The Campaign Spot

Why Does President Obama Want to Cut Funding for Immunizations?

The midweek edition of the Morning Jolt features a lot of discussion about the fast-moving events in Iraq and Jordan, but also these closing notes on the quickly rising, quickly disappearing vaccine controversy . . . 

The National Media’s Interest in Vaccine Skepticism Is About to Disappear

Well, this is darned inconvenient for the narrative du jour:

President Obama has proposed a $50-million cut to a federal immunization program, citing diminished need for government-funded vaccinations thanks to Affordable Care Act.

The funding reduction, included in Obama’s 2016 budget blueprint released Monday, comes amid a measles outbreak nationwide and growing debate over vaccinations.

The government budgeted $611 million in 2015 for the federal purchase and distribution of vaccines for uninsured children and adults, which is authorized by Section 317 of the Public Health Service Act.

The proposed cut for 2016 is relatively modest, but would reduce the number of immunizations provided free of charge at local, state and national levels.

And if we’re throwing blame around for the cultural phenomenon of vaccine skepticism, Asawin Suebsaeng of the Daily Beast reminds us that not long ago, some of the biggest names in our popular culture were giving, at the very least, an extremely sympathetic hearing and platform, if not formally endorsing it:

In fairness, Oprah is no anti-vaxxer. She has, however, given one of the movement’s biggest celebrity mouthpieces a national platform. After actress and Playboy Playmate Jenny McCarthy launched her crusade — which included a “Green Our Vaccines” march and rally in Washington, D.C. in the summer of 2008 — Oprah invited her onto her show.

“You’re mother warriors is what you are,” Oprah said in 2007, praising McCarthy and other moms dedicated to fighting autism. McCarthy’s son was diagnosed with the disorder, and she became convinced that vaccines had something to do with it.

“What number will it take for people just to start listening to what the mothers of children who have seen autism have been saying for years, which is, ‘We vaccinated our baby and something happened,’” McCarthy said during a fawning, sympathetic portrait on The Oprah Winfrey Show.

“Right before [my son’s] MMR shot, I said to the doctor, ‘I have a very bad feeling about this shot. This is the autism shot, isn’t it?’ And he said, ‘No, that is ridiculous. It is a mother’s desperate attempt to blame something,’ and he swore at me, and then the nurse gave [Evan] the shot. And I remember going, ‘Oh, God, I hope he’s right.’ And soon thereafter — boom — the soul’s gone from his eyes.”

McCarthy was allowed to spout this, pushback-free, to Oprah’s massive and adoring audience. (Oprah’s immense popularity and influence was the foundation for a cultural force that was dubbed “the Oprah Effect.”)

Again, if anyone wants to argue “the Lancet article hadn’t been retracted back in 2008,” they’re kidding themselves, because the rest of the medical community was pretty unified in its dismissal of the vaccination-autism connection.

No, You Don’t Get to Lecture Us About Following Health Rules, Ma’am

Two perfect Tweets from Dr. Nancy Snyderman, medical correspondent for NBC News:

Why should the measles outbreak scare us? Because it goes to the core of why public health is everyone’s responsibility @NBCNightlyNews

— Dr. Nancy Snyderman (@DrNancyNBCNEWS) February 3, 2015

When free will trumps public health we put our nation’s most vulnerable at risk. That doesn’t seem very American to me. Vaccinate #measles

— Dr. Nancy Snyderman (@DrNancyNBCNEWS) February 3, 2015

If her name sounds familiar . . . 

Four days after she was spotted outside a New Jersey restaurant, NBC News Chief Medical Editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman issued an apology Monday for violating her Ebola quarantine.

But not everyone’s satisfied with her mea culpa.

“While under voluntary quarantine guidelines, which called for our team to avoid public contact for 21 days, members of our group violated those guidelines and understand that our quarantine is now mandatory until 21 days have passed,” Snyderman, 62, said in a statement after being spotted in her car outside Peasant Grill in Hopewell, N.J. A man with her picked up a takeout order.

“We remain healthy and our temperatures are normal. As a health professional I know that we have no symptoms and pose no risk to the public, but I am deeply sorry for the concerns this episode caused.”

Later she lamented the “cheap shots” on Twitter, but I don’t think it’s cheap to argue that she is the absolute last person in America who has the moral authority to argue that the rest of us over-value “free will” and under-value “public health.”


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