Editorial: Anti-vaxxers can’t compete with cold, hard facts

Vaccination protester Kim Whitley holds her granddaughter Kole
Kim Whitley holds her granddaughter Kole, 3, as she joins other opponents of the 2019 legislation to tighten the rules on giving exemptions for vaccinations in a demonstration in front of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office in September.
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

Anti-vaccination activists gave up on their misguided effort to repeal an important new state law — Senate Bill 276 — that will make it harder for parents to get their children bogus medical exemptions from mandatory vaccinations for measles and other dangerous infectious diseases.

The proponents failed to gather the 623,212 signatures required to place the repeal measure on the November 2020 ballot, and that’s a good thing. Although we’re confident that California’s voters would have seen through the baseless arguments that the self-styled “anti-vaxxers” use to justify their opposition to immunization efforts, any delay would have been a risk to public safety.

The excuse the referendum’s proponents offered for their failure to get it on the ballot is laughable. They abandoned the effort, they said on Facebook, because of the difficulty imposed by the “grossly misleading” title and ballot summary placed on the measure by the California attorney general’s office.


Do they mean the office used slanted or loaded language? If so, that wouldn’t be the first time the attorney general showed his or her political leaning in the description of a ballot measure, especially if was supported by a rival political party.

Nope, the problem evidently was in the remarkably nonjudgmental title and summary. As the measure’s authors complained in a Facebook post, the ballot portrayed SB 276 as a “benign” law that “simply requires the use of a standardized medical form that must be signed by a doctor and may be revoked if determined to be incompatible” with guidelines from three national health organizations. But that’s precisely what the law does.

Disingenuous or misleading ballot language is a real issue, such much so that that the Los Angeles Times editorial board has supported efforts to give the responsibility of writing ballot initiative titles and summaries to a nonpartisan third party. But that’s not what’s going on here.

See for yourself. Here’s the title for the proposed repeal of SB 276: “Referendum challenging 2019 law increasing state oversight of medical exemptions to school vaccination requirements.” The summary is just as dry and evenhanded.

It seems more likely that the ballot measure authors simply discovered when they tried to gather signatures that there’s not much support for their false and dangerous message outside their insulated echo chamber.