CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta said on Tuesday that it is “dangerous” for people to “politicize” a medical debate such as the one about vaccines. In particular, Gupta took issue with Sen. Rand Paul‘s (R-KY) “pandering” comments about vaccines.

“This is the sort of pandering that can be dangerous,” Gupta said. Paul claimed he has seen cases of children developing mental disorders after being vaccinated, but Gupta cautioned that “correlation does not equal causation.”

“I don’t know why he’s saying this,” Gupta added. “The numbers don’t bear that out. The science doesn’t bear that out. I’d be curious what drove those comments.”

“As a victim of polio myself I’m a big fan of vaccinations. And if I were a parent who had a child who might be subject to getting any particular disease I would come down on the side of vaccinations,” [Mitch] McConnell told reporters.

But he was careful not to argue that the practice should be required by the government, and said he was speaking only for himself and what he would do as a parent today.

“I can tell you what I would do if I was a parent and I had a child in this situation,” McConnell said when asked if vaccines should be mandatory.

“Although I strongly believe in individual rights and the rights of parents to raise their children as they see fit, I also recognize that public health and public safety are extremely important in our society,” [Ben] Carson said in a statement to BuzzFeed News.

Carson said diseases of the past should not be allowed to return because of people avoiding vaccines on religious or philosophical grounds.

“Certain communicable diseases have been largely eradicated by immunization policies in this country and we should not allow those diseases to return by foregoing safe immunization programs, for philosophical, religious, or other reasons when we have the means to eradicate them,” Carson said in the statement.

Sen. Marco Rubio issued an emphatic response when asked if children should be vaccinated for measles, weighing in on a debate that has divided Republican politicians.

“Absolutely,” Rubio said in response to a reporter’s question after the Florida Republican convened a Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Cuba.

“Unless they are immune suppressed, obviously, for medical exceptions,” added the father of four.

“This is the most advanced country in the world. We have eradicated diseases that in the past killed and permanently disabled people. My own grandfather was disabled by polio as a young child. There is absolutely no medical science or data whatsoever that links those vaccinations to onset of autism or anything of that nature. And by the way, if enough people are not vaccinated, you put at risk infants that are three months of age or younger and have not been vaccinated and you put at risk immune-suppressed children that are not able to get those vaccinations. So absolutely, all children in American should be vaccinated.”

[Ted] Cruz said Tuesday that “of course” children should be vaccinated, but added that whether such vaccines should be legally mandated was a decision best left to the states.

“We’ve got two little girls, we’ve vaccinated both our girls and would encourage people to do the same,” the Republican told POLITICO in an interview.

Cruz called the sudden controversy surrounding vaccinations “largely silliness stirred up by the media.”

“Nobody reasonably thinks Chris Christie is opposed to vaccinating kids other than a bunch of reporters who want to write headlines,” Cruz said.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) on Tuesday said Louisiana requires all school children to be vaccinated, and for good reason.

“I have no reservations about whether or not it is a good idea and desirable for all children to be vaccinated. There is a lot of fear-mongering out there on this,” he said in a statement. “I think it is irresponsible for leaders to undermine the public’s confidence in vaccinations that have been tested and proven to protect public health. Science supports them and they keep our children safe from potentially deadly but preventable diseases.”

The governor added that he personally would not send his children to a school that did not require vaccinations.

Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard who is considering a 2016 presidential bid, added, “I think there’s a big difference between — just in terms of the mountains of evidence we have — a vaccination for measles and a vaccination when a girl is 10 or 11 or 12 for cervical cancer just in case she’s sexually active at 11. So, I think it’s hard to make a blanket statement about it. I certainly can understand a mother’s concerns about vaccinating a 10-year-old.”

She went on, “I think vaccinating for measles makes a lot of sense. But that’s me. I do think parents have to make those choices. I mean, I got measles as a kid. We used to all get measles… I got chicken pox, I got measles, I got mumps.”

As more politicians and activists weigh in on the value of vaccines, a study suggests that there is no correlation between political party and anti-vaccine views

The data, reported from Yale and Harvard, comes from a survey of 2,316 U.S. adults and shows that anti-vaccination views are held by a small minority of people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that 90% of children receive their vaccinations, though survey respondents significantly underestimated vaccination rates.

A 2013 study found that the biggest contributor to distrusting or disliking vaccines was not political ideology, but having a conspiratorial mindset, which can occur on both the left and the right. Those who mistrust vaccines claim that childhood vaccinations can cause autism.

Observers have rolled their eyes with disgust and familiarity: These politicians are seeking the Republican nomination for president, and the primary process does often involve pandering to fringe elements of one’s own party.

But who are these people pandering to? What part, exactly, of the Republican coalition so opposes mandatory requirements that, in the context of a measles outbreak, vaccination is a compromise issue?

Because here’s the truth: This is largely a liberal fringe issue

And Democrats do in fact pander to these people. In fact, in 2008, both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama gestured in the direction of the discredited link between autism and vaccines (though whether Obama actually pandered is in dispute).

As The Fix reported earlier today, though, resistance to vaccines is a relatively bipartisan issue, even as it’s slightly more pronounced among Republicans and independents today. And while there are surely some Republicans keen on an anti-vaccine message, it’s wealthy, progressive Californians who basically started the movement

This is the same crowd that loves hybrid vehicles, organic foods and saving the whales and is often derided by conservatives as tree-huggers. The anti-vaxxer movement has scrambled the ideological divide in some ways, lumping crunchy California types with small-government libertarians. It’s helicopter parenting, mixed in with mistrust of science and the government…

It’s an evolving issue. But to suggest this “conspiracy theory base” only exists on the right is to miss the forest for the trees.

[T]he outbreak has fueled a backlash against the anti-vaccine movement that is likely to be counterproductive. Dr. James Cherry, an infectious disease specialist at U.C.L.A., for instance, labeled parents of unvaccinated children “selfish” and “dumb,” while a Los Angeles Times columnist, Michael Hiltzik, called for treating “the anti-vaccination crowd” as “public enemies.” If we’ve learned anything in politics over the last few decades, it’s that this kind of language is likely to be polarizing, driving people away rather than persuading them.

What’s even more dangerous is politicizing the debate over vaccines. Comments by Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey calling for “balance” in the vaccine debate after President Obama said Americans should “get your kids vaccinated” could have a similarly perverse effect, turning a public health issue into a matter of partisan allegiance…

[N]ews articles focusing on an extreme and unrepresentative group of anti-vaccine parents and celebrities may cause others to wrongly infer that their views are mainstream. Dan Kahan, a professor at Yale Law School, finds that exposure to news media coverage attributing disease outbreaks to declining vaccination rates or to commentary attacking vaccine opponents as “anti-science” causes people to significantly underestimate current rates of vaccination. Research on social norms campaigns has likewise found a risk of boomerang effects if messages inadvertently normalize undesirable behavior like binge drinking.

In fact, the social consensus in favor of vaccination is overwhelming.

Like Chris Mooney, I worry about this issue getting politicized. As he notes, there is presently no partisan divide on the subject. “If at some point, vaccinations get framed around issues of individual choice and freedom vs. government mandates—as they did in the ‘Christie vs. Obama’ narrative—and this in turn starts to map onto right-left differences … then watch out,” he writes. “People could start getting political signals that they ought to align their views on vaccines—or, even worse, their vaccination behaviors—with the views of the party they vote for.”…

When it comes to measles, my tentative thought is that the best way forward is to downplay the polarizing debate about coercion, wherever one stands on it, and to focus on the reality that ought to make it unnecessary: the strength of the case for vaccinating one’s kids, as demonstrated by the scientific merits of the matter as well as the behavior of every pro-vaccination elite with kids of their own. As a doctor, Rand Paul especially should walk back his imprudent comments on CNBC. While he’s perfectly welcome to maintain that parents shouldn’t be legally obligated to vaccinate, he ought to focus on explaining why, as a trained medical professional, he opted to vaccinate his own children, or so I gather from the fact that he declared that he believes the shots to be “a good thing.”

Anti-vaxers should not be pandered to but neither should they be callously abused. Neither of those approaches achieves what ought to be the end goal here: persuading enough people to get vaccinated that measles once again disappears.

This would make for the third consecutive presidential cycle in which the candidates have gotten suckered into pretending there is some kind of legitimate debate about American vaccination policies. In 2012, it was Michele Bachmann turning Rick Perry’s Gardasil program into a cause of mental illness. In 2008, Barack Obama implicitly and John McCain explicitly endorsed the idea that autism was on the rise due to vaccination. McCain was actually much worse on the topic, and this piece by Dr. Manhattan (whose son is autistic) contains every bit of information you could ever need on how wrong the senator was…

Fundamentally, the protection against life-threatening plague is one of the original reasons government exists. We’ve had mandatory vaccines for schoolchildren in America since before the Emancipation Proclamation. The Supreme Court has upheld that practice as constitutional for over a century, and only the political fringes believe there ought to be a debate about such matters. This is one of the few areas where government necessarily exercises power…

So how should we rebalance this autonomy? One suggestion regarding a path forward on public policy regarding vaccination policy: We speak about these topics mostly in terms of state mandates and sticks, but perhaps that’s not the best way. The Australian experience on vaccines, where they tied access to family tax benefits to immunization, illustrates that carrots can be quite effective.

If the decline in MMR vaccination continues, perhaps the federal government could take the step of making access to the child tax credit contingent upon vaccination.

The reality is most Americans get their vaccinations and their children get vaccinations. The reality is that some of the loudest voices against vaccinations are celebrities who lean to the left. In fact, the reality is that a growing number of upper income people have opted out of vaccinations and those people skew to the left.

But the media wants to make this about the GOP being anti-science. The whole issue is the media’s back door into further conversations about global warming.

But here’s the thing the media misses. The main reason there is a growing opt-out of vaccinations is because there is a growing distrust of government. People are convinced government screws everything up, including medicine. The real story is that the growing distrust of government is bipartisan, includes upper income Americans, and could potentially be fatal to many children.

The only cure for the distrust is to put government back into its proper spheres. But the media has no interest in telling that story.

You can’t give crazy people even the slightest wiggle room on this topic, because because they’ll always exploit any opening to pursue their hysterical New Age fear of vaccines. Rand Paul and Chris Christie gave them exactly that. The antivax belief system is an offshoot of the organic-everything movement that is a nearly exclusive province of the left, with their charlatans and mysticism-based medical beliefs.

Now, we also own it. Two leading lights of the GOP have rolled us in the crazy mud with antivax lunatics. It’s a path that leads to dead kids, iron lungs, and a return to avoidable horrors. The Democrats were smart and aggressive on this story today, and are doing everything they can to turn the antivax movement into a GOP problem. Christie and Paul wrong on the science and on the politics.

If these two want to remain in the race, they should immediately renounce their remarks. Yes, they’ll both take a beating. They’ve earned it. They’re both surrounded by smart, well-paid consultants who should know better. If they don’t, it says they’re not simply politically idiotic. It means they’re either scientifically ignorant or willfully pandering to a fringe so insane it will sacrifice children to measles, mumps, rubella, polio, and other childhood killers from a darker time.

The first sort of thing you see with martial law is mandates, and they’re talking about making it mandatory.”