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Republican candidates cast doubt on vaccines in US presidential debate

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.h5006 (Published 18 September 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h5006
  1. Owen Dyer
  1. 1Montreal

A Donald Trump administration would change vaccination schedules to stop an “epidemic” of autism, the candidate said at the Republican Party’s presidential debate on 16 September.

Two other Republican candidates who are doctors also drew criticism from the watching physicians for their equivocal defense of vaccination. Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon, and Rand Paul, an ophthalmologist, both said that parents were justified in rejecting recommended vaccination schedules and instead demanding single shots spread out over a longer period.1

Carson, who retired in 2013 from a distinguished career as a professor of neurosurgery and division director at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, has surged in recent polls to command support from 20% of Republican voters, second only to Trump’s 32%, while no other candidate has polled above 10%. Skepticism about vaccines is widespread among Republican voters.

Referring to a recent measles outbreak in California the debate’s moderator, Jake Tapper, asked, “Dr Carson, Donald Trump has publicly and repeatedly linked vaccines, childhood vaccines, to autism, which, as you know, the medical community adamantly disputes. You’re a pediatric …

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