A Republican member of the Texas state Legislature has attacked a prominent vaccine expert on Twitter, accusing him of promoting what amounted to "sorcery" at the behest of drug companies.
What's the story?
On May 7, professor Peter Hotez, a vaccinologist and pediatrician, tweeted about the rise in the number of Texans claiming "conscientious exemptions" from vaccines. He called on Texas' "elected leaders" to fight this "and stand up for our children." Hotez said that this was an example of children being "placed in harm's way for the financial gain of special & outside interest groups."
Texas GOP state Rep. Jonathan Stickland shot back in a tweet of his own that Hotez was "bought and paid for by the biggest special interest in politics" and told him, "Do our state a favor and mind your own business."
Hotez responded that he did not "take a dime from the vaccine industry" and that "as a Texas pediatrician-scientist it is most certainly my business."
Stickland shot back that Hotez should "[m]ake the case for your sorcery to consumers on your own dime" and that he needed to "[q]uit using the heavy hand of government to make your business profitable through mandates and immunity. It's disgusting."
The CDC blames people opting out of vaccines for the recent measles outbreak
The number of cases of measles, a disease once declared to be eradicated in the United States, has skyrocketed in recent months to a 25-year high. There have been 839 cases in 2019 so far, the highest number since 1994. According to the Centers for Disease Control, most of the cases this year have occurred in people who were not vaccinated.
The CDC also thinks that people not vaccinated are to blame for the virus beginning to spread in the first place. According to the agency's website: "When measles is imported into a community with a highly vaccinated population, outbreaks either don't happen or are usually small. However, once measles is in an under-vaccinated community, it becomes difficult to control the spread of the disease."
Stickland has continued to defend his comments. When a neonatologist and pediatrician from New York tweeted that Stickland's comments weren't "a good image for Texas," Stickland responded "Then come on down to Texas! We will defend your freedom to eat as much BBQ or get as many vaccines as you decide you want!"
Despite tweeting that Hotez was promoting "sorcery," Stickland told the Washington Post that he was "not anti-vaccination" but thought that the government should not be "mandating what's right for us."