An Arizona state lawmaker said this week that state-mandated vaccines are a “communist” value.
State Rep. Kelly Townsend (R), in a lengthy Facebook post on Thursday, warned that measles outbreaks are going to result in Arizonans having to “give up our liberty, the very sovereignty of our body.”
“I read yesterday that the idea is being floated that if not enough people get vaccinated, then we are going to force them to,” she wrote. “The idea that we force someone to give up their liberty for the sake of the collective is not based on American values but rather, Communist.”
The post came as Gov. Doug Ducey (R) said the state is “pro-vaccination” and said he would not sign any bills that expanded vaccine exemptions passed by the state’s House Health and Human Services Committee.
That proposed policy change comes amid multiple measles outbreaks and reported cases in at least 10 states.
In Clark County, Wash., 64 reported cases of measles have prompted the state to declare a public health emergency. The county has been dubbed an anti-vaccination “hot spot” due to its “philosophical-belief” vaccine exemptions.
Townsend claimed that her daughter has been “injured” by vaccines and urged Arizonans to “educate” their families about “the fundamentals of liberty.”
“I am going to demand … that we insist that we spend the time and money on discovering what in these vaccines is causing so much injury, instead of insisting on taking your liberty in the name of the collective,” she wrote.
Townsend signed her Facebook post: “Live free or die.”
Townsend's post drew national attention, including from health officials who have expressed concerns about declining vaccination rates and the anti-vaccination movement.
After some online backlash, Townsend wrote another Facebook post later Thursday defending her comments, saying that “maybe [she] meant to say Socialist.”
“The point here isn't whether or not we should vaccinate, that's for another post,” she said. “The point is whether or not your body is sovereign or if the government can force you to be injected against your will.”
Townsend told The Washington Post that she acknowledges the scientific studies supporting the need for vaccines, but maintained that she should have the right not to vaccinate her own children.
“My child is at risk from being injured from a vaccine and your child is potentially at risk if my son catches something," she said. "Whose child is more important? Where’s the line?”
Major public health organizations, including the World Health Organization, American Academy of Pediatrics and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have endorsed vaccinations for children.