No vaccine skeptical, but backs religious exemption

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Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski said on Tuesday his attendance of voters opposed to vaccine and mask mandates does not signal personal skepticism about the effectiveness of vaccines.

“I agree, believe, [we should] apply the normal vaccination schedule for children,” Stefanowski said in an interview. “I think it’s appropriate. My children are all vaccinated. I received both COVID injections and the booster.

But Stefanowski stands with CTRAMM, Connecticut Residents Against Medical Mandates, a group he spoke to last week, in opposing the repeal last year of the religious exemption from mandatory childhood vaccinations.

“The fact that I went to a meeting with people who have different points of view? That’s what I’m supposed to do,” he said. “And when I’m governor, I’m going to listen to the people I agree with and the people I disagree with.”

Democrats said in a video news conference on Tuesday that Stefanowski was flirting with a group that appeals to voters with extreme views on vaccine effectiveness and safety and, in some cases, questioning whether COVID-19 is real.

State Senator Saud Anwar, D-South Windsor, a pulmonologist, lumped CTRAMM with extremists who spread misinformation about vaccines and COVID-19.

“Here we have a small marginal group – loud, not nice, but very, very marginal – who opposed science and got it wrong,” Anwar said. “This is the group that says the disease is not a real disease.”

Stefanowski does not dispute that some members of the CTRAMM may take more aggressive positions than the restoration of religious exemption, but he does not share them.

CTRAMM is a nonprofit formed from a movement that reorganized after Facebook banned it for claiming it violated the platform’s misinformation rules. When it was banned, it had 18,000 members; he claims 13,000 now.

Kate Kraemer Prokop, one of the founders, could not be reached on Tuesday, but she described in an online video interview last year that the group had tightened its scope and become more cautious when her return to Facebook, a platform she called difficult to avoid.

“But you can’t be honest about that. … You have to keep so many things hidden. You know, like using code words. It’s so absurd, isn’t it? said Prokop.

The group’s goal is to restore religious exemptions, a position supported by some parents who have vaccinated their children.

“It’s not about science. It’s a matter of choice,” Prokop said in September.

She spoke on The Kevin Alan Show, a webcast hosted by former state Rep. Kevin Skulczyck, R-Griswold, a retired correctional officer who goes by Kevin Alan on his show.

CTRAMM is part of a network of groups that have attracted new members during the COVID-19 pandemic, opposing Lamont’s declared emergency powers and the temporary restrictions he has imposed on trade and gatherings. public.

At the start of the pandemic, Stefanowski played the role of a philanthropist, finding and donating the masks that were missing in the first few months.

But he sided with Prokop and other Lamont critics on a school mask requirement that was dropped on Feb. 7, the same day Stefanowski spoke out against the mandate.

“They called me a while ago when they were trying to get the mask mandate lifted for children. I helped her with that. I believe we made a statement,” he said. “’This is the population least at risk. This should belong to the parent, if their child wears a mask. If the parent wants their child to wear a mask, fine. But let’s not force this.’ This afternoon. Lamont magically lifted the mask mandate.

The administration said the timing was coincidental.

Stefanowski appealed to parents disillusioned with the government on issues ranging from sex education to how America’s history of racism is taught in public schools.

Vague references to “parental involvement” reliably generate applause at campaign events, he told CT Mirror in a June interview.

“I don’t know if it’s intentional or not, but I think COVID has allowed the government to infiltrate every nook and cranny of people’s lives,” Stefanowski said then. “And they have now come between a mother and her child – they tell the mother that the child needs to be vaccinated against COVID. They tell the mother that the child must wear masks. They tell the mother when and where that child can go to school. They tell the mother what we are going to teach your child. »

There is no compulsory COVID vaccination to go to school.

During his first campaign for governor four years ago, a grainy video of Stefanowski telling an audience he had reservations about childhood vaccination mandates drew a rebuke from Lamont.

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