Wednesday, February 4, 2015

I'm not giving Rand Paul a pass on vaccines

I recently rewatched Carol Tavris's 2011 talk from The Amazing Meeting. Towards the ends she talked about when a friend does something terrible we tend to minimize the sin or end the friendship, but she then shared a quotation from Shimon Peres when he was asked to comment about a gaffe made by his friend Ronald Reagan.

Peres said, “When a friend makes a mistake, the friend remains a friend, and the mistake remains a mistake.”

That was on my mind when I heard Rand Paul's infamous comments about vaccines. The headline was that he opposes mandatory vaccinations, something the United States doesn't actually have. We require children to be vaccinated to attend daycare or public schools, but we don't arrest parents who don't vaccinate their kids, and we do absolutely nothing about unvaccinated adults or tourists or immigrants.

Still, I believe the government is justified in forcing vaccines upon the American public. The threat of spreading diseases is great and the risk of vaccines is tiny. Not being vaccinate is dangerous and opposition to vaccines is based on misinformation and hysteria.

I can accept Rand Paul's position on the mandatory nature, but then I learned during the same interview he said vaccines can cause "profound mental disorders" and said, "I've heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking, normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines. I'm not arguing vaccines are a bad idea. I think they're a good thing. But I think the parents should have some input."

I wanted to give him a pass, because he did actually vaccinate his kids, but it would be disingenuous to do so. He clearly endorsed the anti-vax movement's disproven idea that vaccines cause health problems like autisim (even though he didn't name it specifically.)

Rand Paul was wrong, wrong, wrong to name those supposed risks. Frankly, it's absurd he could let such a crazy thing out of his mouth. John McCain, Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton all said similar things when they ran for president in 2008, long after the supposed link to autism was disproved. They didn't deserve a pass and neither does he.

Rand Paul was wrong, very very wrong. I will not minimize the mistake. He has tried to walk those remarks back, and by all means we should let him, but the mistake will remain a mistake and he will remain someone I otherwise admire.

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