Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Wednesday continued to walk back his comments that parents should be allowed to choose whether to vaccinate their children, saying he holds the same position as President Barack Obama on the matter.
"I got annoyed that people were trying to depict me as someone who doesn't think vaccines were a good idea," Paul told Fox News host Greta Van Susteren on Wednesday, noting that he had been vaccinated before a recent trip to Guatemala and had vaccinated his children.
"I'm not sure I'm different from the president or anyone else on the position," Paul said. "We have rules to encourage people to have vaccines in the country, but I don't think anybody's recommending that we hold them down."
Pressed by Van Susteren on whether vaccinations should be required when an illness could spread to other children, Paul said certain school vaccine requirements were already "somewhat of a mandate," but really more of an encouragement.
"Interestingly, 48 out of 50 states do have a religious as well as philosophic exemption if you have a problem," Paul said.
Paul has faced heavy criticism since Monday, when he said vaccinations for children should be voluntary, and suggested a relationship between vaccinations and mental disorders.
"I've heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking, normal children, who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines," Paul said. "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."
Paul softened those comments on Tuesday, saying he believes children should be vaccinated. He said he didn't mean to suggest that vaccinations cause mental disabilities.
During an interview with NBC's Savannah Guthrie on Wednesday, President Barack Obama said parents should get their kids vaccinated.
"The science is, you know, pretty indisputable," Obama said. "We’ve looked at this again and again. There is every reason to get vaccinated, but there aren’t reasons to not."
The White House has stopped short of saying that there should be a law requiring parents to get their children vaccinated. "The president believes it shouldn’t require a law for people to exercise common sense and do the right thing," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Tuesday. "And again, this is the right thing for them to do both by their own children, but by also other children in the community. They have a responsibility to do this. "
Several Republicans also have voiced support for vaccinations.
"Unless they are immune-suppressed for medical exceptions, but I believe all children should be vaccinated," Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said Tuesday. "Absolutely, all children in America should be vaccinated."
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said all children should be vaccinated, and didn't know if another law was required.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) helped fuel the controversy this week, saying parents should "have some measure of choice" in vaccinating their children.