Jessica Biel Apparently Not Medical Doctor We All Thought She Was
The WTF media moment of the week was this tweet from the supposed "top experts" in health at the "Today" show:
Jessica Biel played "bad girl" Mary Camden -- she drank and smoked pot -- on the WB show "7th Heaven." Biel later went on to enjoy a mediocre film career, including such gems as I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry and The A-Team. According to IMDB, she's still making movies. Who knew? She's also married to Justin Timberlake, whom people used to think was cool. Nowhere in this impressive resume do we see anything about having a medical degree. So how is Biel "reigniting" a debate over an issue that should be settled already?
"Today" pulled the tweet when journalists and other people with normal, working brains pointed out how stupid it was. The Daily Beast reported yesterday that Biel was "coming out as an anti-vax activist," but Biel has since clarified that she's not actually against vaccinations -- whew! -- she just opposes mandatory immunization, which is sort of what makes vaccines effective.
BIEL: I support children getting vaccinations and I also support families having the right to make educated medical decisions for their children alongside their physicians.
Biel's beef is with California Senate Bill 276. State Senator Richard Pan, an actual doctor, introduced legislation that would require state health officials to thoroughly vet any medical exemptions physicians seek for their patients. Opponents of the bill, all very serious people we should treat very seriously, called Pan a "tyrant" and SB 276 a "crime against humanity" that he should abandon to "save his soul."
Experts are concerned about the growing number of medical, religious, and "philosophical" exemptions people seek to get out of vaccinating their kids: "I don't think, therefore my child has measles." Pan is worried these exemptions have been handed out too willy-nilly, and it's putting children and entire communities at risk.
It's uncertain whether California Governor Gavin Newsom would sign the bill, as he's expressed concern about supposed "state intrusion into personal matters." Anti-vaxxers like to use the terms "medical freedom" and "my body, my choice," but we aren't talking about abortion. One woman terminating her pregnancy didn't cause 159 people at Disneyland to get sick.
Seriously, WTF, guys!New York Times
We really shouldn't care what one random celebrity believes about SB 276. If there are even two legitimate sides to this issue -- which is questionable, at best -- let's hear from someone on the "con" side who's more credible and informed than one of the stars of Valentine's Day. Who've we got? Sorry, we can't find one right now, but it's worth noting that anti-vaccine activist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. -- the son of someone respectable -- appeared with Biel at the California State Assembly Tuesday to lobby against SB 276. We're not sure who was slumming with whom.
Kennedy described fellow flat-earther Biel as "courageous." He's also praised Newsom's hesitation over SB 276. He believes there's a supposed causal link between vaccines and autism, although there's no compelling evidence of this. Kennedy's family justifiably finds his shenanigans quite embarrassing. Three of them got together to write an op-ed calling his views "tragically wrong" and "dangerous."
"[Kennedy] and others' work against vaccines is having heartbreaking consequences. The challenge for public health officials right now is that many people are more afraid of the vaccines than the diseases, because they've been lucky enough to have never seen the diseases and their devastating impact. But that's not luck; it's the result of concerted vaccination efforts over many years. We don't need measles outbreaks to remind us of the value of vaccination."
Biel wrote on Instagram yesterday that her "dearest friends have a child with a medical condition that warrants an exemption from vaccinations, and should this bill pass, it would greatly affect their family's ability to care for their child in this state."
It's true that SB 276 would likely result in the rejection of an estimated 40 percent of the state's 11,500 medical exemptions. However, it's possible that 100 percent of those denied exemptions never needed them in the first place. But that's a question for scientists and medical experts, and it's with regret that we remind everyone that Jessica Biel is Not That.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle.