by Andrew Walden
Hawai’i Democrats’ State Central Committee, September 4, 2021, selected outspoken Puna antivaxxer Shannon Matson as the Party’s sole State Vice Chair. If, as expected, current Chair Tyler Dos Santos Tam resigns to run for Honolulu County Council in the 2022 elections, Matson will become acting Party chair.
A recent Wallet Hub study shows Hawaii ranking 37th in the US for vaccinations of all types. Matson features prominently in a 2019 West Hawaii Today article, “Vaccine exemptions on the rise in Hawaii”
Shannon Matson of Hilo is the mother to a 5-year-old in preschool and an 11-month-old.
Neither child has received vaccines or shots of any kind yet, but Matson said she and her partner are considering a delayed vaccination schedule.
“Based on our experiences within the health care industry as parents we’ve decided vaccination according to the current CDC recommended schedule is not right for us,” she said in an email. “At this time, we believe in informed consent and that the possible risks to our children associated with vaccination do not outweigh the potential benefits. Until vaccines have been scientifically proven (with the same scrutiny and testing requirements other drugs approved by the [Food and Drug Administration] undergo) to be safe and effective, especially when administered all together, we will be following an alternative vaccination schedule as agreed upon with our health care professionals that we trust and who know our family history.”
Matson said there have been a number of incidents, involving her and her children, that affected the family’s decision, including, among others, allergic reactions to medications and misdiagnoses of various illnesses and rashes.
The CDC, however, says vaccines are “tested extensively by scientists to ensure they are effective and safe” before they are approved by the FDA, but no vaccine is 100 percent safe or effective because each person’s body reacts differently.
Matson said she does have concerns about recent outbreaks because of the amount of visitors to the island and wished the DOH would consider requirements for foreign and domestic travelers to be vaccinated before traveling to Hawaii to protect vulnerable populations, or at the least an education campaign to highlight prevention techniques such as frequent hand-washing or self-quarantine when one has a fever or potentially contagious disease.
“That is truly where the risk to our young children, pregnant women, elderly and immune-compromised individuals comes from, not those families who seek exemptions for their children based on their religious, personal or medical concerns,” she said. “As parents, we all want what is best for our children, which is why parents deserve to have all the facts and be allowed to make decisions for their families based on their children’s health needs.”
Matson’s comments drew an incisive response from Big Island pediatrician Peter Locatelli, MD:
WHT’s article … is an excellent review of current issues surrounding immunization requirements and controversies in Hawaii.
As a pediatrician in Kealakekua since 1981, I am pleased especially by the statements you published attributed to Shannon Matson, mother to a 5-year-old and an 11-month-old in Hilo. Ms. Matson has perfectly articulated the “Antivaxer” attitudes and beliefs. Ms. Matson is quoted as saying she believes that foreign and domestic travelers to Hawaii should be vaccinated before arrival in Hawaii “to protect vulnerable populations.”
She further states that the “travelers” represent the true risk, and not “those families that seek exemptions for their children based on religious, personal, or medical concerns.” To paraphrase: People like us are above the law, force others to be immunized, but never us.
Ms. Matson is clearly suffering from a disease that is increasingly prevalent in Hawaii, and is the underlying cause of the frighteningly low rates of immunizations in Big Island schools: Arrogance.
Unfortunately, this is not a vaccine preventable disease. It can, however, be treated by encouraging affected individuals to travel and settle elsewhere.
Should the State be reorganized to provide concentric rings of defense against ‘outside’ diseases for people who must remain so very pristine that they cannot dirty themselves with the vaccinations they demand for the rest of us?
Apparently the answer is ‘Yes’ -- because, instead of being deported from Hawaii, Matson may soon become chair of its dominant political party.