Even the most reliable news sources can, at times, be inaccurate and so can I.
On July 2, 2015, I wrote a commentary (It’s the Law), discussing the pending passage and subsequent protests against California State bill SB 277 which was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown. The law mandates that most children who attend public or private school must be vaccinated against common diseases.
The law came about after an outbreak of measles that was traced back to Disneyland. The measles episode highlighted the fact that many parents in California and other states opt-out of vaccinations for their children under the “personal belief” exemption, some under the mistaken belief that a side effect of the vaccination can manifest as autism.
At the beginning of my commentary, I identified one of the individuals standing outside the California State capitol, Sarah Mazerik, who held a sign reading: “My Child, My Choice.”
The original photo of Mrs. Mazerik was part of a story from The New York Times (June 26), which I linked to my commentary. (Scroll halfway down to find the photo.) The caption reads: “Sarah Mazerik protested the bill outside the State Capitol in Sacramento on Thursday.”
“My message for Ms. Mazerik,” I wrote at the end of my commentary, “It is your child. But the choice you’re making can affect the lives of other children.”
On August 30, I received the following email to this site from Juliana:
“I’m assuming you haven’t met Ms. Mazerik, since you don’t quote her. It has not occurred to you that she might fully vaccinate her child/children. It also seems you may have not considered that when Ms. Mazerik makes choices about vaccinating her child/children she considers all possible ramifications, including potential effects on other children. She may, in fact, be an ethical, intelligent, well researched, considerate mother. But you wouldn’t know that, because you didn’t interview her, or sit down to an open minded conversation about the topic. You made some massive assumptions instead.
“Congrats for being a coward?”
According to the caption in the New York Times story, Mazerik was, in fact, one of those protesting the new bill. However, there is more to her story than her sign and photo caption led me to believe.
“If you could have seen the other side of my sign,” Mrs. Mazerik wrote this website, “you would have read ‘pro vaccine, no forced vaccine.’ ”
I invited both women to respond with their own views on the subject. “If I have inaccurately characterized your position,” I wrote Mrs. Mazerik, “I would like to correct that.”
I’m offering Mrs. Mazerik’s response in its entirety without any additional comment at this time.
“I don’t fault you for assuming I was an ‘anti-vaxxer.’ They have been the louder voice throughout this nonsense.
“This debate has been framed as pro or anti vaccination from the beginning. That’s what helped it move through the Senate and Assembly so quickly. The majority of Californians clearly believe that vaccines are safe and effective. I do too. But the question we should be debating is: ‘Should the State be given the power to make this decision for us?’
“I refuse to get involved in the ‘vaccines are good/bad’ debate, because it’s never ending and a distraction from the root issue. Vaccine injuries do occur and vaccines are effective. I can’t stand how both sides are always blathering on about how ‘the science is in.’ The science is never in. It’s always adapting and evolving. It is a target in constant motion.
“Vaccines have ended epidemics like measles or polio, and yet, whopping cough is on the rise due to a safer, less effective vaccine. But let’s be realistic, there will always be a group of fringe parents who will never be convinced of the effectiveness and general safety of vaccines, and who may even have a religious objection. Does that mean their right to refuse medical treatment be suspended? No, and I don’t believe that is an extreme idea.
“This isn’t a rare situation of the State interceding on behalf of an abused child. This is a preventative medical treatment.
“I am no warrior. I am no freedom fighter. The truth is, I almost gave up entirely on this bill the day that picture was taken. A woman named Laura Hayes gave a speech where she asked the crowd: ‘Who would deliberately poison their child?’ I said, ‘I guess me.’
“There I stood, with my sign, stating plain as day, exactly what my stance was, assuming I was amongst kindred spirits, but I realized their fight goes only as far as the tip of the syringe. If we replaced mandatory vaccines with criminalizing tobacco use, you wouldn’t hear a peep from the ‘anti-vax’ group. They were complacent until it affected them.
“SB 277 is old news. It passed quickly and went relatively unnoticed by the public which is why I think the SB 277 referendum is so important. Put it to a vote. Let the people of California decide this. If the majority of Californians decide that they are willing to give the decision to vaccinate their children over to the State, then so be it. We will live with the consequences of that choice or move to New Hampshire.
“However, I challenge you to find me one parent in California that thinks the State loves their child more than they do. My child, my choice. Pro-vaccine, no forced vaccine. Always.
“My name IS Sarah Mazerik. I am a wife and stay-at-home-mom with a bright and rambunctious, fully vaccinated two and a half year old. My journey into vaccines began when I was pregnant and an anti-vaccine friend called herself stupid for vaccinating her oldest daughter.
“I’d never given vaccines a thought, so naturally I wanted to know why she felt she was stupid. So I went to the library. I like to hear the extreme views on both sides, so I read books like Paul Offit’s Deadly Choices, and Louise Kuo Habakus’s Vaccine Epidemic. I was looking to be totally converted, but instead I found the path muddy and difficult to traverse. I want facts, not scare tactics. In the end, I read as much as I could and though I’m not a doctor or a bureaucrat, I felt I had a good enough grasp on the facts to make an educated decision to vaccinate my daughter.”
Mrs. Sarah Mazerik