SACRAMENTO (CBM) – Minister Tony Muhammad, a Western Regional Representative of the Nation of Islam, decried Senate Bill 277 at a rally in front of the California state capitol on Tuesday.
Muhammad said he spoke for Nation of Islam leader, Minister Louis Farrakhan, when he criticized the legislation commonly called the “School Vaccine Bill.” He said Farrakhan, who has been an African-American activist and religious leader for decades now, sees the fight against this bill as “a universal fight.”
“This heinous bill has now come to the attention of the Black community,” Muhammad told the rally’s participants, who were mostly white.
The contentious legislation, SB 277, has mobilized concerned parents across the state as it makes its way through the legislative process. If the bill becomes law, it would strip away personal belief and religious exemptions for immunization shots. That means all children in the state would have to be fully immunized with every multi-dose of 10 different vaccines in order to attend any public or private school or before parents enroll them in any daycare setting and any other vaccine deemed appropriate by the department, taking into consideration the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Academy of Family Physicians unless there is a medical reason.
Sacramento Democrat Sen. Richard Pan, who is also a pediatrician, is the co-sponsor of the bill along with Sen. Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica). They introduced SB 277 after a measles outbreak last year at Disneyland in Anaheim. Pan, Allen and their supporters say SB 277 is needed to protect children from diseases such as the measles and whopping cough.
“This is a matter of public safety,” Pan said at a California Assembly health committee hearing. “It is about protecting our communities.”
However, thousands of activists across the state and around the country have mobilized against the bill for various reasons. Prominent among them is troubling information that Centers for Disease Control senior scientist Dr. William Thompson, co-author of a 2004 vaccine safety study, has called into question the conclusion of his own research project. In an Aug. 27, 2014 statement issued by his lawyers, Thompson expresses regret that he and his co-authors omitted statistically significant information from the published study.
“The omitted data suggested that African-American males who received the MMR vaccine before they were 36-months-old were at increased risk for autism,” according to Thompson. “Decisions were made regarding which findings to report after the data were collected, and I believe that the final study protocol was not followed.
I want to be absolutely clear that I believe vaccines have saved and continue to save countless lives. I would never suggest that any parent avoid vaccinating children of any race.”
In his speech at the state capitol, Muhammad likened SB 277 to the controversial Tuskegee Syphilis Experiments that took place in Alabama in the mid-1900s. That U.S. government-led project resulted in the deaths of 399 African-American men infected with syphilis who could have been saved by existing antibiotic treatments.
“We are not going to stand by and let another Tuskegee experiment happen again,” he said.
Hours after Muhammad’s speech, the bill passed the California Assembly’s Health Committee 12 to 6 with amendments. The bill will come before the full assembly before it heads back to the senate.
Muhammad had harsh words for any African-American lawmakers who support the bill.
“I’m here to warn particularly those Black elected officials that we sent you up here, we want them to know that this building does not belong to them. It belongs to us,” he said. “And that in South Central Los Angeles, in two weeks, we’ll be having a tribunal meeting and we’re going to bring our Black politicians who vote for this vaccine bill up on charges of treason.”
African American Legislative Leaders
Assembly members Autumn Burke (D-Inglewood) abstained while Assembly member Tony Thurmond (D-Richmond) and Sebastian Ridley-Thomas (D- LA) voted in favor of the bill.
Senator Isadore Hall (D-Compton) and Senator Holly Mitchell (D- Los Angeles) voted in favor of the bill.
By Madlen Grgodjaian
California Black Media