The GOP senator from Kentucky gave fuel to dangerous conspiracy theories that are causing outbreaks of infectious diseases like measles.
A doctor should know better.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) — himself a doctor, who practiced ophthalmology before coming to Congress — spewed irresponsible anti-vaccine talking points during a Senate committee hearing on Tuesday, arguing that vaccines are dangerous and that parents should have the choice of whether or not to vaccinate their children.
“It is wrong to say that there are no risks to vaccines,” Paul said Tuesday at a hearing on vaccines, according to the Daily Beast. “Even the government admits that children are sometimes injured by vaccines.”
Paul went on to suggest that giving parents the choice to vaccinate their kids was a matter of personal liberty — and even went so far as to equate vaccines with a "false sense of security."
As we contemplate forcing parents to choose this or that vaccine, I think it’s important to remember that force is not consistent with the American story, nor is force consistent with the liberty our forefathers sought when they came to America.
I don't think you have to have one or the other, though. I'm not here to say don’t vaccinate your kids. If this hearing is for persuasion I’m all for the persuasion. I’ve vaccinated myself and I’ve vaccinated my kids. For myself and my children I believe that the benefits of vaccines greatly outweighing the risks, but I still don’t favor giving up on liberty for a false sense of security.
Sen. @RandPaul on vaccines: "I still do not favor giving up on liberty for a false sense of security."
— CSPAN (@cspan) March 5, 2019
The CDC asserts that the benefits of vaccines outweigh the risks, contrary to Paul's claims.
Paul made his remarks even after a massive new study came out confirming once again that vaccines do not cause autism, as many anti-vaccine conspiracy theories baselessly allege — and which many anti-vaccine parents might think of when they hear Paul talk about vaccine "risks."
Some of Paul's own Republican colleagues made a strong case for vaccination at the hearing.
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) asked a panel of medical professionals testifying at the hearing about whether there is a risk of vaccines causing autism. Every single one said there is not.
"There is absolutely no evidence at this time that vaccines cause autism," one doctor told the committee.
Sen. Alexander: In your opinion, there is no reputable evidence that vaccines cause autism?
Dr. McCullers: "There is absolutely no evidence at this time that vaccines cause autism."
All 4 other witnesses, including Washington State sec. of health, agree there is no connection. pic.twitter.com/58o9t7qRdS
— NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt (@NBCNightlyNews) March 5, 2019
Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), also a physician by trade, took it a step further by criticizing Paul's comments.
“If you are such a believer in liberty that you do not wish to be vaccinated then there should be a consequence, and that is that you cannot infect other people," Cassidy said.
Paul's anti-vaccine comments come as a number of states are currently dealing with the harms of the anti-vaccination movement, including in Washington State, which is experiencing the worst measles outbreak in more than 20 years.
Yet even that didn't stop Paul from spewing irresponsible anti-vaccine talking points that could help spur more parents to decide not to vaccinate their children.
And that would do even more to bring infectious diseases back to the U.S. that used to be almost eradicated.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.