If you thought measles, mumps, and rubella were issues of the past, think again. Individual cases for these diseases are on the rise, causing concern among parents, families, and doctors around the world. In fact, the Centres for Disease Control (CDC) reported that the U.S. has had the largest measles outbreak in 25 years with 980 cases across 26 states. Outbreaks in New York, Washington, Michigan, and beyond have raised alarms for the CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO), who credit the increase in individual cases to a lack of immunisation and gaps in vaccine coverage.
In response, some U.S. states, like California, are cracking down on immunisation standards of these highly preventable, extremely contagious diseases with a new California state bill (SB 276), which gives public health officials instead of doctors the power to give medical exemptions for vaccinations in children. Health officials are calling these exemptions completely bogus, and under this law, doctors would need to send the state health department the reason they're recommending the immunisation exemption and certify that they have examined the patient.
This has caused outrage from a number of anti-vaxxers, who believe that the vaccine can cause harmful side effects, but the CDC has continued to stress that this simply isn't true. In fact, the CDC says vaccinations are the best defense against preventable diseases in the U.S. But 7th Heaven actress Jessica Biel took a stance against the bill yesterday after meeting with Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an environmental activist and founder of the anti-vaccination organisation, Children’s Health Defense.
According to In Touch, a source close to Biel revealed that she did not plan to vaccinate her son with Justin Timberlake in 2015, but it's unclear whether she did or not. So why is Biel passionate about turning down this bill? Kennedy told Daily Beast that she's "upset about this issue because of its particular cruelty" and "has friends who have been vaccine-injured who would be forced to leave the state."
The news of Biel standing beside Kennedy against the bill has outraged her fans, who took to Twitter to express their concerns. Dr Jen Gunter, OB/GYN, author of The Vagina Bible, called Biel out for being "pro childhood death from measles and influenza."
Others have called her unintelligent, "pro-plague," and "pro-stupid."
Some have even pulled Biel's husband, Justin Timberlake, into the controversy by making anti-vaxx puns:
Biel has responded on Instagram to clarify her stance on the issue: "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," she wrote in the post.
Some celebs showed their support for Biel taking a stance. Kimberly Van Der Beek thanked Biel in Kennedy's Instagram post for "enlightening people with grounded information and science today," while Rosanna Arquette wrote, "Thank you Jessica."
Democratic State Senator Richard Pan of Sacramento, a paediatrician who authored the current state law and the new proposal, said that they passed the law to avoid doctors who were "monetizing their medical license by selling these exemptions...putting our children and the public in danger for a quick buck," he told USA TODAY.
The rate of medical exemptions has also tripled but they are still extremely rare, according to the California Department of Public Health, after all non-medical exemptions were eliminated in the state in 2016. Lawmakers and vaccination advocates say that the bill will minimally impact those who have valid medical reasons for exemption.
This article originally appeared on Prevention US.