Vaccines are 'sorcery,' Texas lawmaker tells vaccine expert and pediatrician
A measles outbreak is spreading across a Washington county known for choosing not to vaccinate its children, and health officials have declared a public health emergency. USA TODAY
Texas lawmaker Jonathan Stickland called vaccines "sorcery" Tuesday in a social media post criticizing a vaccine expert.
Stickland – a state representative who describes himself as a "Christian Conservative" and a "Liberty Loving Republican" in his Twitter bio – made the comment as part of an extended critique of vaccines and the scientific community.
The exchange started with a tweet by pediatrician Peter Hotez lamenting the upward trend of Texas children exempted from vaccines. Hotez – a vaccine expert and founder of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine – said the "children of #Texas have been placed in harm's way for the financial gain of special & outside interest groups."
"Mind your own business," Stickland replied in part to Hotez, alleging that his vaccine advocacy was "self enriching 'science.' "
Hotez said he does not take money from the vaccine industry. His role as a Texas pediatrician and scientist makes the issue of rising vaccine exemptions a part of his business, he said.
"Make the case for your sorcery to consumers on your own dime. Like every other business," Stickland tweeted. "Quit using the heavy hand of government to make your business profitable through mandates and immunity. It’s disgusting."
Stickland claimed "vaccines are dangerous" and compared government involvement in vaccinations to communism.
Hotez blames "an aggressive anti-vaccine lobby" for a surge in Texas children exempted from vaccinations, Newsweek reported.
“It looks as though there are a few bad apples in the Legislature who will do almost anything for those funds and recognition, including the endangerment of children and attacks on pediatricians and medical school professors,” Hotez told the publication.
The USA is struggling with a historic resurgence in measles cases. The longer the outbreaks continue, the greater the chance that measles will again become entrenched, health officials warn.
Texas is among the states reporting measles cases in 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
The disease, which typically kills one or two per 1,000 cases and can cause long-term damage, has made a comeback largely because of pockets of unvaccinated communities.
Some parents reject immunizations because of erroneous information, often distributed through social media.
Public health practitioners regard the measles vaccine, administered along with immunization for mumps and rubella, as safe and highly effective. It provides 93% protection after a first dose, recommended at 12-15 months of age, and 97% protection after a second shot at ages 4-6.
For some vaccine skeptics, distrust of Big Pharma and fear of government overreach motivate their opposition.
Contributing: Jorge L. Ortiz, USA TODAY; The Associated Press; Lindy Washburn, North Jersey Record