As probably the most vocal pro-vaccine writer on this website, my eyebrows were raised when I read tweets Thursday indicating that GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina was soft on the issue of vaccines.
Pandering for votes isn't going to win us back the Presidency. Optional vaccinations is bad for public health & bad politics. @CarlyFiorina— George E. Pataki (@GovernorPataki) August 14, 2015
Carly Fiorina's anti-vax pandering is dangerous and politically stupid http://t.co/6rtzHpPKgs— Christopher Ingraham (@_cingraham) August 14, 2015
Small problem: That's not at all what she said.
From the Washington Post:
"When you have highly communicable diseases where we have a vaccine that's proven, like measles or mumps, then I think a parent can make that choice -- but then I think a school district is well within their rights to say: 'I'm sorry, your child cannot then attend public school.' So a parent has to make that trade-off."
This is current policy in the United States. Children may be exempted from vaccines for medical reasons in all states, and can be exempted for religious reasons in all but Mississippi, West Virginia, and California. An additional 18 states allow for "personal belief" exemptions to skip vaccines and still attend public schools. Parents are still free to refuse to vaccinate their children, but doctors are still free to refuse them as patients and public schools are allowed to refuse them to enroll.
Parents who make the choice to not vaccinate in a state with no personal belief exemptions (and who don't want to pursue a religious exemption) can do one of two things: enroll their child in a private school that does not have vaccination requirements, or home school them. That's precisely what Fiorina said.
Fiorina's objection to vaccines was centered entirely around the HPV vaccine. The HPV vaccine protects a woman against genital warts (which can lead to cervical cancer), which are spread through sexual contact. HPV is not like the measles, which is spread through the air, or mumps, which can be spread through incidental contact (the NHL learned this the hard way this year). A person walking in a public place has no chance of casually contracting genital warts, but as several unvaccinated patrons of Disneyland learned earlier this year, they can indeed come down with the measles.
So no, Fiorina is not an anti-vaxxer, and it is dishonest to portray her as one. She isn't pandering for votes--she's echoing the current law.