SADOW: Vax Hesitancy, Media Mistrust Related in Public

The same reason why Louisianans appear to be a bit more skeptical about vaccinations generally is behind why Americans have fallen to just about record lows in trust of the media – with a perfect example recently teed up by the state’s largest newspaper.

Last week, the Baton Rouge Advocate ran a piece with scare headline “Anti-vaccine movement gains steam with Louisiana politicians. Here’s why doctors are concerned.” It contended that “An unprecedented number of bills and resolutions aimed at weakening vaccine requirements are now law in Louisiana following a wave of successful legislation taking aim at public health authorities.” Hold on to your hernia belts, as “The anti-vaccine movement … is becoming more mainstream in the Louisiana statehouse, causing concern among doctors and public health officials who worry it is eroding decades of health policy and will result in more disease and death.”

Of concern, the article offers, is the drop in kindergarten vaccination rates from 90 to 86 percent, and similar drops in other age groups. The absolute number is small, but it’s contended even a little erosion can be risky to allow a breakout of disease. Charles Stoecker, a Tulane health economist, laments that if there comes something like this, “we’ll have only ourselves to blame.” Dr. Mark Kline, physician in chief at Children’s Hospital New Orleans said alleged “dismantling” of vaccine policies runs “counter to everything we know about the legitimate practice of public health. It jeopardizes all of our safety, and particularly the safety of people who have medical conditions that make them vulnerable to these diseases.”

Perhaps the first warning sign that this opinionated piece poses as straight news is with the choice of these sources; both demonstrated they have an ideological interest in perpetuating the idea that Wuhan coronavirus vaccines in children if not being mandatory, then should be extremely encouraged. Stoecker came to attention recently through an article propounding a bribery system of cash rewards to entice people, including older children, to become vaccinated.

Kline was more blunt and egregious in his advocacy. In the same Advocate he authored an opinion piece in 2022 that bemoaned rhetoric discouraging policies requiring children’s mask-wearing and virus vaccination. Ironically headlined in a way to suggest this discouragement was based upon myth, his piece spread misinformation exaggerating both the efficacy of masking and number of child deaths, using an uncorrected figure for deaths already revised downward in official statistics significantly which in any case (derived from a study from 2020-21) was less than 0.02 percent of the child population contracting the virus and extrapolates to less than half of the raw total he cited, research which in any event implicitly disavowed Kline’s argument of broadly-applicable mandates in noting the overwhelming number of deaths and serious hospitalizations of children occurred among those with pre-existing risk factors.

But it’s not the one-sidedness of the article’s sources that really shows its ideological slip, but what it terms as the so-called “anti-vaccination legislation” that comprises its very core to which the sources merely are ornaments. These are the legislative instruments that the article claims fit the bill:

  • HB 46 prohibits any public or private school from requiring students to get a COVID-19 vaccination.
  • HB 47 requires schools to include opt-out information in any communication about required immunizations.
  • HB 908 prohibits discrimination in schools based on vaccination status.
  • SB 133 restricts the state from enforcing any rules issued by the World Health Organization, the United Nations and the World Economic Forum.
  • SB 357 allows a majority of either the House or Senate to end a public health emergency.
  • HR 292 requests that the Louisiana Department of Health conduct a study on the unexpected deaths of children under the age of two related to the administration of vaccines.
  • HR 222 requests that the state health department investigate the factors affecting children diagnosed with autism.

None of these prohibits a family from deciding their child should receive a vaccination. Only one even directly would have a practical effect of reducing vaccinations, HB 46, and then with only the one coronavirus strain addressed by an intervention that’s not really a vaccination but a prophylactic (confusion over which also marked Kline’s opinion article). Two aren’t even laws but requests for academic study, one addresses policy concerning public health emergency declarations, another asks for clearer dissemination of parental rights and another protection of a civil right, and finally includes a symbolic statute replicating current policy about extra-jurisdictional mandates.

None of this remotely conveys an “anti-vaccination” sentiment – unless you’re a believer in forcing mandates that affect almost nobody positively while asking everybody to surrender individual rights in the process, increasing research on a virus, establishing checks and balances in government’s ability to usurp people’s basic rights, keeping people in the dark about their rights if not creating bias towards violating these, or in preventing transnational organizations from dictating domestic policy despite existing of state sovereignty, as defining “anti-vaccine.” Which in that case you might be more at home in a totalitarian state than in America.

It’s within what is held out as straight news this blatant editorializing – entirely misrepresenting the subject matter at hand in order to create a story where none exists – that has turned people so much away from the mainstream media as a reliable source of information. Contrary to what many in that institution think, many news consumers aren’t stupid and can see though attempts to interject ideological posturing into what it presents and dares to characterize as impartial “news.”

And this carries over to their rational behavior in the face of government edicts. It’s not that any decline in vaccination rates came from some phantom surge of anti-vaccination policy-making – the legislative record shows zero evidence of that – but because the public was so badly fooled by “authorities” including the mainstream media on issues such as coronavirus vaccination. The heavy-handedness on this issue by government, as a ruse to increase the size of government and its command and control over people, has poisoned the well for some on all vaccinations.

If anti-vaccination sentiment has grown among Louisianans, it’s because of misbegotten policies of the federal government and in Louisiana of the administration of Democrat former Gov. John Bel Edwards, in office during the pandemic, that served to deprive people of liberties that neither arguments nor data sufficiently justified taking such actions. And the mainstream media’s uncritical vetting of that, if not actual cheerleading, just because it fit their dominant ideology provided another reason why the public increasingly loathes them.

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