Here’s the scene at contentious vaccine bill hearing at state Senate
Hollywood star Jessica Biel has sparked controversy following a trip to the Capitol on Tuesday, as she joined Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to lobby against California Senate Bill 276, which would tighten medical exemption criteria for vaccination.
Social media users and multiple news and entertainment outlets were quick to react to Biel’s appearance in Sacramento, and a headline by news and opinion website The Daily Beast proclaimed, “Jessica Biel Comes Out as Anti-Vaxx Activist.”
Biel, in an Instagram post Thursday morning including a photo in front of the Capitol, rejected that label while acknowledging that she made the trip to express her “concern” with SB 276 and its intricacies. She wrote that she is “not against vaccinations,” but that her “dearest friends” have a child with a condition that would warrant a vaccine exemption.
“(S)hould this bill pass, it would greatly affect their family’s ability to care for their child in this state,” Biel’s post continued. “That’s why I spoke to legislators and argued against this bill. Not because I don’t believe in vaccinations, but because I believe in giving doctors and the families they treat the ability to decide what’s best for their patients and the ability to provide that treatment.”
Biel’s response and media coverage of it were quickly blasted by many social media users, including celebrities, as being a contradictory stance.
“Justin Timberlake brought sexy back, and his wife Jessica Biel wants to bring measles back,” one user wrote.
“Jessica Biel is absolutely wrong about vaccines,” surgeon and prolific tweeter Dr. Eugene Gu wrote. “Virtually all doctors and the entire medical community agree that vaccines are safe and save lives.”
A story linked by Today Show’s “Health” Twitter account, accompanied by a tweet and headline asking, “Are vaccines safe? Jessica Biel reignites debate,” was also criticized by many users. The tweet has since been deleted, and the story’s headline was changed Thursday morning.
Others defended Biel, saying she is entitled to her decisions as a parent and to her views on the California bill.
Kennedy is known for multiple campaigns lobbying against vaccine exemptions, leading some to label him as an “anti-vaxxer” and a few, like The Daily Beast, to call him a “conspiracy theorist” on those grounds.
In The Daily Beast’s story, Kennedy told the publication he didn’t consider Biel to be anti-vaccine, but that she was for “safe vaccines and for medical freedom.”
“(Biel is) upset about this issue because of its particular cruelty,” Kennedy told The Daily Beast. “She has friends who have been vaccine-injured who would be forced to leave the state.”