Debates were stoked Monday when Kentucky Senator Rand Paul said parents should decide whether and when their children should be inoculated.
According to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), an authoritative non-governmental US adviser on health, the current national vaccination schedule requires up to 24 immunizations of children by their second birthday.
In a controversial remark, Paul, seen as a likely Republican candidate in the 2016 US presidential vote, linked vaccines to cases of "profound mental disorders" in children. He added that, since parents "own the children," they must be allowed to opt out of vaccinations or choose the pace of their delivery.
Ironic: Today I am getting my booster vaccine. Wonder how the liberal media will misreport this? pic.twitter.com/1vSqwfBp5u— Senator Rand Paul (@SenRandPaul) 3 февраля 2015
Proponents of vaccination argue that by opting out of it, parents jeopardize the health of children around them. Scientific research indicates that an immunization rate of over 90 percent in a population is needed to maintain communal immunity against measles and other infectious diseases.
Following the release of Paul's opinion on vaccine safety, other Republicans in the 2016 GOP presidential pool sought to distance themselves from the Kentucky senator. Former US State Secretary, and potential Democratic Party presidential candidate Hillary Clinton commented in support of childhood vaccinations.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a current frontrunner for the Republican party in the 2016 presidential election, had been quoted by MSNBC saying he thought immunization should not be mandatory. After the reaction to Paul's statement his office was quick to retract his words, now saying he believes "with a disease like measles there is no question kids should be vaccinated."
More than a hundred people from 14 states across the United States were diagnosed with measles last month. Most of the cases were connected to an outbreak in Southern California by the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
The epidemic is believed to have started at the Disneyland theme park in Los Angeles, California, with parents who did not inoculate their children largely blamed for the outbreak. Parents in 48 out of the 50 states can legally refuse to immunize their kids if they claim religious reasons.