The GOP gubernatorial nominee said Tuesday that some vaccines 'can be mandatory' — with the exception of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin was asked in Tuesday's Virginia gubernatorial debate whether his opposition to vaccine mandates extends beyond COVID-19. He struggled to answer the question directly.
Throughout his campaign for governor, Youngkin has tried to appeal both to anti-vaccine conservatives (by railing against mask mandates and other COVID safety measures) and to Virginia's pro-vaccine majority (by encouraging people to choose to get immunized).
At Tuesday night's debate, moderator Chuck Todd asked Youngkin whether he also opposes government mandates for long-standing and historically effective vaccines.
"Do you believe getting vaccinated for measles, mumps, or rubella is a personal choice for Virginians?" Todd asked.
Youngkin hesitated, appearing to struggle to find an immediate answer.
"I think that the data associated with those vaccines is something that we should absolutely understand the difference between this vaccine," Youngkin said. "We have a moment here to help people understand the real information in this vaccine."
"So you would keep those vaccines mandatory?" Todd pressed. "Those vaccines mandatory, but not COVID?"
"Those vaccines can be mandatory," Youngkin said. "I do believe the COVID vaccine is one that everyone should get, but we shouldn't mandate it."
Virginia law requires children to be fully vaccinated against measles, mumps, and rubella before they enter kindergarten.
The measles vaccine was first introduced in 1963, the mumps vaccine became available in 1967, and the rubella vaccine was licensed in 1969. In 1995, the varicella vaccine was licensed for general use in the United States. In 2005, a combination of the four vaccines, known as the MMRV vaccine, was licensed. Children receive the MMRV vaccine in early childhood, before starting school.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, who is a pediatric neurologist, blasted Youngkin's "dangerous anti-vaccine agenda" in a virtual press conference on Wednesday.
"Glenn is peddling dangerous views that would do great harm to Virginia's health and safety and the fight to finally beat COVID-19," Northam said. "He was unclear on whether he would support requiring vaccines for measles, mumps, and rubella — a vaccine that has been mandatory for Virginia students for more than four decades and has been supported by Virginia's legislature. I find this simply unbelievable."
Manuel Bonder, a spokesperson for the Democratic Party of Virginia, called Youngkin's vaccine comments "dangerous."
"Glenn Youngkin has made it clear: he will not follow the science and show the leadership necessary to keep Virginia students and families safe," Bonder said in an email. "Youngkin and his dangerous agenda belong nowhere near the governorship."
A Youngkin spokesperson did not immediately respond to an inquiry for this story.
On Sept. 23, Youngkin was caught on camera saying he "can remove the mandate from state employees" that they either provide proof that they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or present a negative test weekly. "That's the one thing, legally, I can do on day one," he told an individual identifying themselves as a "veteran small business owner."
Getting every eligible person vaccinated against the coronavirus has been a top priority for Virginia's government. The Food and Drug Administration has thoroughly reviewed the data for all three authorized or approved COVID-19 vaccines, and they have been deemed safe and effective.
By requiring the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine for almost everyone, the United States had managed to eradicate or nearly eliminate those illnesses.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, rubella was completely "eliminated from the United States in 2004." So far this year, the United States has documented just six measles cases and 75 mumps cases.
Youngkin faces Democratic former Gov. Terry McAuliffe in the Nov. 2 election.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.