Anti-vaccine group sues California medical official

Ruth Spencer/AP

(CNN) – A right-wing anti-vaccine group that is pushing for a California bill to ease restrictions on some vaccine exemptions — and criticized state medical director Dr. Howard Zucker for pushing for the stricter rules — is challenging him in court, state government records show.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday, asks a judge to block the state medical director from enforcing the new policy that would require doctors to provide parents with a three-day review of the cost and benefits of vaccination before they can request a vaccine exemption.

The decision to sue comes a day after Zucker released a letter explaining the law to vaccine skeptics.

Abolishing the policy, he said, “will ensure that those who have successfully fought against the expansion of vaccine exemptions over the past 20 years must face the consequences of those same efforts.”

Procedures for accepting vaccine exemptions will also be changed, though those details are not in the letter.

“This is going to be the toughest vaccine law in the nation because it makes a state official responsible for making sure that doctors are making the right decision,” Kristi Stoll, a spokesperson for California’s chapter of the National Vaccine Information Center, said Tuesday.

‘Action is the only language the public cares about’

With 70,000 members and advocates, NVC advocates for anti-vaccine parents who argue vaccines are linked to a variety of illnesses. The Washington, D.C.-based organization is involved in changing state policies in Nevada, Oregon, Utah and other states.

Zucker, California’s chief medical officer, accused the group of saying “the right thing for public health is to vote against public health” in a written statement Sunday.

The group has been campaigning for “medical waivers for autism vaccine exemptions, medical exemptions for weakened strains of diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis, nonmedical exemptions for those who can’t say why their child is not vaccinated,” said Stoll, a former state assemblywoman from Orange County.

“Action is the only language the public cares about,” she said.

Stoll argued that anti-vaccine parents are vulnerable because, unlike everyone else, they can go to their doctor and request an exemption.

“The public should be held accountable to their own best interests, not to people that have the interest of the anti-vaccine movement at heart,” she said.

Stoll said the group does not oppose anyone’s right to get a medical exemption. She insisted, however, that the money for unvaccinated children is borne by the state and taxpayers, not by the parents of children with medical exemptions.

Both NVC’s efforts against the new policy and Zucker’s response were discussed Wednesday on a radio call-in show hosted by right-wing pundit Glenn Beck.

“I have an obligation to the public as its chief medical officer,” Zucker said. “Whether you accept that opinion or not, I think I owe it to my children to try and protect them the best I can.”

He said the state does not control how many unvaccinated children are in the state.

On Thursday, spokesman Benjamin Miller said that number is unclear.

The anti-vaccine organization filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court, charging that Zucker’s policy for the medical director is unlawful. The lawsuit seeks an injunction that will prevent Zucker from imposing the policy.

It is possible that state officials will seek to have the lawsuit thrown out, as they have in the past.


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