Statewide Ballot Measure Seeks to Call the Shots on Vaccinations

Vaccine critics hope to move the needle with a California ballot measure that would ban vaccination requirements, various regularly-used chemicals, and even smart meters on homes.

Only one measure has qualified for this November’s California ballot, a standard $4 billion bond proposal for veterans home loans. But 39 other measures are out hustling for signatures, and many personify the California craziness that sometimes turns our state elections into a national laughingstock.

There’s the infamous three Californias initiative that would break the state into three. There’s also a measure to decriminalize psylocibin mushrooms, and an initiative to classify all abortions as first-degree murder.

But one proposal on the list stands out with its laundry list of fringe-science theories that would remake our everyday lives. It will appear on your ballot as the “California Clean Environment Initiative,” although its full legal title is the “California Environment Board and Environment, GMOs, Nanoparticles, and Vaccine Policies Initiative.” The measure would outlaw treating our water with fluoride and chlorine, ban smart meters from our homes, and “require the investigation of emissions from radio frequencies.”

Most notably, the measure would also eliminate the requirement that kids get vaccinated to attend public school.

“It reverses the vaccine mandate,” the measure’s sponsor Cheriel Jensen tells SF Weekly. “In this state we have hardly ever had any kind of public-health emergency.”

California declared its most recent such emergency four months ago, during October’s wildfires. But it was way back in December 2014 that an outbreak of measles at Disneyland, which infected 131 state residents, led to the current law requiring California children to get immunizations. That mandatory vaccination law went into effect in 2015.

“It was trying to solve a problem that really didn’t exist,” Jensen says, segueing into a popular theory that vaccines cause mental conditions. “One child in 50 now has autism. That is an emergency. We’ve been doing something that’s been causing that, because it’s never been like that in our history.”

The Centers for Disease Control has responded to this theory with a memo bluntly titled “Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism.”

“Some people have had concerns that [Autism Spectrum Disorder] ASD might be linked to the vaccines children receive, but studies have shown that there is no link between receiving vaccines and developing ASD,” the CDC says, detailing a study of antigens, the substance in vaccines that produced disease-fighting antibodies. “The results showed that the total amount of antigen from vaccines received was the same between children with ASD and those that did not have ASD.”

Cheriel Jensen is a longtime activist and crusader for a variety of issues. She most recently sued the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority to block a voter-approved BART-to-San Jose measure, and unsuccessfully sued Santa Clara County for using pesticides meant to curb West Nile virus. She submitted this exact same measure word-for-word in 2016, but did not gather enough signatures to make that ballot.

The measure contains a number of garden-variety California environmental protections that generally play well with voters, like banning fracking and removing arsenic from livestock feed. But it also bans the standard treatment of drinking water with fluoride that has been approved by public health officials for decades.

“Fluoride-based chemicals are the kind of chemicals that burned a hole in the ozone layer,” Jensen says. “We got along for many, many years of our history without using fluoride-based chemicals, and now we can get along again without them.”

The measure would also ban the use of the “smart meters” — now installed on nearly all of our houses — over radiation concerns. But a 2011 California Council on Science and Technology report found that smart meters emit much less radiation than microwave ovens and smartphones.

“There measure does touch quite a lot of industries, and quite a lot of processes that people rely on,” Jensen argues. “A lot of things people do these days are injuring them, and they don’t know it.”

The California Clean Environment Initiative needs 365,880 registered California voters’ signatures by Aug. 8 to make the November ballot. It failed to qualify last time, but we’ll see over the next six months if this vaccine ban really has a shot.

Joe Kukura is an SF Weekly contributor.
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