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Unsung Heroes: How These Activists Fought for Vaccine Choice and Transparency in California

SUMMARY: Action changes things, and actions start with a thought. The types of thoughts that create positive and effective actions begin with smart questions. “What can I do now, and how can I help?” In the midst of navigating anger, pain, and outrage, these unsung heroes—groups, organizations, and individuals—found the window, the place within themselves, to ask these pertinent questions.

Written by Jennifer Wolff-Gillispie HWP, LC
Edited by Nicki Steinberger, Ph.D.

As politicians in the United States push to mandate more vaccines, many faces have emerged to champion the cause of health freedom. High profile groups and individuals like America’s Frontline Doctors and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (Children’s Health Defense) may be recognizable, but who’s been fighting for our rights and future here in California?

There are a handful of dedicated warriors that repeatedly show up and advocate for change in our Golden State. Most of these individuals and organizations have been fighting for freedom well before the pandemic, or the COVID-19 vaccine bombarded our reality.

Praise: Giving Credit Where Credit’s Due

Several California-based advocacy groups have been hard at work, campaigning for change and health freedom. A Voice For Choice Advocacy (AVFCA), California Health Coalition Advocacy (CHCA), Educate. Advocate., Pacific Justice Institute, PERK (Protection of the Educational Rights of Kids), Physicians for Informed Consent, National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), Latinos for Medical Freedom (LMF), and V is for Vaccine are among some of the most dedicated and influential groups.

V is for Vaccine

Joshua Coleman, co-founder of V is for Vaccine, came to health freedom activism when his son Otto went in for a routine “well baby visit” and received 4 vaccines (Dtap, hib, polio & Prevnar13). Shortly after, Otto became unsteady on his feet, and was paralyzed from the waist down at 17 months old. He was later diagnosed with transverse myelitis at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

In 2015, with the looming threat of losing the choice to opt your child out of vaccines for school, on religious or philosophical grounds, Joshua began speaking at rallies at the California State Capitol in opposition to SB277. Several months later, his method of delivering his message through a well-organized campaign of demonstrators donning professionally-designed picket signs with verifiable and transparent vaccine facts gained traction.

After being dealt a devastating blow with the passing of the bill, Joshua joined the Vaxxed Nation cross-country bus tour as their official videographer, hoping to capture stories from American families, and document how vaccine injury impacted their lives. In 2019, as soon as the tour ended, Joshua dug back into activism at home in California and began organizing rallies at the state Capitol in opposition to SB276.

Fast forward to 2020, when lockdowns, face masks, and the term COVID-19 became part of everyday life, just days into the shutdown, Josh organized a freeway overpass campaign, nationally and internationally, to educate passers-by of vaccine dangers.

On June 23, 2020 he was at the California State Capitol with his “ V is for Vaccine” campaign and “A Call For Change” peaceful demonstration, that aimed to bring attention to the hate, censorship, and discrimination perpetrated against the vaccine hesitant. Joshua went on to help people all over the country get set up with signs and initiate their own rallies.

Josh credits A Voice For Choice Advocacy (AVFCA) for their work by stating:

“If I was to give credit it would be to AVFCA. But, I think they are figuring it out, many of the legislators are not comfortable with kids being able to make these choices. Phone calls were relevant. On Senator Pan (D) and Wiener’s mailing lists they were begging people to call saying, ‘The anti-vaxxers are calling like crazy, we need your support!’”

Latinos for Medical Freedom

Latinos for Medical Freedom, has made it their mission since 2019 to provide equal access and information about the risks of vaccines to California’s 15.5 million Latinos. Latinos for Medical Freedom’s founder, Carina Powers, started her advocacy after her daughter was vaccine-injured around the time of her birth.

Carina began speaking out about the dangers of vaccination shortly after, only to realize that her own community of Latinos were not receiving reliable information in their language. One of Latinos for Medical Freedom’s goals has been to have all vaccine-related documents translated into Spanish, so families can have true informed consent regarding vaccine risks.

On April 10, 2022, Carina spoke to a crowd of thousands of people at Grant Park in Los Angeles saying:

“Remember, what happens in California happens everywhere and the world is watching. California Freedom Keepers and Latinos for Medical Freedom is forming a Latino Coalition with influencers, reporters, leaders, teachers, and so on. We need you to join us!

Educate. Advocate.

Educate. Advocate. must be recognized for their diligent work in assisting families of special needs children and adults, no matter how severe the disability, to receive the assistance and resources they need to thrive in a day-to-day supported environment.

Over the course of COVID-19, one of the areas they took a stand was in regards to masking. Educate. Advocate. stepped forward for those whose health would have been compromised by mask-wearing due to obstruction of breathing, and/or the inability to remove the mask without assistance.

They provide a Face Mask Discrimination Template Letter on their website for those whose rights around this matter is subjected to discrimination, by disallowing access and/or not providing reasonable accommodations.They state:

“The CA Dept of Health exempts persons with a medical condition, metal health condition or disability, including persons with a medical condition for whom wearing a face covering could obstruct breathing or who otherwise is unable to remove a face covering without assistance as well as persons who are hearing impaired or communicating with a person who is hearing impaired from wearing a face covering.”

Fighting for the rights of unvaccinated children with IEPs (Individualized Education Plan) to receive the special education and services they need has been paramount to this organization’s efforts. When addressing SB277’s lack of language acknowledging children with IEPs, they say:

“SB 277 was originally introduced on February 9, 2015, and it contained no language concerning children with IEPs.” “The Legislative Counsel, in an analysis of SB 277 dated June 11, 2015, on page 14 stated “Special education students must have access to services,” as the rationale for subdivision (h). The IDEA is federal law that obligates states to educate all students, including those with a disability. Children who qualify for special education pursuant to the IDEA are given IEP’s. A plain reading of subdivision (h) reveals that a school district is obligated to provide any student with an IEP, placement and services as specified in the IEP, and this, in effect, creates an exemption from vaccination for these children.”

Anti-Mandate Rally

A Voice For Choice Advocacy, Inc. (AVFCA)

It would be remiss not to highlight the work of Christina Hildebrand, director and founder of A Voice For Choice Advocacy, Inc. While you may know the work of AVFCA, here’s an even deeper look into the nitty gritty aspects and details of their focus.

Visibly since 2015, when SB277 was passed, Christina’s two daughters, 6 and 10 years old at the time, were faced with losing their rights for vaccine exemption based on their family’s personal beliefs. Christina wasted no time to take action, and created A Voice For Choice Advocacy from the ground level to educate and advocate for informed consent and transparency around anything that goes in, on, or around our bodies.

AVFCA’s list of efforts and accomplishments over the past year was hefty and well-worth noting:

  • Helped thousands of people get religious exemptions through self-paced workshops
  • Continued to hire two lobbyists to work on behalf of AVFCA
  • Hired a legislative director to research and oversee legislative direction
  • Arranged hundreds of meetings with legislators, staffers, and committee consultants
  • Reached out to 100s of organizations to garner their opposition on bills
  • Helped 6 bills get killed/pulled: SB920, AB1993, SB871, SB866, SB1464, AB2593
  • Helped 8 bills get amended: AB1797, AB2098, SB1479, SB1419, AB2685, SB1100, AB1135, AB1847
  • Supported 6 bills en route to Governor Newsom’s desk: AB1809, AB2146, AB1817, SB994, AB2771, SB1149
  • Testified at multiple committee hearings: AB1993, AB2098, AB1797, SB1479, SB1419, AB1809, AB1817, AB2146, SB994, AB2771, SB1149
  • Consistently sent constituent emails to legislators
  • Sent 1000s of VETO postcards to Governor Newsom
  • Spoke at rallies and events, and conducted numerous media interviews to promote awareness
  • Held several community informational trainings—“your questions answered”—via YouTube, to empower constituents across the state and beyond
  • Developed an editorial team, including 10 writers and a managing editor, to educate and inspire everyday people to take charge of their physical and mental health by becoming informed about what goes in, on, and around their bodies.

Curious how grassroots leaders think, act, and organize themselves? In September 2022, Dawn Richardson, host of Children’s Health Defense (CHD) ‘Advocacy Lifeline’ series, interviewed Christina Hildebrand and Joshua Coleman. Tune-in to watch, listen, and learn about their perspectives in “Advocacy Lifeline’ Episode 43 – Learning from California: Veto Push To Last Four Bad Bills.”

CHD w: Christina & Josh Coleman

Ending the interview on a positive note, Christina Hildebrand said:

“People have shifted their mindset. I see COVID as a complete silver lining for our movement. So many people are more invested in their healthcare, vaccines, understanding how vaccines are made, and understanding adverse reactions.”

Focused on the idea of empathy leading the way, Christina remarked:

“You want to embrace people where they’re at, and kind of put your arm around them, and bring them forward to you.”

Honoring the Unsung Heroes

California has cultivated world-changing, health freedom leaders. Their hard work, determination, professionalism, and stroke of genius has completely altered the face of activism. There have been hundreds of local, grassroots groups, far too many to mention, who brought community and support to people during the darkest times.

Let’s also remember the unsung heroes who deserve accolades— parents, students, healthcare workers, law enforcement, firefighters, and the many people who refused to comply with unlawful orders, and will stop at nothing to fight for our future.

There are many people caring for vaccine-injured family members. We see individuals who’ve lost loved ones, tirelessly advocating to be heard—making phone calls, and writing to their local legislators.

As vaccine hesitancy grows, increasing numbers of parents are limiting or foregoing vaccinations altogether, and as laws to mandate vaccines in schools continue to be introduced, more families are being forced to homeschool.

Forging forward with the hard work of schooling children, a decision that may have been made out of necessity, has proven to be a blessing to many of these families. Parents who have fought so hard for years to keep their children in school, are now beginning to see the wonderful benefits homeschooling has to offer.

While these heroes may not have set out to shift the current paradigm or set trends, undeniably they are. Family values, genuine personal connection, positive mental health, and an interactive, diverse education is replacing the conventional public/ societal model.

When well-rounded, healthy, and emotionally-balanced children grow up to be the next generation of leaders, who’ve been brought up to believe in and fight for health freedom and transparency, we ALL win!


Published on November 03, 2022.

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