Right now, the official website of Pete Buttigieg lists none of his policy positions (something that’s not altogether uncommon early into primaries as candidates fundraise). But we got a glimpse into his stance on vaccinations yesterday, and it wasn’t a good one.
Anti-vaccination advocates (or “anti-vaxxers” as they’re called) have been responsible for over 700 measles outbreaks across the U.S., the worst outbreaks we’ve seen in decades. Anti-vaxxers use junk science, religious and personal beliefs to justify not vaccinating their kids, and now several states are considering laws that would allow anti-vaxxers the legal right to exempt their children from vaccinations that protect society against easily preventable and highly contagious illnesses.
So, Buzzfeed News asked 11 Democratic presidential candidates the following questions: “What do you believe about vaccines? Do you believe vaccines are a possible cause of autism? Do you support efforts to end religious and personal belief exemptions, leaving only medical exemptions?”
Joe Biden and Senator Amy Klobuchar both didn’t answer the questions but have supported vaccinations in the past. Other candidates alternately said they supported mandatory vaccinations, rejected exemptions or didn’t believe they cause autism.
Buttigieg’s initial response made him the only candidate to openly support exemptions for personal beliefs and religious reasons. His campaign said:
“The law of the land for more than a century has been that states may enforce mandatory vaccination for public safety to prevent the spread of a dangerous disease. Pete does support some exceptions, except during a public health emergency to prevent an outbreak
In particular, Buttigieg believes exemptions are appropriate for people who can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons. Personal belief and religious exemptions should only be allowed in states that aren’t facing a public health crisis and where herd immunity rates of vaccination are maintained.
“These exemptions include medical exemptions in all cases (as in cases where it is unsafe for the individual to get vaccinated), and personal/religious exemptions if states can maintain local herd immunity and there is no public health crisis.”
The response made no sense. He supports people not getting vaccinated in states that aren’t facing a public health crisis, but guess what causes public health crises: people not getting vaccinated. And herd immunity only works when “rates of vaccination are maintained,” so allowing exemptions threatens that too.
Buttigieg immediately got mocked online for his clueless response, causing his campaign to issue a “clarification” that almost entirely contradicted his original statement:
“Pete believes vaccines are safe and effective and are necessary to maintaining public health,” the spokesperson said. “There is no evidence that vaccines are unsafe, and he believes children should be immunized to protect their health. He is aware that in most states the law provides for some kinds of exemptions. He believes only medical exemptions should be allowed.”
While Buttigieg’s entire campaign rests upon his ability to bridge differences between the right and left, some viewpoints aren’t worth compromising on. It’s not worth building a bridge to accommodate ignorant and dangerous views based entirely on fear.