Sen. Rand Paul flip flops on vaccinations

Courtesy Medical Times

Back in 2009, when Rand Paul was pursuing his long-shot bid to win Kentucky’s Republican Senate primary, he spoke to a small physicians’ association that has publicized discredited medical theories, including possible links between vaccines and autism and between abortion and an increased risk of breast cancer.

At the time, Mr. Paul, an ophthalmologist, was no stranger to the group, the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. He boasted at its annual meeting that he had been a member for more than two decades and that he relied on its research, statistics and views about the role of government in medicine.

“I am not a newcomer to AAPS,” Mr. Paul said, referring to the group.

On Monday, Mr. Paul helped set off an uproar when he said amid a national measles outbreak that parents should be allowed to decide whether their children needed to be vaccinated, and that he had heard from parents whose children had suffered “profound mental disorders” after being vaccinated.

In doing so, he was echoing the views of the head of the association, which has also lobbied in recent years for state laws permitting parents to opt out of mandatory inoculation programs based on their beliefs.

On Tuesday, Mr. Paul sought to clarify those comments, inviting a New York Times reporter to accompany him to the Capitol physician’s office to watch him receive a hepatitis A booster vaccination. During the visit, Mr. Paul said that he believed that the science was definitive on the matter and that vaccines were not harmful.

Dr. Jane Orient, the executive director of AAPS, which is based in Tucson, said that she believed that the science behind vaccination risks was far from settled and that hundreds of parents had reported that their children had had severe deficits after an inoculation.

“We have a lot of observations that are not otherwise explainable,” said Dr. Orient, an internist. “I don’t think we can dismiss it out of hand.”