A day after lobbying alongside a controversial anti-vaccine activist against a California bill that would tighten the state's medical exemptions for getting children vaccinated, actor Jessica Biel argued she is not against vaccinations.
"This week I went to Sacramento to talk to legislators in California about a proposed bill," she said on Instagram. "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."
The proposed bill Biel referenced, SB 276, would give the state's department of public health oversight and the final say in whether children can be medically exempt from the vaccines they are required to have in order to go to school.
Currently, California law only requires a letter from a doctor stating there is a medical reason why a child is not vaccinated, or is not fully vaccinated, in order to be exempt. And the state medical board is currently limited in getting documents to check for fraud in medical exemptions.
SB 276 would create a standardized medical exemption form that doctors and families would fill out, and a public health official would ultimately decide whether there was a medically valid reason for the exemption.
The author of SB 276, Sen. Richard Pan, told the Los Angeles Times that children are receiving exemptions for unrelated issues such as asthma or diabetes.
"We have found that the easier it is to get an exemption, the lower the vaccination rate,” Thomas Clark, deputy director of the CDC's viral diseases division, told BuzzFeed News in April.
The anti-vaccination movement has led to the return of many infectious diseases that had virtually disappeared in the US. The country is currently experiencing the highest number of measles cases since 2000 — the year the CDC declared the disease was "domestically eradicated."
Biel said Thursday that she lobbied against the proposed bill because she opposes the government being the ultimate arbiter of whether or not a child can be medically exempt from vaccines.
"Not because I don’t believe in vaccinations, but because I believe in giving doctors and the families they treat the ability to decide what’s best for their patients and the ability to provide that treatment," she said.
But Biel met with lawmakers alongside prominent anti-vaccine activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Earlier this year, he referred to vaccines as "a holocaust" and claimed that vitamin A can cure measles in a hearing on Capitol Hill.
Early Wednesday, Jezebel broke the news that the two were campaigning against the bill, and the Daily Beast talked to Kennedy about their efforts that evening.
Although Kennedy stopped short of saying that Biel was against vaccines, he described her as "for safe vaccines and for medical freedom."
"She was a very effective advocate,” Kennedy said. “She was very strong and very knowledgeable. Extremely well-informed. An extremely effective advocate. She knows what she’s talking about… She’s upset about this issue because of its particular cruelty. She has friends who have been vaccine-injured who would be forced to leave the state.”
Kennedy and Biel did not immediately respond to BuzzFeed News for further comment.