Last night, CNN held a town hall on the Affordable Care Act with Tom Price, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, who is also a former orthopedic surgeon.
An audience member asked if, under the proposed American Health Care Act, people would be penalized by their insurance companies if they refused chemotherapy, blood transfusions, or immunizations for ethical or religious reasons. Price used this question as an opportunity to spout the (bogus) Republican talking point that its replacement plan is going to increase choice. He told the woman: "You ought to be able to select the plan that matches your needs instead of the federal government telling you, 'This is what you've got to buy.'"
At that point, co-moderator Wolf Blitzer's spidey sense activated and he jumped in to press the secretary on his views on vaccines, which, unlike chemo or blood transfusions, can affect the health of a whole community of people, not just an individual. The Trump administration has a shaky stance on vaccines; Price is a member of a fringe healthcare group that views vaccines as "human experimentation." Price's response did not inspire confidence.
Here's a transcript of that exchange, because you have to see it to believe it.
Blitzer: Dr. Price, you're a physician, you believe in immunizations, you believe all children should get a shot for polio and other diseases?
Price: That's a different question. The question she asked is, should Denise be able to buy the kind of coverage plan that she believes is most appropriate for her. The answer to that is an emphatic "yes." The question you asked is what kind of health care ought to be provided to individuals and there are certain things we ought to do as a society and we encourage, that's the kind of education that is so important for folks so that they know what is best for them and their families.
Blitzer: But should it be required—measles mumps, those kinds of immunizations?
Price: It's a perfectly…I believe it's a perfectly appropriate role for the government—this happens by and large at the state government level because they're the ones who have the public-health responsibility—to determine whether or not immunizations are required for a community population, whether it's growing kids or the like. Or, if there's an outbreak of a particular infectious disease, whether or not an immunization ought to be required or be able to be utilized.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doesn't require vaccines, but it does issue recommendations, including a vaccine schedule, which informs state policy. But Price now oversees the CDC, and people are worried. He seems to be suggesting that states can wait until they have an outbreak of measles—which, by the way, was considered eliminated in the US in 2000 but has started to come back thanks to anti-vaxxers—before requiring that all children have to get the measles vaccine. Sounds like a real-life version of Survivor, and we know how much the President loves TV.
Media outlets characterized Price's comments as evading an opportunity to endorse vaccination. And doctors were none too pleased about his statements. Here, some choice words America's MDs had for Price.
In a more general statement about Price tweeted before this vaccine debacle, Lynn Gaskins summed things up nicely:
Read This Next: How I Changed an Anti-Vaxxer's Mind