Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul was doing damage control Tuesday over his contentious comments on voluntary vaccinations just as he was linked to a physicians' group that supports discredited medical theories, such as ties between vaccines and autism.
According to The New York Times
, the potential presidential candidate told a 2009 meeting of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons that he had been a member for two decades and that he used its research and findings to help him create policy decisions about the government’s role in medicine.
In the wake of the measles outbreak affecting more than 100 cases and spreading to 14 states, the Republican senator started a firestorm by saying that vaccinations for the disease should be voluntary despite laws making them mandatory.
Paul, an ophthalmologist, also said he had been told by parents that their children had suffered "profound mental disorders" after being inoculated, the newspaper reported, noting that his comments were very similar to the head of the association.
The AAPS, which has 3,000 members, has been urging states for years to bring out new laws that allow parents to opt out of voluntary vaccinations based on their religious beliefs.
Rand, however, was busy backtracking
Tuesday after President Barack Obama, presumed Democratic 2016 candidate Hillary Clinton and even GOP rival Ben Carson came out with comments this week saying that vaccinations are safe.
"It just annoys me that I’m being characterized as someone who’s against vaccines," Paul said. "That’s not what I said. I said I’ve heard of people who’ve had vaccines and they see a temporal association and they believe that."
He even asked a Times reporter to accompany him to the Capitol physician’s office while he had a hepatitis A booster vaccination, while insisting he believed that science had proved inoculations were not harmful.
According to the newspaper, Paul appears to be backing down because he fears that people will believe that he’s letting his libertarian politics get in the way of his medical judgment, and he cannot afford to support opinions that are out of the mainstream.
Dr. Jane Orient, the executive director of the Tucson-based AAPS, apparently came to Paul’s defense, while claiming that the scientific study on the dangers of vaccination was still inconclusive and that hundreds of parents had reported that their children had suffered "severe deficits" after an inoculation.
"We have a lot of observations that are not otherwise explainable," said Orient, an internist. "I don’t think we can dismiss it out of hand."
But the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics have discredited the link between vaccinations and autism, noting that only children with certain medical conditions should miss inoculations because they are at a higher risk of complications.
However, in a 2010 speech, Paul criticized the AMA, alleging that its views are not in keeping with many doctors in the U.S.
"The A.M.A. has been struggling for years, and they do not represent doctors across the country," the senator said. "And AAPS has been growing dramatically as doctors who want to fight against big government join together under a different banner.
"The A.M.A. doesn’t represent me. I’ve never been a member."
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