HHS Secretary Tom Price dodges on immunization question

Chairman of the House Budget Committee Tom Price (R-GA) announces the House Budget during a press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 17, 2015. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo - RTSTR8O

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Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price dodged a question about the need for vaccine requirements at a town hall event Wednesday night, saying the issue should be left up to the states.

Asked at a CNN televised town hall whether basic immunizations -- such as for measles and mumps -- should be required, Price said that should be litigated “at the state government level.”

“It’s a perfectly appropriate role for -- for the government -- this happens, by and large, at the state government level, because they’re the ones that have the -- the public health responsibility -- to determine whether or not immunizations are required for a community population,” he said, “whether it’s growing kids or the like, or if there’s an outbreak of a particular infectious disease, whether or not an immunization ought to be required, or be able to be utilized.”

The question from moderator Wolf Blitzer came after an audience member asked Price about whether the GOP’s new health care proposal would allow for people who object to certain treatments -- including chemo or immunizations -- for “ethical or religious reasons.”

Price replied that her question is “key” because it “gets to the uniqueness of each and every individual and how they view their health care.”

“You may want a plan that allows one thing and not another,” he said. “You may want a plan that allows this type of hospital to care for you or this type of facility to care for you or this doctor to be on the plan or another doctor to be on the plan or another provider, alternative provider.”

The federal government does not currently mandate certain vaccinations. However, all 50 states have laws setting immunizations requirements for children who attend public schools, as well as private schools and day care facilities in many cases.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, all states’ laws include medical exemptions, and some states’ laws also allow for religious and philosophical exemptions.

  • Emily Schultheis

    Emily Schultheis is a reporter/editor for CBS News Digital.