By Saad B. Omer
Vaccines are one of the most important advances in public health of the last two centuries. Immunization saves millions of lives every year, and horrific illnesses that were simply unavoidable not all that long ago have now been eliminated.
So why does Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) see them as a threat to liberty?
I testified on Tuesday before a Senate committee hearing on recent outbreaks of measles and other diseases that immunization has mostly wiped out. While most lawmakers on the panel agreed on the importance of vaccination, Paul raised significant doubts. A physician, Paul said that he and his children are vaccinated and that he believes the benefits of vaccines greatly outweigh the risks. But he also registered his opposition to mandatory vaccination, making factually dubious claims in the process.
Paul declared that the government never mandated the smallpox vaccine — conveniently ignoring, among other things, Jacobson v. Massachusetts, the 1905 case in which a man unsuccessfully challenged a vaccine mandate. Jacobson is often considered a seminal decision in public health case law.
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