The Vaccine “Debate”

How irresponsible politicians create a false dichotomy between vaccinating and not vaccinating children.

How Irresponsible Politicians Create A False Dichotomy Between Vaccinating And Not Vaccinating Children

A debate on vaccinations has infected the political sphere this week as a result of a measles outbreak that began in Disneyland last month and has resulted in 102 cases across fourteen states. The anti-vaccination (or anti-vaxxer) movement is centered on the role of the government in private life and fears around the supposed side-effects associated with vaccination. Despite the fact that there is zero evidence supporting a link between vaccinations and autism, the idea has been trumpeted by many conservatives.

Not all conservatives have spoken out against vaccination. Quite a few in fact have been quite responsible and thoughtful in taking down these myths:

  • Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said this morning, “All children ought to be vaccinated.”
  • Fox News host Megyn Kelly spoke out in favor of vaccinations on “The O’Reilly Factor” saying “Some things do require some involvement of Big Brother.”
  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who contracted polio as a young child, has said “As a victim of polio myself, I’m a big fan of vaccinations. If I were a parent who had a child who might be subject to … any particular disease I would come down on the side of vaccination.”
  • Even Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) supports vaccines, saying, “Vaccines have had tremendous public health benefits in terms of eradicating diseases and limiting the impact of other diseases. … on the question of whether kids should be vaccinated, the answer is obvious, and there’s widespread agreement: Of course they should. We vaccinate both our girls, and encourage all parents to do the same.”

But the debate has spread quickly to a number of prominent conservatives. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie tried to take a middle-of-the-road position saying that while he and his wife vaccinated their children, he “also understand[s] that parents need to have some measure of choice in things as well, so that’s the balance that the government has to decide.” Despite his supposed evenhandedness, he quickly backtracked and said, “There is no question kids should be vaccinated.”

Sen. Rand Paul took the most extreme position saying, “I’ve heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking, normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines. I’m not arguing vaccines are a bad idea. I think they’re a good thing. But I think the parents should have some input.”

Paul follows his dad, former Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), who made the same argument in 2007 and former Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MI), who argued in a debate against former Governor Rick Perry (R-TX) that the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine might cause “mental retardation.” Bachmann’s comments linking vaccination to intellectual disabilities made many consider her too extreme to be considered a viable candidate.

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declared measles eradicated more than 15 years ago, public health officials are citing anti-vaxxers as a main contributor to this latest outbreak. This movement is only more reason to emphasize how important vaccines are to public health:

BOTTOM LINE: Vaccines are safe. The anti-vaxxer movement, amplified by irresponsible public officials, puts millions of people at risk of contracting highly contagious and deadly diseases. Vaccination is not and should never be a political issue.

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