WASHINGTON -- Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.) told a town hall audience in Georgia last week that he thinks parents should decide whether to have their children vaccinated against diseases like measles and mumps. He said he and his wife didn't get vaccinations for most of their children.
"I believe it's the parents' decision whether to immunize or not," Loudermilk said, according to a video of the event. "And so I'm looking at our wife -- most of our children, we didn’t immunize. They’re healthy. Of course, home schooling, we didn’t have to get the mandatory immunization."
Loudermilk, chairman of a science subcommittee, was responding to a question that implied a link between vaccines and autism. Despite many studies debunking the myth, a subset of the population insists vaccines are unsafe. Debate over the topic has arisen again as the U.S. is in the midst of its worst measles outbreak since the disease had been eradicated here in 2000. The majority of people who have gotten measles in the outbreak were unvaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
There is no law requiring children to be vaccinated, but all 50 states require students to get shots before attending public schools, though some allow exceptions for religious or "philosophical" reasons.
"My family's choices surrounding health care have been misinterpreted as a statement against immunization," Loudermilk said in a statement provided Friday by his office. "I believe it is a parent’s right and responsibility to make all health care choices affecting their family. The advancements of health care science throughout our history have saved countless lives around the world, and as a member of Congress, I fully support our scientific community."
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) ignited a media firestorm recently when they suggested parents should have leeway on vaccinations. (Paul even implied a link between shots and "profound mental disorders.") Both walked back their comments, which were not endorsed by other Republicans.
This story has been updated to include comment from Loudermilk.