On Wednesday, US politician Robert F. Kennedy Jr. shared a picture on Instagram from the California State House in Sacramento and while this usually wouldn’t be newsworthy, the pic made headlines because Kennedy was joined by Jessica Biel, leading many to believe the actress and noted anti-vaxxer politician were working together.
Son of the late Robert F. Kennedy and cousin to the late John F. Kennedy Jr., Kennedy began his career as an environmental activist who focused his efforts on cleaning up the U.S. shorelines but has turned his sights on the anti-vaccination effort, a movement that many have pointed to as the cause of a resurgence of measles outbreaks in the United States. After Biel was photographed with Kennedy and he confirmed she was there to help fight a bill that aims to put limits on medical exemptions for vaccinations without consent from a state public health office, many began to speculate that the actress was also anti-vaccination, something that Biel took to Instagram to clarify.
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This week I went to Sacramento to talk to legislators in California about a proposed bill. I am not against vaccinations — I support children getting vaccinations and I also support families having the right to make educated medical decisions for their children alongside their physicians. My concern with #SB276 is solely regarding medical exemptions. My 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. That’s why I spoke to legislators and argued against this bill. Not because I don’t believe in vaccinations, but because I believe in giving doctors and the families they treat the ability to decide what’s best for their patients and the ability to provide that treatment. I encourage everyone to read more on this issue and to learn about the intricacies of #SB276. Thank you to everyone who met with me this week to engage in this important discussion!
She confirmed she’s not against vaccines but instead thinks parents should have a choice in whether their children are vaccinated and that’s why she was meeting with legislators. But according to Leah Russin, executive director of Vaccinate California, the bill would not harm children as Biel alluded to in her response.
“The children who need medical exemptions will not have a problem getting them if SB 276 becomes law,” Russin was quoted as saying to The Daily Beast. “People who are on immuno-suppressant drugs will not have a problem getting a medical exemption—and in fact, the people who truly need medical exemptions desperately need everyone else to be vaccinated. That’s why they support this bill. Medical advice should be coming from medical professionals.”
The image of Kennedy and Biel was first reported by Jezebel, with the site pointing out that Kennedy is the founder of the Children’s Health Defense, which has made claims that vaccines are unsafe and the politician is listed as one of the lawyers that represented a group of parents in New York who sued over mandatory vaccination requirements in Williamsburg, a mandate that was put into place after a measles outbreak.
The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has reported 1,022 cases of measles in the U.S. so far in 2019 and confirms that most of those with the disease are unvaccinated. The CDC also states that the disease spreads when an outbreak occurs among a population of people who are unvaccinated. And, as reported by the World Health Organization, worldwide measles vaccinations resulted in an 80 percent drop in measles deaths between 2000 and 2017, which saved 21.1 million lives.
Biel and husband Justin Timberlake have one son, Silas Randall Timberlake, who is four years old.