BuzzFeed News asked a number of lawmakers, including many of the likely 2016 presidential candidates two questions about vaccinations:
Does [the lawmaker] think parents should be required to vaccinate their kids (except in cases where medically the child can't be vaccinated)?
Should states offer a religious exemption, or a personal belief exemption of some kind?
All states require levels of vaccination for children to attend school, though most states provide a religious exemption, and some states allow a philosophical exemption. The philosophical exemptions in states like California, Texas, and Colorado allow parents to legally keep their children from being vaccinated. In California, for instance, large pockets of unvaccinated children have helped the spread measles, a disease once considered defeated in the United States.
Here were the responses:
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
Clinton's spokesman declined to comment in response to BuzzFeed News's questions on Monday, but Clinton did tweet the following:
Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley
On Monday, Lis Smith, a spokeswoman for O'Malley, provided the following statement:
"Gov. O'Malley believes it is critically important for every family to vaccinate their children. It is his hope that the American people take cues from medical professionals rather than pandering Republican presidential candidates."
She did not respond directly to BuzzFeed News's questions.
Sen. Ted Cruz
On Monday, Cruz provided the following statement:
"Vaccines have had tremendous public health benefits in terms of eradicating diseases and limiting the impact of other diseases. Most states include an exception clause for good faith religious convictions, and that's an appropriate judgment for the states to make. But on the question of whether kids should be vaccinated, the answer is obvious, and there's widespread agreement: Of course they should. We vaccinate both our girls, and encourage all parents to do the same."
In Washington Monday, Cruz also told reporters, "I'm a constitutionalist. This question has historically been decided at the state level. And most states choose to do what the state of Texas does which is to mandate vaccines for children to prevent the outbreak of infectious diseases."
Dr. Ben Carson
The former surgeon provided this answer to BuzzFeed News:
"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. 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. Obviously there are exceptional situations to virtually everything and we must have a mechanism whereby those can be heard."
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry
In response to BuzzFeed News's questions, Travis Considine, a spokesman for the former governor said:
"Gov. Perry strongly believes in protecting life and has sought to improve the health and well-being of Texans in a variety of ways, including increased immunization rates."
He did not answer the other questions directly.
Sen. Rand Paul
A spokesman declined to make Paul available for an interview with BuzzFeed News about vaccinations on Monday.
The senator said later Monday that while some vaccinations, like the smallpox vaccine should be mandatory, many current vaccines should be voluntary.
"I'm not arguing vaccines are a bad idea. I think they are a good thing. But I think the parent should have some input. The state doesn't own our children. Parents own the children," Paul told CNBC.
He also said some vaccines have caused mental disorders in the interview.
"I have heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines," he said.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal
On Tuesday, Jindal gave the following statement:
"I urge all parents to get their kids vaccinated. Vaccinations are required for children to attend public school and pre-K. Just about every private school requires vaccinations. Here in Louisiana, we actively encourage vaccinations and help low-income families vaccinate their children."
"I worked in health care for a long time. I have no reservations about whether or not it is a good idea and desirable for all children to be vaccinated. There is a lot of fear mongering out there on this. I think it is irresponsible for leaders to undermine the public's confidence in vaccinations that have been tested and proven to protect public health. Science supports them and they keep our children safe from potentially deadly but preventable diseases. Personally, I would not send my kids to a school that did not require vaccinations. Vaccinations are important. I urge every parent to get them. Every one."
A spokesperson did not respond directly to BuzzFeed News's questions.
Sen. Marco Rubio
On Tuesday, Rubio told reporters that all children should be vaccinated.
"Absolutely, all children in America should be vaccinated," Rubio said. "Unless their immune (system is) suppressed, obviously, for medical exceptions, but I believe that all children, as is the law in most states in this country, before they can even attend school, have to be vaccinated for a certain panel."
On Monday, a spokesman for Rubio declined to answer BuzzFeed News's questions.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker
A spokesperson for Walker did not respond to BuzzFeed News's request for comment on the questions.
"Gov. Walker believes vaccinations help prevent serious health problems. That's why his family is vaccinated and he encourages others to do the same," spokesman Tom Evenson told TPM on Tuesday.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush
A spokeswoman for Bush did not respond to BuzzFeed News's request for comment on the questions.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee
A spokesperson for Huckabee did not respond to BuzzFeed News's request for comment on the questions.
Former Sen. Rick Santorum
A spokesperson for Santorum did not respond to BuzzFeed News's request for comment on the questions.
Rosie Gray is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, D.C. Gray reports on politics and foreign policy.
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Kate Nocera is the DC Bureau Chief for BuzzFeed’s Washington, DC bureau. Nocera is a recipient of the National Press Foundation's 2014 Dirksen Award for distinguished reporting on Congress.
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