Ducey’s plan to combat anti-vaxxers is more PSAs

Gov. Doug Ducey addresses a joint session of the Arizona Legislature to give his State of the State speech on Jan. 13, 2020. Photo by Jerod MacDonald-Evoy | Arizona Mirror

Arizona is on the precipice of a public health crisis because more and more parents refuse to get their children vaccinated because of misinformation spread by people who say vaccines are dangerous, despite evidence to the contrary. The measles vaccination rate for kindergartners has fallen to 93%, less than the 95% needed to create “herd immunity” and prevent outbreaks. Arizona is the fourth-worst state in the nation for granting vaccination exemptions to schoolchildren. Researchers say Maricopa County is likely to experience a measles outbreak. 

As other states have grappled with the same trends in vaccination rates, they have taken strong action with the backing of public health officials and advocates. Both California and Washington have enacted laws that forbid parents from claiming “personal belief” exemptions from vaccinations when they register their children for school.

If the children aren’t vaccinated, and don’t have a medical reason why they can’t be, they can’t enroll in public schools in those states.

Arizona won’t be doing that, Gov. Doug Ducey told Arizona Mirror in a Jan. 9 interview. Ducey, who stopped anti-vaxx measures being pushed by GOP lawmakers in their tracks last year when he sharply criticized them, said Arizona will “continue to be pro-vaccination, anti-measles.”

But that doesn’t mean the government will do much more than it is doing now to combat anti-vaccination junk science.

Ducey said “proper communication, education, public service announcements” are the best course of action to reverse that trend.

“Parents are going to have a choice. We’re going to respect religious liberty,” he said.

Jim Small
Jim Small is a native Arizonan and has covered state government, policy and politics since 2004, with a focus on investigative and in-depth policy reporting, first as a reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times, then as editor of the paper and its prestigious sister publications, the Yellow Sheet Report and Arizona Legislative Report. Under his guidance, the Capitol Times won numerous state, regional and national awards for its accountability journalism and probing investigations into state government operations.