Capitol Alert

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to attend anti-vaccine film screening in Sacramento

This March 21, 2014 file photo shows actress Cheryl Hines, right, posing with her fiance Robert F. Kennedy Jr., at the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability.
This March 21, 2014 file photo shows actress Cheryl Hines, right, posing with her fiance Robert F. Kennedy Jr., at the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability. Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

In a town where political lineage matters, perhaps a Kennedy can sway lawmakers on vaccinations.

Amid a heated debate in the California Legislature over whether the government should pass legislation making it tougher for parents to skip vaccinating their kids, vaccine skeptic Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. will arrive in Sacramento next week to attend a screening of a film questioning the safety of vaccines. Kennedy said he plans to press attendees on what he called “pervasive corruption” in how the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention manages its vaccine program.

“I think it’s important for political leaders to understand the troubles at CDC before they vote on issues that would increase the power of that agency,” Kennedy said, including the biasing influence of the vaccine industry.

Oregon lawmakers recently shelved a vaccine-expanding bill, and Kennedy said that he believes his efforts there to screen the vaccine-questioning film Trace Amounts “made a big difference” in that outcome. Kennedy will be on hand on April 7 when Sacramento’s Crest Theater screens Trace Amounts, and he said some lawmakers have reached out about potentially attending.

The film links soaring autism rates to the presence of mercury in vaccines, echoing the fears of parents who believe vaccinating children can be dangerous to their health. Kennedy said he is concerned that thimerosal, a mercury-containing compound present in some vaccines, is associated with “a range of neurological disorders that are now epidemic in American children.”

Medical professionals and elected officials have warned that parents who choose not to vaccinate their kids are endangering public health, pointing to incidents like a measles outbreak in southern California. Senate Bill 277, carried by a pediatrician, Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, would erase an exemption allowing parents to opt out of vaccinating their children because of “personal beliefs.”

A scientific paper connecting vaccines and autism has since been discredited and its author lost his medical license. A more recent analysis published in the journal Pediatrics found “no evidence of harm caused by doses of thimerosal in vaccines, except for local hypersensitivity reactions.”

Call Jeremy B. White, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 326-5543.

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