With measles epidemics affecting multiple parts of the country, many American are keeping an eye on vaccine policy and what can be done to end these outbreaks while preventing new ones.
Earlier this week, Buzzfeed asked the 2020 Democratic candidates for president their thoughts on vaccine policy, and most candidates who responded gave generally expected, uncontroversial answers about the safety of vaccines and the need to ensure public health.
However, the answer from the campaign of one candidate, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, raised some eyebrows as well as skepticism about the candidate.
“The law of the land for more than a century has been that states may enforce mandatory vaccination for public safety to prevent the spread of a dangerous disease,” a spokesperson for the candidate said. “Pete does support some exceptions, except during a public health emergency to prevent an outbreak.”
On Twitter, writer Nathan Bernhardt described the answer as “an utterly unserious, laughable, and outright dangerous opinion laundered through Beltway Smart Speak. It should be disqualifying, and frankly, it should be used against Buttigieg in his next run for political office.”
The word “disqualifying” was used by many others in regard to the comments.
Aligning with (and taking money from) someone steeped in psudeoscience and snake-oil selling is wholly disqualifying for me. On the upside, one more candidate to cross off my "potentials" list. https://t.co/f3T3ugHON9— Elaine A ✍ (@OuttaMyLaine) April 30, 2019
Journalist Jodi Jacobson, also on Twitter, drew a connection between the comments and Buttigieg’s endorsement by actress Gwyneth Paltrow, whose lifestyle brand Goop has been accused of peddling pseudoscience. Jacobson described Paltrow as “a modern-day female snake-oil saleswoman who literally endangers lives and promotes dangerous anti-vaxx theories.”
While Paltrow herself does not appear to have made negative comments about vaccines, the noted anti-vax physician Dr. Kelly Brogan has appeared at Goop events. Variety reported last week that Paltrow and other Hollywood figures will soon host a fundraiser for Buttigieg.
Within a day, Buttigieg’s campaign issued a clarifying statement.
“Pete believes vaccines are safe and effective and are necessary to maintaining public health,” a spokesperson said, per Jezebel. “There is no evidence that vaccines are unsafe, and he believes children should be immunized to protect their health. He is aware that in most states the law provides for some kinds of exemptions. He believes only medical exemptions should be allowed.”
President Trump has dabbled in anti-vaccine conspiracy theories in the past, going much further than Buttigieg did and even expressing support for the debunked notion that vaccines cause autism. However, the president appears to no longer be taking that line now.
“They have to get the shots,” he said, per the Buzzfeed story. “The vaccinations are so important.”