Anti-vax lawmaker claims ‘antibiotics’ stop people from dying of measles, despite disease being untreatable

'Yeah, in third-world countries they’re dying of measles … today, with antibiotics and that kind of stuff, they’re not dying in America'

Chris Riotta
New York
Thursday 28 February 2019 16:35 GMT

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Louise Thomas

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The deadly and untreatable measles virus that was previously eradicated from the United States and many other parts of the world has returned in spreading outbreaks amid a growing anti-vaccination movement — but at least one Republican lawmaker in Texas doesn’t see any cause for concern.

Bill Zedler, a state representative and outspoken anti-vaxxer, has thrown his support behind new legislation that would effectively allow Texas residents to opt out of childhood vaccinations for their children. Mr Zedller has an A++ rating from Texans for Vaccine Choice — the only lawmaker with that high of a rating — and has long promoted misleading claims surrounding vaccinations and childhood illnesses.

“When I grew up, I had a lot of these illnesses,” the Republican told Texas Observer in a report published earlier this week, going on to list illnesses like chickenpox, measles and mumps. “They wanted me to stay at home. But as far as being sick in bed, it wasn’t anything like that.”

“They want to say people are dying of measles,” he continued. “Yeah, in third-world countries they’re dying of measles … today, with antibiotics and that kind of stuff, they’re not dying in America.”

His comments arrived as measles outbreaks have spread across Texas and four other states in the US, and cases of the mumps virus reportedly reached a 20-year-high in the Lone Star state. Despite growing support for the anti-vaxxing movement, research has repeatedly debunked a slate of conspiracy theories surrounding childhood vaccinations.

The World Health Organisation listed “vaccine hesitancy,” meaning “the reluctance or refusal to vaccinate despite the availability of vaccines,” as one of the top global threats in its annual report released in January. The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention reported figures of unvaccinated children in the US having quadrupled from 2001 to 2015.

In defending his opposition to mandatory vaccination — which effectively eliminated measles from the US by 200 after a vaccine was discovered in 1963 — Mr Zedler added, “This is not the Soviet Union, you know.”

His comments echoed similar controversial statements made by Darla Shine, the wife of White House communications director Bill Shine, who tweeted the false claim that illnesses like measles, mumps and chickenpox “keep you healthy & fight cancer.”

“I had the #Measles #Mumps #ChickenPox as a child and so did every kid I knew — Sadly my kids had #MMR so they will never have the life long natural immunity I have. Come breathe on me!” Ms Shine wrote, adding, “Bring back our #ChildhoodDiseases.”

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Despite growing support for anti-vaxxing movements and claims made by influential voices and politicians, there is no evidence to suggest vaccinations are highly dangerous for children — or that viruses like measles keep people healthy. There is also no evidence to suggest illnesses like measles or mumps prevent cancer.

“Children did die as a result of measles infections,” Len Lichtenfeld of the American Cancer Society told the Washington Post earlier this month. “I think over time, it becomes part of our past, and it tends to become less relevant and less important as we move along in time, and we forget how serious a problem it was for those who grew up in that generation.”

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