The vaccine debate which is currently raging across the country has now touched the Spokeane, Washington Board of Health, where members are calling for Councilman Mike Fagan to resign (from the Board of Health, not City Council) as a result of Facebook comments he made against vaccines. According to the Spokesman Review:
On his Facebook page Saturday, Fagan said he questioned the science behind vaccinations, and likened the issue to climate change, which he has long said is not caused by human activity. Fagan also said “the comeback of these diseases is because of the influx of illegal aliens.” Fagan’s comments came days after the health district urged residents to make sure they are vaccinated against measles.
A look at Fagan’s Facebook page reveals at least two related posts:
As a result of the comments, City Council President Ben Stuckart has asked Fagan to resign his board of health seat, and said that he has asked the city’s legal department for the appropriate protocol to remove a member from the Board of Health. Naturally, the controversy has generated heated opinions on both sides of the issue: Many want Fagan to resign, while a few say he should remain on the board.
Councilman Fagan, however, has said that he won’t resign. Of course, he made the comments on Facebook:
“Just so the question is answered, there is NO WAY that I will be resigning from the board of health. The council will have to remove me because they do not believe that democracy needs a broad spectrum of ideas and opinions to make it effective. If we were all of the same mind, we wouldn’t need a lot of things like councils, boards and commissions.”
However, Fagan apparently still would not answer media calls about the subject, and city council members wrote him a letter asking him to “clarify” his views, threatening to reconsider his appointment if he failed to respond.
This is an interesting case in that it cuts both ways. On one hand, it bothers me that, as an elected official, any other elected could be removed from their official role for simply speaking their mind. On the other, Fagan’s view is an extreme one: the science is clear, vaccines work, and no one in any health role should be advocating otherwise (full disclosure: I am a primary cosponsor of legislation that would make it harder for Pennsylvanian’s to opt-out of vaccinations). Perhaps the real lesson her is that elected officials need to use extreme caution before sounding off on their own views, particularly when their views are not, in any way, supported by science.