When photos of Jessica Biel with opponents of vaccination legislation at the state Capitol appeared on Twitter this week, it ignited a social media storm over whether the actress, wife of Justin Timberlake, had joined a lobbying campaign against the legislation amid a nationwide measles outbreak.
In an Instagram post, Biel argued that she was not “anti-vaxxer” but was opposing legislation to tighten up California immunisation laws.
“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,” wrote Biel, known for her role in the TV series ‘7th Heaven’.
“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.”
The vaccination legislation, Senate Bill 276, seeks to make it more difficult for doctors to grant exemptions to the state’s immunisation requirements, giving the state more control over such decisions. The bill’s author, Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), has claimed that unscrupulous doctors are granting exemptions for profit and under pressure from influential individuals.
Vaccination proponents have lambasted Biel for appearing with foes of childhood immunisation, and some of the heat is coming from fellow celebrities. Comedian Jen Kirkman harshly criticised Biel in a tweet morning that has since been removed. “People are dying due to anti-vaxxers and your ignorance will contribute to that death toll,” she wrote.
The bill has passed the state Senate but now faces a more organised opposition effort, which includes Robert F. Kennedy Jr, a well-known critic of vaccinations. Biel quietly appeared with Kennedy at the Capitol on Tuesday, one week after Kennedy had lauded Gov. Gavin Newsom for critical remarks about the legislation. Newsom has stated he is not opposing the bill, but his remarks appear to have emboldened its critics.
Kennedy, son of the late Sen. and Atty. Gen. Robert F. Kennedy and Ethel Kennedy, is an environmental activist who has claimed that vaccinations cause autism, an assertion refuted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and various medical groups. He apparently assisted in bringing Biel to the Capitol, where she was photographed meeting with Sen. Brian Jones (R-Santee) and Assemblywoman Autumn Burke (D-Marina del Rey).
“She’s upset about this issue because of its particular cruelty,” Kennedy told the Daily Beast, referring to Biel. “She has friends who have been vaccine-injured who would be forced to leave the state.”