Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina said Thursday that parents should not be forced to vaccinate their children against diseases like measles or mumps. However, she said she also believes schools should be free to make vaccinations for communicable diseases a requirement for attendance, saying families have to "make that trade-off" for themselves.
Speaking at a town hall-style event in Iowa, Fiorina answered a question posed by a mother of five, who said that her religious beliefs prevented her from allowing her children to receive vaccinations.
"First of all, we must protect religious liberty and someone's ability to practice their religion," Fiorina responded. "We must devote energy and resources to doing so, period."
The former tech executive added that on vaccinations, "when in doubt, it is always the parent's choice."
Fiorina then mentioned her own daughter, who she said was "bullied" by her school into receiving a vaccination for the Human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection.
"Our daughter said, 'You know, measles is one thing, but some of these vaccinations now that they're asking particularly young girls to get at age 10 and 11, I don't want to do that.' And I said, 'I don't want you to do it, either.' And she got bullied, she got bullied by a school nurse," Fiorina said.
Fiorina told reporters after the event that "when you have highly communicable diseases where you have a vaccine that's proven, like measles or mumps, then I think a parent can make that choice." A 1998 study in the Lancet medical journal had suggested the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine had links to autism, but the findings were later completely discredited and retracted.
But for families with children who have not been vaccinated, Fiorina went on to explain that "then I think a school district is well within their rights to say, 'I'm sorry, your child cannot then attend public school.'"
"So a parent has to make that trade-off," the former Hewlett-Packard CEO said. "I think when we're talking about some of these more esoteric immunizations, then I think absolutely a parent should have a choice and a school district shouldn't be able to say, 'sorry, your kid can't come to school' for a disease that's not communicable, that's not contagious, and where there really isn't any proof that they're necessary at this point."
California, where Fiorina ran for a Senate seat against Democrat Barbara Boxer in 2010, recently passed a law requiring nearly all schoolchildren to be vaccinated. Several calls to tighten the state's vaccine laws erupted after a measles outbreak last December was found to have originated in Disneyland.
Fiorina expressed her disapproval of the mandate, saying that "California is wrong on most everything, honestly."
"I'm not at all surprised that they made that mistake as well," she said.