The flashpoint in the lead up to 2016 turned to vaccinations this week, with everyone from Chris Christie to Hillary Clinton weighing in on whether the government should mandate vaccines.
But interestingly, there are two candidates in the Republican field who are doctors, and they came down on very different sides of the issue.
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, an ophthalmologist, has said that vaccines should be voluntary. Despite the growing vaccine controversy amid the current measles outbreak, Paul stuck to his guns in an interview with CNBC’s “Closing Bell” yesterday, saying, “[I’ve] heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines” and “The state doesn’t own your children. Parents own the children, and it is an issue of freedom and public health.”
While being anti-mandatory vaccine fits with Paul’s libertarian sensibilities, science, as TIME’s Jeffrey Kluger writes, doesn’t support a link between mental disorders and vaccines.
Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon and another likely 2016 Republican candidate, also waded into the discussion yesterday.
“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 said in a statement. “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.”
Carson is a strong supporter of the medical theories behind vaccination. He’s currently chairman of the board of Vaccinogen, Inc., a biotech company that hopes to develop vaccines to prevent certain types of cancer.
Of course, being a doctor isn’t a guarantee of a politician’s views. While most of the doctors in Congress are deeply conservative, the profession as a whole is becoming more liberal. And views on vaccination, both for and against, do not fall along partisan lines.