Author and self-help guru Marianne Williamson, who is running for president as a Democrat, apologized Wednesday for earlier remarks where she described mandatory vaccinations as “draconian” and “Orwellian.”
“I understand that many vaccines are important and save lives,” Williamson said in a statement shared on Twitter. “I am sorry that I made comments which sounded as though I question the validity of life-saving vaccines. That is not my feeling and I realize that I misspoke.”
Williamson, who is slated to participate in the second of two Democratic debates next week, had likened vaccine mandates to anti-abortion laws at a campaign event on Wednesday in Manchester, New Hampshire.
“To me, it’s no different than the abortion debate,” she said. “The U.S. government doesn’t tell any citizen, in my book, what they have to do with their body or their child.”
Widespread aversion to vaccines has led to a national measles outbreak in recent months. Twenty-eight states have reported the disease this year, and 2019 has already seen the greatest number of cases reported in the country since 1992, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Parents are avoiding vaccines for a variety of reasons, including religious objections and the erroneous belief that the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine could cause autism.
Though Williamson apologized for her comments this week, she has indicated some sympathy for vaccine skeptics in the past.
In an appearance on “Real Time with Bill Maher” in 2015, she said “there’s a skepticism which is actually healthy on this issue of vaccinations.”
She clarified that she felt skepticism of the government and the pharmaceutical industry was warranted, but said she was not endorsing skepticism of the science behind vaccinations.
“There’s a public health issue that overrides individual liberty here, even though I don’t want the government, as a rule, telling me what I can do and what I can’t do with my body for medical purposes,” she said.
In her statement on Wednesday, she expressed similar views, saying she understands “some of the skepticism that abounds today about drugs which are rushed to market by Big Pharma” ― though she also acknowledged “there are epidemics around the world that are stopped by vaccines.”