“Calling on our TX elected leaders to say ‘NO MAS’ and standup for our children!” the researcher, Dr. Peter Hotez, tweeted, imploring lawmakers do away with exemption laws that are leading to an increase in unvaccinated children.
One Texas lawmaker struck back, igniting a Twitter feud.
Texas state Rep. Jonathan Stickland told him, “Do our state a favor and mind your own business. Parental rights mean more to us than your self enriching ‘science.’ “
Hotez responded, “Wow that’s impressive, from a member of the Texas House of Representatives.”
The lawmaker went on to call the vaccine researcher’s work “sorcery.”
Stickland did not respond to a request for comment.
“That is really astonishing,” Hotez said. “I don’t know what he was thinking to specifically target a constituent like that. I would have thought there’s probably some House ethics rules that prevent you from doing that. It’s kind of an abuse of power, in a way.”
Hotez and other public health officials have expressed concern that one of the biggest contributing factors is vaccine exemptions for non-medical reasons.
They’ve called for stepped-up government intervention.
In 2015, California got rid of religious and philosophic exemptions after a measles outbreak there. The percentage of California kindergarteners with such exemptions dropped from 2.5% during the 2014-15 school year to less than 0.1% during the 2017-18 school year, according to the CDC.
Hotez said Strickland’s comments show that the anti-vax movement has become mainstream.
“It is now fully integrated into public life of this country,” Hotez said. “It’s an example of how pervasive the anti-vaccine movement is right now, and now to try to start dismantling it is going to be really hard work.”
CNN’s Michael Nedelman contributed to this report.