Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) argued Monday that debate over whether to allow parents more choice in the vaccination of their children was a matter of "freedom," citing personal knowledge of kids "who wound up with profound mental disorders" after receiving immunizations for diseases like Hepatitis B and measles.
"I don't think there's anything extraordinary about resorting to freedom," the potential 2016 presidential candidate, who is a ophthalmologist, said in an interview with CNBC.
"We sometimes give five or six vaccines all at one time," he said of immunizations of newborns for Hepatitis B. "I chose to have mine delayed....Do I think it's ultimately a good idea? Yeah. So I had mine staggered over several months. I've heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking, normal children, who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines. I'm not arguing that vaccines are a bad idea, I think they're a good thing. But I think parents should have some input. The state doesn't own your children, parents own their children, and it is an issue of freedom. "
For the record, the scientific community overwhelmingly supports childhood vaccinations, and there is virtually no evidence that the measles vaccine is unsafe.
Former Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) made an argument similar to Paul's in 2012, claiming that the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine could do permanent damage to young girls.
“There’s a woman who came up crying to me tonight after the debate. She said her daughter was given that vaccine,” Bachmann said. “She told me her daughter suffered mental retardation as a result. There are very dangerous consequences.”
Paul isn't the only would-be presidential candidate who is facing scrutiny over his position on child vaccinations. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) also said parents should have "some measure of choice" when it comes to vaccinating their children, before walking back his comments in a statement on Monday.
Here's where the rest of the field stands on the issue.
Watch the video of Paul above.
UPDATE: Paul clarified his remarks in a statement passed along by his office on Tuesday.
"I did not say vaccines caused disorders, just that they were temporally related -- I did not allege causation. I support vaccines, I receive them myself and I had all of my children vaccinated. In fact today, I received the booster shot for the vaccines I got when I went to Guatemala last year," he said.