When I first listened to the songs of Michael Belkin's new band, the Refusers, I found it hard to believe they were serious. With titles like "Vaccine Gestapo" and "Vaccination Uber Alles," they liken immunization to the Holocaust, a theme Belkin repeats in an essay for the just-published book Vaccine Epidemic.
You can listen to many of these songs on the Refusers' website. And below is a video of another Refusers' song, "Mad Hatter Blues." Again, there's an an allusion to fascism, as a would-be health official with a mock German accent demands that everyone get their flu shots. Then you'll see Belkin's daughter Viola playing a scared Alice-in-Wonderland character as a crazed doctor chases her around with a needle. Belkin is the guy wearing glasses, playing guitar, and getting his face up close to the microphone.
Belkin is indeed serious. He has been honing these themes ever since he testified before a Congressional committee about his baby daughter's death 13 years ago, which he believes was caused by a Hepatitis B booster shot she received shortly before. Below is a video of that hearing. Belkin is the first one to testify, and you'll see him cite his Wall Street credentials as he makes his points about vaccines, something he often does.
Belkin is far from alone in his views. There is a thriving anti-vaccination movement in this country that links vaccines to autism and other illnesses. Those claims are unproven. Indeed, a decade of scientific research has contradicted some of the movement's central tenets. Yet the movement only seems to get stronger, especially in Washington state. This week's cover story takes a look at the people behind the movement--and those who are trying to fight it.