Jessica Biel took to Instagram this morning to clarify that she's not an anti-vaxxer after The Daily Beast reported that the actress was lobbying against a California state bill aiming to limit exemptions from vaccinations. In her post, she says that she's "not against vaccinations" — but noted that she did have a problem with the part of the bill that had to do with medical exemptions.
This Biel drama comes on the heels of a serious measles outbreak that has public officials, and the public, very worried. As of June 6, 1,022 measles cases have been confirmed this year — the highest number since 1992. The bill Biel is lobbying against – California’s SB276 — would make it harder for families to obtain medical exemptions from vaccinations by requiring the state health department to vet these exceptions.
In her Thursday morning Instagram post, Biel wrote: “My concern with #SB277 [sic] is solely regarding medical exemptions. 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. That’s why I spoke to legislators and argued against this bill.”
Here's the deal with the exemptions she mentioned. Right now, kids in California have to be vaccinated to go to public or private school, unless a doctor says there’s a medical purpose for not getting vaccinated. The Los Angeles Times reports that some doctors may have been giving children medical exemptions for questionable purposes, such as asthma.
Basically, as it stands, there’s a loophole, and the bill Biel is lobbying against would close it. Because of the loophole, the number of exempted kids has grown, The Los Angeles Times reports. This is concerning because vaccinations are most effective when there's “herd immunity” — the more people who are vaccinated, the more powerful vaccinations are. According to Oxford Vaccine Group, at least 90 to 95 percent of us need to be vaccinated, in order to achieve herd immunity for measles. Recent anti-vaxxer movements, based largely on false information, are believed to be contributing to the recent measles outbreak — a disease that was declared eliminated in 2000.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who’s spoken out against vaccines previously, and is an environmental lawyer and activist, confirmed to The Daily Beast that both he and Biel are lobbying against the bill. He denied that either of them were “anti-vaxxers,” a term he evidently calls “pharmaceutical propaganda,” New York Magazine reports.
As for Biel's stance on vaccines, her Instagram post may have generated more questions than answers. She wrote: “I support children getting vaccinations and I also support families having the right to make educated medical decisions for their children alongside their physicians."
The problem with this position, however, is that when you don't vaccinate your kids, you're not just making decisions about their health, but also for every other child (and adult) they come into contact with. And, this is what SB276 is trying to address.
Refinery29 has reached out to Biel's reps for comment.