Pa. Health Sec: Don’t listen to Rand Paul on vaccines

Levine, a former pediatrician, had fellow pediatricians join her for a last-minute press conference defending the importance of vaccines. (Katie Meyer/WITF)

Levine, a former pediatrician, had fellow pediatricians join her for a last-minute press conference defending the importance of vaccines. (Katie Meyer/WITF)

Pennsylvania’s Health Secretary wants to make sure no one’s putting too much stock in Rand Paul’s opinions about vaccines.

In a recent health committee hearing, the Republican U.S. Senator said vaccines shouldn’t be mandatory, and suggested they give people a false sense of security.

The morning after those comments, Health Secretary Rachel Levine called a press conference.

Flanked by pediatricians, she summed up what decades of peer-reviewed studies have shown: vaccines work, they provide herd immunity for those who can’t be vaccinated, and they’re safe for most people.

Pennsylvania lets people opt out if they choose — though most schools require vaccines.

“You can have a philosophical exemption or a religious exemption, but we do not find large groups, when we look statewide, that take advantage of that. It’s less than two percent,” she said.

Levine said she hasn’t been aware of any opinions like Paul’s in the Pennsylvania legislature, and reported a good working relationship with state lawmakers on the issue.

She said Pennsylvania has over a 96 percent childhood immunization rate for measles — one of the most common diseases vaccines keep at bay.

Ninety-five percent immunization generally means a community has herd immunity.

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