Televangelist Pat Robertson is apparently against mandating vaccinations, and he used water fluoridation as part of his rationale.
"You know, when I was a kid, we all got measles, we got mumps" the 84-year-old said on Tuesday's episode of "The 700 Club." "They didn't [vaccinate], you just got immune. But what you had to do was stay in a dark room; you couldn't read for a week or two. That was the thing. I’m sure that there’s some serious consequences to measles, and perhaps vaccinations is the answer, but I don’t think any parent should be forced by the government to vaccinate. There's so many different vaccinations."
He went on to discuss the polio vaccine, which resulted in the eradication of the disease in the Americas by 1994. He claimed his friend's mother contracted polio from the vaccine.
His co-host later asks: "Are you saying that you think the bigger issue is that the government shouldn't be telling parents whether they have to [vaccinate their kids] or not?"
“I just think that we’ve got to be careful that we fall for these nostrums," he said. "You know, you have to put fluoride in all of the water because it will cut down on cavities, but what does fluoride do to people? We don’t know some of the consequences, that's all I'm saying. We don’t have all the knowledge we need, and we should be very careful not to force people to do stuff that they earnestly feel they shouldn’t do. But obviously vaccinations for measles, they've got one, it works. Why not?"
The debate over vaccinations flared this week after comments made by Chris Christie and Rand Paul, both of whom may enter the race for the Republication nomination in the 2016 presidential election. Each state has a different protocol for vaccines, but there is not a blanket rule for the nation at the moment.
Christie said "parents need to have some measure of choice" when it comes to vaccinating their children, although he did acknowledge the public health impact vaccines have. Paul, who is an ophthalmologist, said the issue if a matter of "freedom" and claimed to personally know kids "who wound up with profound mental disorders" from vaccines. He did, however, say: "I'm not arguing that vaccines are a bad idea, I think they're a good thing."
The anti-vaccine movement has been bolstered by a 1998 study purporting a link between vaccines and autism that has since been discredited.
Diseases like polio and the measles are highly contagious and potentially deadly. In January alone, there were over 100 confirmed cases of the measles in the United States, many of which were related to an outbreak at Disneyland. The disease had been considered eliminated from the Americas in 2002.
“When you see educated people or elected officials giving credence to things that have been completely debunked, an idea that’s been shown to be responsible for multiple measles and pertussis outbreaks in recent years, it’s very concerning,” Amesh Adalja, an infectious-disease physician at the Center for Health Security at the University of Pittsburgh, told the Washington Post.