Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky confirmed his membership in the “doctors who shouldn’t have gone into politics” club with his comments last week supporting the right of parents who don’t want their kids to be immunized. While acknowledging vaccines to be “one of the greatest medical breakthroughs that we have,” Paul asserted that they should be voluntary. He talked of “walking, talking, normal kids” who had been left with “profound mental disorders” after getting several vaccines at once, and admitted that he had used an alternative schedule for his own children.
There is a lot of misinformation to unpack here. Yes, babies get more vaccines than they used to, but the vaccines themselves are far more purified. There is no support for the widely held belief that vaccines cause autism. At the end of the day, however, I suspect that many parents will sympathize with Paul’s assertion that “the state doesn’t own your children; parents own their children.”
It is a message that appeals not just to libertarians but to the broader principles of consumer choice and individual freedom. Paul professes he can’t see what the fuss is about. But vaccines don’t fit with the libertarian model, and the history of measles—including the outbreak now spreading across the country from Disneyland—offers the perfect example why.
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/public_health/Life-Liberty-and-the-Right-to-Measles-Rand-Paul-on-Vaccination.html#RmOu5fm5ukLhLUSz.99
Jeffrey Baker, MD, PhD, is the director of the Program in the History of Medicine at the Trent Center for Bioethics, Humanities, and the History of Medicine. He is also a Professor of Pediatrics and an Associate Clinical Professor of History.