NO.republicanleadership2.004.012019.jpg

Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., speaks during a forum on healthcare during the Southern Republican Leadership Conference Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019, at the Pontchartrain Convention and Civic Center in Kenner.

If it’s good to have a doctor in the House, it’s arguably better to have one in the Senate. Better still to have even more, if one of them is Rand Paul.

As an ophthalmologist, the Kentucky Republican with the libertarian leanings surely understands the benefits of vaccination. In fact, he said so at a recent Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing, in which he acknowledged that he and his kids are vaccinated and that he believes the benefits outweigh the risks. Still, Paul criticized the idea of mandatory vaccinations, saying that “I still don’t favor giving up on liberty for a false sense of security.”

Stephanie Grace: Cassidy talks a good game on health care, but how will he vote?

Enter Doctor #2, Louisiana Republican Bill Cassidy. The Baton Rouge gastroenterologist forcefully defended vaccination, and called on his own professional experience to make the case.

“I’ve seen people who’ve not been vaccinated who’ve required liver transplantation because they were not, and/or who ended up with terrible diseases because of no other reason than they just, for whatever reason, didn’t understand vaccination was important,” Cassidy said.

He added that that flu shots may not be completely effective, but do mitigate symptoms. And Cassidy emphasized the broader value in keeping preventable diseases from spreading.

“Hospitals commonly require their employees to be immunized, because they understand that herd immunity is important,” he said. “If the nurse’s aide is not immunized, she can be a Typhoid Mary, if you will, bringing disease to many who are immunocompromised.”

As for the Paul’s liberty argument, Cassidy dismantled that too. The federal government mandates that information be provided, and many states and localities require informed consent. This isn’t about the government forcing anyone to get vaccinated, he argued, but about whether someone who isn’t vaccinated can enter school and put others at risk. 

“If you are such a believer in liberty that you do not wish to be vaccinated,” Cassidy said, “then there should be a consequence, and that is that you cannot infect other people.”


Follow Stephanie Grace on Twitter, @stephgracela.