Nation of Islam Western Regional Minister Tony Muhammad is anti-vaccine and urged California Legislative Black Caucus to not support a bill that would mandate childhood vaccinations, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The bill would repeal current personal-belief exemptions and religious exemptions to vaccinating children attending public and private schools. It would permit exemptions only for medical reasons. Lawmakers introduced the bill after a measles outbreak in California last December.
“That is a traitorous act,” he said of black lawmakers voting for the bill, which already passed the state Senate. “They will not be welcome in the black community if they vote like that.”
“This happened to us in Tuskegee, and we refuse to allow this thing to happen to us again under the name of health,” Muhammad said. “Because they came in the name of health in 1932 … and watched men die when they had a cure.”
Muhammad cited a widely rejected study by one researcher who indicated that there might be a higher incidence of autism in African-American boys who receive the MMR vaccination against measles, mumps and rubella.
Several groups disputed Muhammad’s comments Monday.
“Unfortunately, recent attacks on the measure have been vicious, unfounded and distort the science and history of childhood immunization within our community,” said a statement by the California State Conference of the NAACP, the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, the Charles R. Drew Medical Society, the California Black Health Network and the Network of Ethnic Physician Organizations.
“Our organizations denounce assertions that vaccination of black children would be another Tuskegee experiment,” the statement said.
Members of the caucus denounced Muhammad’s comments and said the bill was good for public health.
“We feel that SB 277 was thoroughly vetted, and we stand by the positions of our individual members on the measure,” the statement said.