A handful of presidential hopefuls descended on Iowa last week to speak their piece about hot button issues like immigration and tax reform in hopes of swaying voters. GOP candidate Carly Fiorina addressed a town hall meeting in Alden on Thursday, answering questions from audience members and calling for systematic change in Washington. What stood out the most during the town hall meeting was Fiorina's views on vaccinations, which revealed she would support anti-vaxxers' right to not immunize their children.
A mother of five in attendance asked Fiorina what she thought about forced vaccinations, as the mother did not religiously agree with immunization. Fiorina said it was a parent's choice rather than that of the state or government, echoing her commitment to religious freedom:
When in doubt, it must always be the parent's choice. We must protect religious liberty and someone's ability to practice their religion. We must devote energy and resources to doing so. Period.
She then recounted an incident where her daughter was reportedly bullied by a school nurse over her apprehension about the HPV vaccine.
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.
This isn't the first time Fiorina has been critical of mandatory vaccinations. When California Gov. Jerry Brown in June signed a law eliminating most vaccine exemptions — including religious ones — Fiorina immediately criticized the move, calling the state "wrong on most everything."
But even though Fiorina was fairly explicit in her answers during the town hall, she seemed to backtrack when speaking with reporters following the event.
When you have highly communicable diseases where we have a vaccine that's proven, like measles or mumps, then I think a parent can make that choice. But 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. I think when we're talking about some of these more esoteric immunizations, then I think absolutely a parent should have a choice... where there really isn't any proof that they're necessary at this point.
Fiorina unfortunately did not clarify what constitutes an esoteric vaccination. It's also unclear whether her remarks on vaccinations will net her additional support, though as of late, Fiorina's popularity has been on the upswing. According to a CNN/ORC poll of Iowa released last Wednesday, the former HP executive's numbers have risen considerably, putting her at fifth place overall with 7 percent popularity.