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Republican Presidential Candidates Debate Parents' Right to Refuse Vaccines for Children

Amanda Casanova | Contributor | Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Republican Presidential Candidates Debate Parents' Right to Refuse Vaccines for Children

A handful of Republicans, including presidential hopefuls, have spoken up about the polarizing issue of immunization in children.

This week, Rand Paul and Ben Carson, both expressed opinions about the rights of the parents in the choice of immunizations.

"Although I strongly believe in individual rights and the rights of parents to raise their children as they see fit, I also recognize that public health and public safety are extremely important in our society,” Carson, a neurosurgeon, said. 

“Certain communicable diseases have been largely eradicated by immunization policies in this country and we should not allow those diseases to return by foregoing safe immunization programs, for philosophical, religious or other reasons when we have the means to eradicate them.” 

Also Monday, Paul, an ophthalmologist, discussed the issue in a radio show.

"I'm not anti-vaccine at all,” he said. “But particularly, most of them ought to be voluntary. What if you have someone not wanting to take the smallpox vaccine and it ruins it for everybody else? I think there are times where there can be some rules, but for the most part, it ought to be voluntary.”

Paul also criticized former Texas Governor Rick Perry for his 2007 law that required children to get vaccinated for HPV. Later, Perry reversed the order.

Also, a spokeswoman for Carly Fiorina, a businesswoman who is speculated to also make a bid for presidency, released Fiorina’s comments about the issue.

“Look, I think parents have to make choices for their family and their children,” Fiorina said. “But I think there's a big difference between—just in terms of the mountains of evidence we have—a vaccination for measles and a vaccination when a girl is 10 or 11 or 12 for cervical cancer just in case she’s sexually active at 11. So I think it’s hard to make a blanket statement about it. I certainly can understand a mother’s concerns about vaccinating a 10 year old. I think vaccinating for measles makes a lot of sense. But that’s me. I do think parents have to make those choices.”

Publication date: February 3, 2015