Fact Checking Brian Hooker’s Statement to WA Legislators

Anti-vaccine folks brought out a lot of their big guns to a Washington State House Health Committee meeting about personal belief exemptions.

Brian Hooker makes a lot of statements about measles that mirror anti-vaccine talking points.

What was the meeting about?

A bill was introduced in the Washington Legislature that would limit non-medical vaccine exemptions by removing a philosophical or personal objection for the MMR vaccine.

Fact Checking Brian Hooker’s Statement to WA Legislators

Showing up to oppose the bill were Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Toni Bark, and Brian Hooker, none of which helped their side.

Why not?

Let’s see what Hooker said?

“There is a problem with measles in Washington State, but it’s not low vaccination rates, it’s actually high vaccination rates with a vaccine product unable to provide lifetime immunity or vigorous passive maternal protection to infants during the first year of life.”

Brian Hooker

Of course!

Unvaccinated kids are getting measles because we are vaccinating too many people. Why haven’t we noticed this before?

“When the measles vaccine was first introduced, most people over the age of 15 who had wild measles had lifetime immunity. In developed nations, like other communicable infections, measles was no longer dangerous except in rare circumstances because of inadequate nutrition, poor sanitation, and / or lack of healthcare.”

Brian Hooker

It is scary that Hooker makes statements like this, considering that he is an Associate Professor of Biology at Simpson University in Redding, California, where he specializes in chemistry and biology coursework.

When measles was killing kids in the 1950s in the United States, we had good nutrition, sanitation, and access to healthcare.

What was missing?

A measles vaccine!

“Because having the measles was a routine part of childhood, teens, adults, parents, and grandparents were immune. And because of maternal passive immunity, infants were protected.”

Brian Hooker

Yes, measles was once considered a rite of passage, but only because it had to be endured, as there was no way to avoid it. And you had to get sick and survive having measles to earn your lifetime immunity.

Tragically, not everyone did.

“But in fact, if the mothers of the children had wild measles when they were children and they are nursing, the babies may be protected. If the mothers were vaccinated, even if they are nursing, they may not be. Additionally, maternal antibodies transported across the placenta can provide vital immunity against measles for infants.”

Brian Hooker

While it is true that passive immunity from a mother who had a natural infection likely lasts longer than one who had vaccine induced immunity, it isn’t that much longer. At 6 months, few infants still have antibodies against measles, whether their mothers were vaccinated or had naturally acquired immunity. And it has nothing to do with nursing.

“As the editor of the journal Vaccine Dr. Gregory Poland of The Mayo Clinic stated in 1994, “…as measles immunization rates rise to high levels in a population, measles becomes a disease of immunized persons.”

Brian Hooker

Quoting Gregory Poland didn’t go so well for Toni Bark when she tried it at a Minnesota Senate hearing.

“But he also said that sometimes people who oppose the vaccines will pick out one sentence in the scientific study and extrapolate it to mean things that it does not mean… He said that measles is the most contagious disease that we know, and yet we found that fear and ignorance is more so.”

Senator Carla Nelson on The Anti-vaxxers Might Wish that What was Lost had not been Found

It makes you wonder why these folks are still quoting Poland.

“It was reported in the news and provided to legislators that in Clark County, WA there is a 22% exemption rate, but this is based on the voluntary Immunization Information Survey (IIS) which does not accurately reflect the vaccination status of all children enrolled in Washington schools. When compared to the more accurate CDC statistics for the state of Washington for MMR coverage among 19 to 35 month olds, it is 95.3% +/- 2.6%. The IIS erroneously reports this number at 81.8% and cannot be relied upon.”

Brian Hooker

These folks realize that the outbreaks aren’t occurring in the entire state of Washington, right? They are in very specific schools and communities where we do find very high levels of non-medical vaccine exemptions. These are the clusters of intentionally unvaccinated children experts have been warning about, the pockets of susceptibles.

“As I have already remarked, vaccination does not guarantee immunization and infectious diseases routinely break out in highly vaccinated communities. An example of this is pertussis outbreaks, which occur due to problems with the acellular pertussis portion of the DTaP and Tdap vaccine, creating asymptomatic carriers.”

Brian Hooker

Vaccination does not guarantee immunization?

I guess that is a way to say that vaccines aren’t 100% effective, but that is hardly an effective argument against getting vaccinated. Being intentionally unvaccinated often guarantees that you will get sick in an outbreak. Remember, even in outbreaks of pertussis and mumps, when waning immunity can be a concern, that attack rate is much higher in those who are unvaccinated.

“Over the past ten years in the U.S., there has been one reported death from the measles, and it is unclear based on the medical history of the patient whether and how measles played a role in their death. During the same time period (based on Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) reports), there have been 105 reported deaths associated with the MMR or MMRV vaccinations.”

Brian Hooker

There have actually been seven measles deaths in the United States in the past 10 years, although only one was verified by the CDC.

Still, if Hooker is going to push unverified vaccine deaths in VAERS, why wouldn’t he also look at the reports of deaths from measles in the CDC Wonder database? And the 9 additional SSPE deaths?

And to doubt that measles actually killed a woman who got caught up in the 2015 measles outbreaks in Washington? What’s wrong with the modern anti-vaccine movement?!?

“You must not only protect those who are susceptible to poor infection outcome, but protect those who are susceptible to poor vaccination outcome, and to consider the unintended consequences of a fully vaccinated population that does not have lifetime immunity.”

Brian Hooker

It is becoming ever more clear that we must protect ourselves from these folks who push anti-vaccine propaganda and scare parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

What does Hooker intend to do to “protect those who are susceptible to poor infection outcome?” How does he propose that everyone get lifetime immunity if they don’t get vaccinated?

“I also warn them not to share their fears with their neighbors, because if too many people avoid the MMR, we’ll likely see the diseases increase significantly.”

Dr. Bob Sears in The Vaccine Book

Anti-vaccine folks have already done such a good job scaring parents that too many of them are abusing vaccine exemptions. That’s why we are having more outbreaks, especially with the global rise in measles, and why states are having to tighten their vaccine laws.

More on Fact Checking Brian Hooker’s Statement to WA Legislators

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