U.S. congressional leaders and several possible 2016 presidential hopefuls said on Tuesday all children should be vaccinated, joining a debate that has become a national flashpoint as a measles outbreak rekindles a discussion on parents' right to forgo inoculation of their children.
“There is absolutely no medical science or data whatsoever that links those vaccinations to onset of autism or anything of that nature,” U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida said.
“So absolutely, all children in American should be vaccinated,” Rubio, a potential Republican presidential candidate, told reporters on Tuesday.
House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, a Republican, told reporters that he did not know if additional laws were needed but that children should be vaccinated.
President Barack Obama this week urged parents to have their children vaccinated against preventable diseases such as the measles. But Republicans are more divided as to whether parents should have more leeway.
Measles was declared eliminated from the United States in 2000, but an outbreak that began in California in December has shone a spotlight on the so-called anti-vaccination movement.
Debunked theories that once suggested a link between vaccines and autism have led some parents to refuse to have their children inoculated. Even though doctors say those fears are unfounded, many parents want to decide for themselves whether to vaccinate their children.
Republicans who are thought to be weighing 2016 runs leaped into the debate this week.
Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, an ophthalmologist, said in an interview with CNBC on Monday that he had heard of instances where vaccines caused “mental disorders.”
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a Republican and potential 2016 presidential candidate, said parents needed a “measure of choice.” His spokesman later said the governor believed kids should be vaccinated against measles.
But other possible contenders on Tuesday urged parents to make sure their children get the necessary vaccines.
“I have no reservations about whether or not it is a good idea and desirable for all children to be vaccinated,” Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal said in a statement. “There is a lot of fear mongering out there on this.”
Indiana Governor Mike Pence said his administration urges families to get their children vaccinated.
Hillary Clinton, widely seen as the front runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, was perhaps the most blunt. On Monday, she wrote on Twitter, “The science is clear: The earth is round, the sky is blue, and #vaccineswork.”