What should a state health department do when its newly elected congressman gets a rush of social media attention challenging the science behind vaccines?
Department of Health officials in Tennessee struggled on the best way to respond after Republican Rep. Mark Green told a town hall meeting last month, without citing evidence, that vaccines cause autism. Green also claimed that the federal government was hiding information about the negative side effects of vaccines. And through a lobbyist, he challenged the health department to prove wrong two studies championed by the anti-vaccine movement.
Associated - Press - Records - Request - Health
The Associated Press made a public records request to see how the health agency reacted, and received nearly 200 documents. Among them are emails that show top medical officers ultimately turned to a higher power — NASA — for guidance.
Chief Medical Officer David Reagan shared a link to a story about the space agency extending an invite to Stephen Curry after the Golden State Warriors star denied humans had visited the moon. Curry quickly accepted the gesture and took back his comments, saying that he was joking, and believes the moon landing was no hoax.
Regards - Statements - Elect - Green - Analogy
"With regards to the statements by representative elect Green...an analogy from NASA," Regan wrote the morning of Dec. 13, attaching a link to NASA's invite.
"I like it," responded Tennessee Health Commissioner John Dreyzehner.
Dreyzehner - Reagan - Department - Anyone - Questions
Dreyzehner then asked if Reagan was suggesting the department invite anyone to have their questions about vaccines answered by the chief medical officer.
"Yes, although I was specifically inviting Rep-elect Green," Reagan responded. "The discussion would likely be informative and helpful, and we may gain a friend."
Hours - Officials - Blunt - Statement - Vaccines
Hours later, officials issued a blunt statement: "Vaccines do not cause autism. Vaccines save lives," along with an invitation, urging anyone with questions to contact...
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