Rand Paul: Vaccines Are Good, But Should Be Voluntary

For U.S. Senator Rand Paul, a medical doctor, vaccinations are a matter of personal freedom.

The vaccine controversy heated up when New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, during a visit to the U.K., suggested that parents should have some measure of choice when it comes to getting their kids vaccinated. He has since issued a clarification for those comments, noting that children should indeed be vaccinated for diseases like measles.

So-called anti-vaxxers claim that vaccines are responsible for the rise in autism, an allegation rejected by the CDC.

In an appearance on Laura Ingraham’s radio show yesterday morning, Paul explained that he’s not anti-vaccine, and that he’s a student of the fascinating history of the small pox vaccine. The senator added, however, that “most of them should be voluntary.” He also mentioned that he wasn’t keen on having his own newborn kids get 10 vaccines at once as the state recommended, especially the hepatitis B vaccine which is primarily for STDs, so he staggered the administration of these medications.

On Monday afternoon, the libertarian-leaning Republican and potential 2016 presidential candidate went on CNBC (the sister network to liberal MSNBC) where things between the Kentucky senator and anchor Kelly Evans got a little intense.

It seems that a meme has developed in the news media and among both major political parties that merely raising the issue of vaccine efficacy or safety is a deal-breaker. Watch/listen to the two interviews embedded below and draw your own conclusions.

Citing the outbreaks of measles and mumps across the country, CNBC’s Evans immediately pressed the senator – who insisted he was a big fan of vaccines – on his remarks earlier in the day.

Paul, an opthalmologist, stood by his comments with Ingraham, telling Evans the following.

“I guess being for freedom would be really unusual. I guess I don’t understand the point of why that would be controversial? I think vaccines are one of the greatest medical breakthroughs that we had … for most of our history they have been voluntary. I don’t think I’m arguing for anything out of the ordinary… Public awareness of how good vaccines are for kids and how they are good for public health is a great idea.. But I don’t think there is anything extraordinary about resorting to freedom … I’ve heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines. I’m not arguing that vaccines are a bad idea, I think they are a good thing, but I think the parents should have some input. The state doesn’t own the children, parents own the children, and it is an issue of freedom.”

Paul and Evans sparred on several other issues, which culminated in the senator scolding the CNBC anchor for bias. “Part of the problem is that you end up having interviews like this where the interview is so slanted and full of distortions that you don’t get useful information. I think this is what’s bad about TV sometimes so, frankly, I think, if we do this again, you need to try to start out with a little more objectivity going into the interview.”

Yesterday, President Obama spoke out against the anti-vaccination movement, suggesting that there is no science to support the beliefs of anti-vaxxers and calling on them to better protect their children. However, back in 2008, then-candidate Obama said “We’ve seen just a skyrocketing autism rate. Some people are suspicious that it’s connected to the vaccines… The science right now is inconclusive, but we have to research it,” The Washington Post reported. Similarly, Hillary Clinton who is now pro-vaccine, stated in the 2008 presidential campaign that she was “committed to make investments to find the causes of autism, including possible environmental causes like vaccines.”

What is your opinion of Rand Paul’s position that the decision to vaccinate should be a family rather than a governmental decision? Is it okay to be pro-choice on vaccines?