticks more than they've ever done before. And so, if you look at the volume of legislation that can be considered anti vaccine, it's far greater than it's ever been. And so the the anti vaccine activists are emboldened by the pandemic to see how far they can push their agenda. And we're really worried And that's why we're we're hard at work in state houses across the country organizing constituents, parents advocates to demonstrate to their legislators that they, they want good public health and pro vaccine policies enacted.
Right. So, how many bills? Are we talking here that are anti vaccine across the country?
So far, we've seen over 1000
Wow. So are those like, evenly distributed? Are we looking at like 200 bills per state, or is are there places where this is happening more than other places,
there's certainly places it's happening more than others. And it seems to be in states where they have gotten progress in the past with anti vaccine legislation, and were able to make some progress last year. So for instance, we saw over 57, last by last count in Oklahoma, 36, in Louisiana, and we've seen, you know, only a handful in some other states, for example, where I am in Colorado, we only had four, but four is still more than what we had before. And so for those to be getting that kind of traction is incredibly frightening. And what's even more unsettling about it is that whether these bills make it to the governor's desk or not, it's being used as a platform for misinformation and additional platforms where we know that, you know, we're running, it's rampant and right now in our society, and that also the anti vaccine groups, which are, like I said, very sophisticated and very organized, use it for recruitment, use it for fundraising, use it to legitimize their, their their status and their stance on on vaccines and vaccine requirements.
That's really interesting. And I'm wondering, you know, how much in danger is the school entry requirement for vaccines in our country? And let me just say, you know, in western background in that, I know that in the 70s and 80s, Betty bumpers and Rosalyn Carter, formed every child by to, specifically to work hard to make sure that people were just aware that their kids needed vaccines, right kids were missing out on vaccines, then because parents didn't realize that, that they needed their shots. And so enacting these school entry requirements really served as a way of making sure kids were protected. And they acted the same way that things like training, or they acted in the same way that things such as screening for speech delays, screening for developmental developmental readiness, screening, hearing, screening, vision, all of those things, can catch kids and since almost all kids go to school, it's a it's a really great place to catch children who have particular health needs. And so that long preamble are Are we at a place where we're going to stop protecting kids who are going to school because of anti vaccine legislation that's happening now.
They certainly are trying that has been the goal of the anti vaccine activists since prior to COVID. We saw bills here and there that really didn't get much traction prior to the pandemic, that are now getting traction to remove our school entry requirements, whether that be through a legislator, not realizing that when they're saying no vaccine requirements, or not realizing that when they introduce a bill that says there's no COVID-19 requirements in schools that it would be very easy in a year or two, to edit that language in that bill and just take out the word COVID-19. And it would be removing all school entry requirements. We certainly have seen a few bills that are very generalized, that would remove the and as well as the consumer protection bills that I just spoke of, would remove school requirements. So we certainly are in very real danger of that being a reality in the next couple of years, unless we get our voices to our legislators and let them know that we value and have the right to quite frankly, environments free from preventable disease.
I think that it's it paints a dire picture that we're entertaining these bills that would remove school vaccine requirements. I think the reality is is the majority of lawmakers recognize the role that vaccines have played in our public health system for decades, and their importance in preventing diseases running rampant in our communities. And so well, it's frightening that the anti vaccine activists have as much traction as they do coming out of the pandemic. Our hope And our activities are directed to make sure that the pro vaccine majority is heard and that legislators are accountable to their constituents, and that we preserve school entry requirements, and that we continue to expand the protections that that vaccines allow us in our modern society.
Absolutely. I could not echo that more if I tried. But I'm hoping we can drill down a little bit more and maybe make me more afraid if that's okay with you. What do you think is, if you were to pinpoint one, one bill, that really poses the greatest threat to our vaccination program, right now.
So I think the the bill, or the type of legislation that we're most concerned about is the legislation that creates a protected class around the choice to be vaccinated. The other protected classes in our country, whether it's based on religion, or ethnicity, or gender, they are not based on a choice there. You choose whether to vaccinate your family or to vaccinate yourself against preventable diseases. And there are consequences for making that choice. You know, you're not protecting yourself from a preventable disease. In in this country, there are penalties for for making the wrong choices, whether that's drinking too much and driving, there are severe penalties for that there are consequences for for not following traffic laws. And so we strongly believe that a choice whether to vaccinate yourself does not guarantee you the same protections against discrimination that a protected class would. And so by protecting that potential class, we would remove one of the most powerful tools in our public health arsenal, to protect the people that live in our country. And so the freedom that some people want, is going to impinge on the liberties that are protected in our Constitution. And so right.
And so it's really, you know, one of those things, when you're looking at, you've made the choice not to vaccinate, but people who are going through chemotherapy didn't make the choice to have cancer, people who, you know, have an immuno compromising condition didn't make the choice to be sick. But you've made the choice to remain vulnerable to an illness. And it's, you know, it's one of those things where a lot of anti vaxxers will say something along the lines of when you drink and drive, that's put, you know, that's your choice to put something in your body. But when you don't get vaccinated, like you don't have a choice about whether or not to put something in your body, if you're going to force me to by not letting me go to school or something, right. And that's why I always like to also like in it a little bit, too. You know, it's your choice not to wear a shirt, sir. But we can't serve you food in this restaurant, because it is a public health risk to have your gross hairy chest, eating alongside our nice closed patrons. And so sometimes the choice not to do something, really as a public health risk.
Yeah, I think an even more striking example would be, you know, there are rules around the preparation of food, you know, sure, what do you want to eat at a restaurant, you need to wear a shirt, but there are rules around the preparation of food. And the Public Health Department has strict requirements for the temperature that refrigerators have to be at, and about washing hands in general cleanliness of the restaurant, and those those rules that are there to help protect the public health of the community. And if a chef doesn't want to wash his hands, I don't want to have the food that he's preparing. But that's his choice. He doesn't have to be a chef.
Yeah, sure. Bring bring me back to my traumatic days of food service.
I would say also, equally concerning is the legislation that we're seeing that's dismantling our public health systems and a lot of states removing their authority to add vaccines to the schedule for school entry. So if we were to, you know, come up with some great new vaccine for let's say, RSV, or strep throat, and we couldn't, they wouldn't be able to add that to the schedule, which is, I think, a little frightening and serious, a lot of overreach by our state legislators and also, you know, who can predict the next pandemic and at this point, we have seen legislation that prevents the Public Health Department from declaring a quarantine in a school if there's an outbreak of a disease of a contagious disease or And even as NorthPoint just pointed out about restaurants, they've removed so much public health authority that they don't have authority over restaurant inspections in some states at this point, legislation that we have, because of the legislation that's happened in this last year. And I think that at the end of the day, the people that will suffer the most from this are underserved populations, just as we just saw happen with COVID, 19 and 2020. And so I think that that's, that's the most frightening to me for the long term.
Right. And, you know, when we're looking at who is pushing these bills, I know, there was a time when you could go to a state house, and vaccines had broad support. There might be like the, you know, odd, loose cannon here are there who kind of got ignored by everyone, you know, ours was Mary France and Representative Mary Francis in Minnesota who's still there. But she was like, oh, that's Mary Frandsen. We just, you know, ignore her. But now, it seems to be sort of a little bit more mainstream. So if the majority of people vaccinate, who's this minority who are helping make this so mainstream in state houses right now?
Well, they're not new. They've been organizing since the, for decades, around the anti vaccine agenda, and so it's not as if they materialize during the pandemic. They've been here for a long time. They've cultivated relationships with lawmakers for a long time. And and with the rhetoric around COVID. And the attention that these lawmakers are able to get around COVID vaccine requirements, it seems politically expedient for them to welcome the anti vaxxers into their, their constituency. And so, because they're able to get attention about the issue, and there are activists who are well organized and experienced doing this work, these lawmakers are taking advantage of the situation, to to entrench their positions. And so it's not new, it's just a it's the circumstances have allowed them to gain more power.
Right. And it's interesting, because it's the exact opposite of what people would have predicted. They would have thought, oh, a big, you know, pandemic public health crisis, clearly, people will start seeing the value of public health and will start funding public health.
I think that's what we all thought was going to happen.
Oh, I did not. But I've had a different experience with recent measles outbreak. So Becky, how about you?
Yeah, I've I thought that I thought it was going to change things. I thought that this project wasn't gonna go anywhere because of the pandemic hit. And you know, everybody was going to, you know, go get their kids their shots. And about a week later, I think I saw that after I had that thought I saw that first mask burning protest. And so that that thought was short lived, that the optimism was short lived after I saw that. So
it's a it's a pretty gross, grab for power to use public health as a wedge issue or a culture wars issue. Is there any hope, anywhere out there, that we can somehow be bipartisan on anything vaccine related?
We don't want this to be partisan. You know, we believe that vaccines and public health they're they're cornerstones of our modern society. And we want elected officials to recognize that there is strong scientific basis for the safety and efficacy of vaccines and public health in general. And so we want to bring this issue back to the center. We don't want to further entrench it. We want to cultivate relationships between lawmakers, scientists, physicians, and in everyday constituents, so that they understand that this matters to me to you to all Americans, and that we need to be thinking about how do we protect the most vulnerable from these diseases? And so there is hope. And, you know, we're just one small organization hoping to hoping and helping to turn the tide around attitudes in a small minority of lawmakers that have outsides power.
Okay, great. Thank you. You want to add anything?
Oh, I was just gonna say that, you know, prior to the pandemic, when we saw anti vaccine activism, we saw on both the far left and the far right. And it was just a very interesting political dynamic post pandemic, for whatever reason, we have seen it shift to the very far right. And so we're really hoping to bring back some of those, those folks in the middle are moderates, and make sure that they're understanding and we do see a lot of them. They're just not very vocal, because they don't get as many phone calls as they do from the anti vaxxers. So we think it's really just really important that we start making our voices heard with our elected officials, so that they know that we are out there. We value Safe Schools and safe communities and we value public health.
Absolutely. And I'm hoping that we're going to be able to get to a place where we can find Bill bills that people can agree on across the aisle and feel good about that. They're protecting their communities. Thank you so much for joining us today. If people want to find out more about safe communities, where can they go?
You can visit our website at safe communities. coalition.org. You can follow us on Twitter. We're on Facebook. We're on Instagram. On Twitter, we are safe. C O M M co so safe. comco
safe, calm, Ko. I like it. I like it a lot. Thank you so much, Becky and forth for joining us today. Thank you.
We really appreciate it, Karen and hope to connect with some of your listeners.
Absolutely. All right, folks, thank you for listening. Today. I just want to remind you to go ahead and look at what's happening in your state as far as policy and vaccine legislation. Until then, my name is Karen Ernst. I'm the Executive Director of Voices for vaccines. You can find us at voicesforvaccines.org. And you can also find us in your phone's app store because we have an app for that.
And I'm Nathan Boonstra a pediatrician here at Blank hospital. Pretty much just find me on Twitter my handle is peds geek, MD.