As the debate around the efficacy of vaccines ramps up again, a video taken over the summer has surfaced showing Connecticut’s GOP candidate for governor Bob Stefanowski questioning the need for childhood vaccines.
The video, obtained by NBC Connecticut, is about two minutes long and doesn’t provide any context for what was said before Stefanowski made his comments.
Someone in the audience questioned Stefanowski about Connecticut’s laws that require students attending public schools to be up to date on their vaccinations.
“Do you think the state should dictate [immunizations] or should local [Boards of Education] handle that?” the audience member asked.
According to Stefanowski, he doesn’t the reason why vaccines should be mandated for public school students.
“I think it depends on the vaccination,” Stefanowski replies in the video. “We shouldn’t be dumping a lot of drugs into kids for no reason.”
As NBC Connecticut points out, Connecticut mandates that students entering pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, and seventh grade be immunized against diseases such as measles, rubella, pertussis, and tetanus. Some schools and programs also require that individuals in daycare and youth camps get a flu shot. The same goes for college students living in on-campus housing.
In the video, Stefanowski clarified that he and his wife had their children immunized, but he emphasized it as a “choice.”
This August, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced that a measles outbreak had spread across 21 states and the District of Columbia. Most of the people who contracted the disease were not vaccinated. According to the CDC, 107 people had contracted the disease from Jan. 1 to July 14.
In 2014, the U.S. saw 667 cases from 27 states. One outbreak the same year involved 383 cases in unvaccinated Amish communities in Ohio.
A spokesperson for Stefanowski told NBC Connecticut that the candidate’s comments were “in line with the law.”
“While he believes that the best practice is to vaccinate your children, he does not believe that the government should be able to legally force you to do so,” the spokesperson said.
While state vaccine mandates exist, the notion that the ‘government is forcing people to be vaccinated’ is a common trope disseminated by anti-vaccine activists. All vaccine mandates do is require parents to immunize their children if they want to attend public schools and other certain services offered to the public. Exemptions for medical purposes are available, and some states offer exemptions for moral or religious objections.
If parents don’t want to be subject to vaccine mandates, all they have to do is forgo these services.
Featured image via screen grab/YouTube