Wednesday night’s Republican presidential debate offered plenty of overlap with leading California issues: the candidates sparred over climate change policies. They mentioned the drought and marijuana legalization. And toward the end, they entered a debate over the safety and effectiveness of vaccines that roiled the Legislature in 2015.
Gov. Jerry Brown in June signed a law mandating vaccinations for almost all school kids, capping an extraordinary debate that set public health and education advocates against parents decrying their loss of freedom and warning of shots causing injuries or autism.
Debate moderator Jake Tapper, referencing a surge of measles cases that began in Disneyland last year in noting that “a backlash against vaccines was blamed for a measles outbreak here in California,” asked about mogul Donald Trump’s past comments linking vaccines to autism. He got a range of responses.
Dr. Ben Carson noted that “numerous studies” have discredited a link between vaccines and autism but warned of health policies pushed by “big government,” echoing vaccine skeptics who believe no medicine should be mandatory, and said that vaccine schedules require too many in too short a time, validating parents who hope to stretch the schedule.
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The other medical professional on the stage, Kentucky senator and ophthalmologist Rand Paul, called vaccines “one of the greatest medical discoveries of all time” but also said parents should be able to spread them out. Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, who has said the choice to vaccinate should be left to parents, did not get a chance to answer.
Trump doubled down, noting that “autism has become an epidemic” and recounting how “a beautiful child went to have the vaccine, and came back, and a week later got a tremendous fever, got very, very sick, now is autistic.” Then Carson got a chance to respond to Trump’s medical take.
“He's an OK doctor,” Carson said, drawing laughter.