Hillary Clinton Says All Kids Should Get Vaccinated—But She Wasn’t Always So Certain

Obama’s position has evolved too.


With measles cases in the United States at a 20-year high, some Republican presidential hopefuls have gotten heat for pandering to conservative voters who doubt extensive scientific evidence that vaccines don’t cause autism. With Chris Christie and Rand Paul making controversial comments on the issue, Hillary Clinton came out strongly Monday night on the side of science:

But in 2008—when a widespread theory linking vaccines to autism had already been debunked—Clinton wasn’t so definitive on this point. In response to a questionnaire from an autism advocacy group, she wrote, “I am committed to make investments to find the causes of autism, including possible environmental causes like vaccines…We don’t know what, if any, kind of link there is between vaccines and autism – but we should find out.”

Clinton has a long history of supporting efforts to get children vaccinated. In 1993, she spearheaded the Childhood Immunization Initiative and the Vaccines for Children program, which aimed to make vaccines affordable. Yet, she also has been a strong voice for families dealing with autism, calling in 2007 for $700 million per year to fund research and education. Her comments in 2008 reflected a certain tension to advocating on both fronts.

She also wasn’t the only prominent Democrat hedging about autism and vaccines during the 2008 election cycle: At a campaign rally in Pennsylvania that April, Barack Obama was asked about a link. “We’ve seen just a skyrocketing autism rate,” he replied. “Some people are suspicious that it’s connected to the vaccines…The science is right now inconclusive, but we have to research it.”

It used to be more politically difficult for Democrats to come out swinging against anti-vaxxers, a problem that now appears to be growing for Republicans. In 2009, 26 percent of Republicans and 27 percent of Democrats believed parents should be able to decide whether to vaccinate their kids. Now, according to a new Pew survey, 34 percent of Republicans and 22 percent of Democrats hold that view.

Obama’s position has evolved too: On Sunday, he urged parents to get their kids vaccinated. “There aren’t reasons not to,” he said.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

Share your feedback: We’re planning to launch a new version of the comments section. Help us test it.