Dr. Ben Carson, a likely 2016 GOP presidential contenders, believes there should be no “philosophical” or “religious” exemptions for vaccinations.
“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 told The Hill. “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.”
The retired neurosurgeon’s comments came hours after New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), both of whom are likely 2016 presidential candidates and potential rivals, stirred up controversy with their takes on vaccinations after the Disneyland measles outbreak.
On Monday, Christie called for a need for “balance” regarding vaccination before his office immediately clarified Christie’s comments, saying there is “no question” that kids should be vaccinated against a disease like measles.
Paul said he could not understand why his belief that most vaccinations should be “voluntary” is in any way “controversial.”
“I guess being for freedom would be really unusual?” he said during a Monday CNBC appearance. “I don’t understand the point why that would be controversial.”
Paul said that “vaccines are one of the greatest medical breakthroughs” and he was a “great fan of the smallpox vaccine.”
But he emphasized that vaccines “have been voluntary for most of history” and said he was not a fan of giving vaccines “five or six at one time.”
He mentioned that the Hepatitis B vaccine is given to newborns to prevent a disease that can be transmitted via sexual interactions or blood transfusions.
Paul said he staggered vaccines for his children over several months and noted that there have been “tragic cases” of “walking, talking normal children” who developed “profound mental disorders after vaccines.”
He said he was “not arguing that vaccines are a bad idea” because “they are a good thing,” but noted that “parents should have some input.”
“The state doesn’t own your children,” he said. “The parents own the children, and it’s an issue of freedom.”
After the Disneyland measles outbreak, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention said it was “very concerned” about a nationwide outbreak and urged vaccinations. There are reportedly 102 confirmed measles cases in 14 states, and most of them were due to the Disneyland outbreak, which occurred because the disease was brought to the theme park from outside of the country.