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Update: At this hour Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, Scott Walker, and George Pataki (with a great response by the way) have spoken out in favor of vaccination, full stop. No responses yet from Bush, Huckabee, and Santorum.
If you followed me on Twitter today, you saw my largely unbounded anger at Chris Christie for giving exactly the wrong answer on the question of childhood vaccinations, and for opening up an issue harmful not just to the GOP, but to society as a whole.
Vaccination isn’t debatable. This isn’t a matter of opinion. This is one of the most long-running and proven successes in medical history. Vaccination saves lives by the millions. It has turned many of the diseases that killed and paralyzed generations of children into memories. When Christie was asked about vaccination, there was only one correct answer, “Vaccinate your kids. It’s not a question. Do it. Anything else is crazy.”
Rand Paul followed it with an even bigger whopper, “I have heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines.” The fact this thoroughly debunked pseudo-scientific claptrap about vaccines and autism has infected the dialogue of the 2016 Republican primary is so far beyond my comprehension that I can hardly do more than shout rage at the screen. Chris Christie and Rand Paul were so wildly irresponsible today that they should be horsewhipped, if not driven from the race.
This isn’t an argument about the government forcing us to vaccinate. It’s an argument about doctors and parents knowing what’s right and what saves lives. It’s an argument that civilized people with an instinct for societal self-preservation do that keep kids from dying of preventable diseases. They not only vaccinate their children for their own sake, but to provide herd immunity. To make a long concept short, when vaccination is very widespread, there are even more positive benefits in stopping the transmission of diseases. Once you get clusters of non-vaccinated kids, even vaccinated kids are at greater risk.
You can’t give crazy people even the slightest wiggle room on this topic, because because they’ll always exploit any opening to pursue their hysterical New Age fear of vaccines. Rand Paul and Chris Christie gave them exactly that. The antivax belief system is an offshoot of the organic-everything movement that is a nearly exclusive province of the left, with their charlatans and mysticism-based medical beliefs.
Now, we also own it. Two leading lights of the GOP have rolled us in the crazy mud with antivax lunatics. It’s a path that leads to dead kids, iron lungs, and a return to avoidable horrors. The Democrats were smart and aggressive on this story today, and are doing everything they can to turn the antivax movement into a GOP problem. Christie and Paul wrong on the science and on the politics.
If these two want to remain in the race, they should immediately renounce their remarks. Yes, they’ll both take a beating. They’ve earned it. They’re both surrounded by smart, well-paid consultants who should know better. If they don’t, it says they’re not simply politically idiotic. It means they’re either scientifically ignorant or willfully pandering to a fringe so insane it will sacrifice children to measles, mumps, rubella, polio, and other childhood killers from a darker time.