How Arizona Legislators Collaborated with Anti-Vaxxer Disinformation Groups
In 2019, Arizona State Senator Paul Boyer and State Representative Nancy Barto introduced three anti-vaccine bills (HB2470/SB114, SB2471/SB115 and HB2472/SB116) despite the clear and overwhelming consensus that vaccines are safe, effective, and necessary to protect public health.
Now, public records unearthed by Equity Forward show that Barto and Boyer collaborated with anti-vaxxer groups like the National Vaccine Information Center and the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons to push this trio of bills.
Despite its official-sounding name, the National Vaccine Information Center (originally named Dissatisfied Parents Together) exists to advocate against vaccines based on long-discredited studies and anecdotal evidence. NVIC’s director, Barbara Loe Fisher, is a favorite of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, and has appeared on his show to make the case that vaccines are a stepping stone towards a government-sponsored effort to take over healthcare and bring back eugenics.
The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, meanwhile, is a far-right conservative lobbying group. They run a bogus “medical journal” that is not recognized by any academic institution or peer-reviewed publication. In addition to their stances on vaccines, AAPS has published authors who claim that climate change is not due to human activity, that HIV does not cause AIDS, that being gay reduces life expectancy, and that abortions lead to breast cancer.
Email records show that the National Vaccine Information Center worked closely with Boyer and Barto on the three anti-vax bills they introduced, with Irene Pizzi (aka Irene Pi), the group’s state director, providing background information and helping to set strategy. The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons weighed in with their own talking points, emphasizing the (minuscule) risks of vaccines and claiming that doctors push vaccines to pad their own pockets, with no mention of vaccines’ enormous public health benefits.
Although the three bills pushed by Barto and Boyer all failed to pass, their high-profile lobbying campaign contributed to a misleading public narrative about the dangers of vaccines. Just a few months after Boyer and Barto introduced their bills, a nationwide measles epidemic sickened one person in Arizona and hundreds more across the country, leading New York City and Washington to declare states of emergency. A separate measles outbreak in Samoa has now killed 63 people, mostly children under 4, after vaccination rates plummeted there amid rising anti-vax fears.