Buzzfeed News recently made an assessment of the 2020 presidential candidates’ stances on vaccination. They concluded that all of the declared candidates so far are in agreement that parents should vaccinate their children when vaccination is recommended. Some of their statements were nuanced, while others made blanket statements of approval of vaccines.
Two candidates stood out, albeit for different reasons. President Trump, who as a candidate in the 2016 cycle expressed concerns about vaccines and even repeated some long-debunked claims about vaccines and autism, expressed his support for vaccines:
The other candidate who stood out was Mayor Pete Buttigieg because his first response raised concerns. His spokesperson said:
“The law of the land for more than a century has been that states may enforce mandatory vaccination for public safety to prevent the spread of a dangerous disease. Pete does support some exceptions, except during a public health emergency to prevent an outbreak… These exemptions include medical exemptions in all cases (as in cases where it is unsafe for the individual to get vaccinated), and personal/religious exemptions if states can maintain local herd immunity and there is no public health crisis.”
The talk about non-medical exemptions made some people wince since it has been the availability of philosophical and religious exemptions that have driven the return of measles in the outbreaks in Washington State and New York City. When asked to clarify, Mayor Buttigieg’s campaign responded:
“Pete believes vaccines are safe and effective and are necessary to maintaining public health… There is no evidence that vaccines are unsafe, and he believes children should be immunized to protect their health. He is aware that in most states the law provides for some kinds of exemptions. He believes only medical exemptions should be allowed.”
As we have explained before, immunization policies are political in nature, especially in what seems to be a very divided government between the two major political parties. It is interesting, however, that vaccination has become a contentious issue, and one that any political party would have to address over two centuries after Dr. Edward Jenner developed the first vaccine.