Republican Senate Leader, a Polio Victim, Backs Vaccines

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday he supports the use of vaccinations to prevent diseases, drawing on his personal experience with polio, which he contracted as a two-year old.

The issue has gained national attention as potential Republican presidential contenders debate the proper “balance” of parental choice and public health, as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie put it this week.

“As a victim of polio myself I’m a big fan of vaccinations and if I were a parent who had a child … being subject to getting any particular disease I would come down on the side of vaccinations,” said McConnell.

McConnell’s polio left him unable to walk until he was five. Once one of the most-feared diseases in the United States, polio infected tens of thousands of children at its height, killing or paralyzing thousands. A vaccine was introduced in 1955, eliminating the disease from the U.S. in 1979.

The Republican Senate leader joined other prominent voices in his party who have spoken up in favor of vaccination since a measles outbreak led to Christie’s comments. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal also argued in favor of vaccination Tuesday.

Earlier in the day, House Speaker John Boehner said that “all children ought to be vaccinated.”

As my colleagues have reported, the scientific consensus overwhelmingly supports widespread vaccinations to protect the public from harmful diseases.

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