The Vaccination Debate Makes For An Interesting Political Wedge Issue

Ken AshfordElection 2016, Health CareLeave a Comment

Of the potential 2016 presidential candidates on the GOP side, we have Christie and Rand Paul cuddling up with the anti-vaxxers (spouting “freedom” in their answers when asked about whether parents should vax)

And then we have one of the most conservative Christian candidates out there, Dr. Ben Carson, who seems to be the voice of reason on this issue:

“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 to BuzzFeed News.

Carson said diseases of the past should not be allowed to return because of people avoiding vaccines on religious or philosophical grounds.

“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 said in the statement.

Well, duh.

[UPDATE 2/4/15 — Looks like I gave Carson too much credit.  He stands by his statement, but he blames “undocumented people” for outbreaks (despite the fact that countries in Central and Southern America are better about vaccinations than we are.]

This isn’t a battle the Republicans want to have. This shouldn’t be one of those issues where you have to reflexively oppose whatever Obama or Clinton says, and the potential Republican candidates do this at their peril. The GOP is already thought of as the anti-science party. If Republican leaders are questioning the efficacy of vaccines, they’re going to double down on that label, alienating many of the moderates they need in 2016.

By the way, there is some interesting data on who supports/opposes vaccinations.  According to a YouGov survey, support for mandatory vaccinations for “childhood diseases like measles, mumps, whooping cough” is inversely correlated with age. Under-30s actually oppose it by a 42/43 margin, while those 30-44 support it 50/37; 45-64-year-olds support it 64/26, and seniors support it 73/21.


I think the reason for this is quite simple: younger people are…. well, not stupid…. but ignorant.  They simply grew up in a time when these diseases had been eradicated for the most part.  They are going from their own blind lack of experience and firsthand knowledge.  They think of things like pro-choice and freedom, and apply it to this situation, without really knowing the history or facts.