Vaccines can take between 10 and 15 years to develop, and they have been proven to prevent more than 2.5 million unnecessary deaths every year. Despite their high success rate, many people are opposed to them. Although Florida has only experienced two measles cases out of the 1,077 that have been confirmed throughout the entire nation, many anti-vaccination groups have spoken out against legislative attempts to chip away at religious and personal exemptions across the country. Recently, the Florida Freedom Alliance has signed lobbying firm Watson Strategies to advance its cause in Tallahassee and has planned an end of summer statewide protest.
“This march is for medical freedom and standing up against a tyrannical government trying to force vaccines,” states the message on the group’s Facebook page. Ron Watson has lobbied the Florida Legislature for 29 years.
“My mission is to help ensure the religious exemption is maintained because some states have done away with it,” Watson said. “And I do believe in a parent’s right to make a decision for their child.”
He’s not alone; his other clients include associations for midwives, chiropractors, and medical marijuana interests. Unfortunately, measles is an incredibly contagious disease. The CDC describes how easily and quickly it can be transmitted:
“Measles is a highly contagious virus that lives in the nose and throat mucus of an infected person. [It] can live for up to two hours in an airspace where the infected person coughed or sneezed. If other people breathe the contaminated air or touch the infected surface, then touch their eyes, noses, or mouths, they can become infected,” the CDC website reads. “Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, up to 90% of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected. Infected people can spread measles to others from four days before through four days after the rash appears.”
The protest group recently rallied at the Capitol in April against a bill which would compile a statewide immunization registry; the FFA claimed it was an invasion of privacy as it would track children’s medical records from infants into their mid-20s. Though they lost a fight last session, they are not giving up the fight. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, who proposed the bill, welcomes their involvement.
“There’s nothing wrong with a healthy discussion, as long as we deal with facts,” he said. “The immunization issue is a good example of how we have to look at the bigger picture of what is best for the general population as well as the individual — those who don’t have lobbyists have rights too.”