Senators: Science settled on vaccines

Senators: Science settled on vaccines

Senators from both parties stressed the importance of vaccinations on Tuesday amid a measles outbreak and a debate on vaccinations that burst into the presidential race. 

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Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderGianforte halts in-person campaigning after wife, running mate attend event with Guilfoyle Reopening schools seen as vital step in pandemic recovery OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Watchdog accuses Commerce of holding up 'Sharpiegate' report | Climate change erases millennia of cooling: study | Senate nixes proposal limiting Energy Department's control on nuclear agency budget MORE (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Senate Health Committee, stressed at a hearing that the science is settled. 

"Too many parents are turning away from sound science," Alexander said. "Sound science is this: Vaccines save lives."

There have been 121 cases of measles in 17 states since Jan. 1, with an outbreak centered on Disneyland in California. The majority of the cases are among people who are not vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

The hearing comes as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulGianforte halts in-person campaigning after wife, running mate attend event with Guilfoyle Rand Paul's exchange with Fauci was exactly what America needed GOP Arizona lawmaker says Fauci and Birx 'undermine' Trump's coronavirus response MORE (Ky.), both likely Republican presidential contenders, drew criticism for saying that parents should have some choice in whether they vaccinate their children. 

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenSusan Rice sees stock rise in Biden VP race The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden chips away at Trump's fundraising advantage Warnock raises almost M in Georgia Senate race in second quarter MORE (D-Mass.), without naming Paul, brought up a phrase he had used last week. Paul said that he knew of children who developed "profound mental disorders" after vaccination, before later saying that he was not implying causation.

At the hearing Tuesday, Warren asked Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the National Center for Immunization at the CDC, "Is there any scientific evidence that vaccines cause profound mental disorders?"

Schuchat replied "No," before adding that some of the diseases themselves can cause mental disorders. 

Paul, a member of the committee, had not been in attendance an hour and a half into the hearing. His office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on why he was absent. 

Sen. Barbara MikulskiBarbara Ann MikulskiLobbying World Only four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates Raskin embraces role as constitutional scholar MORE (Md.), the senior Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, and Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsTrump sealed his own fate Congress eyes tighter restrictions on next round of small business help The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Stagwell President Mark Penn says Trump is losing on fighting the virus; Fauci says U.S. 'going in the wrong direction' in fight against virus MORE (R-Maine) not only urged vaccination but raised concerns about a $50 million proposed cut in President Obama's budget to a CDC vaccination program.

"It’s puzzling to me that the administration would propose to cut this program when we’re in the midst of a measles outbreak," Collins said. 

The White House argues that ObamaCare reduces the need for funding for the program by providing free preventive care that will mean the cost of vaccines is no longer charged to the program as much. 

Schuchat, though, under questioning from Mikulski said that the cuts could have an effect. 

"I can’t say that those reductions will have no impact," Schuchat said, before adding that the CDC would try to address the cuts by trying "to really increase the billing of insurance."

"I think this is a valid area of inquiry and bipartisan cooperation," Mikulski said. 

Senators repeatedly pushed Schuchat to make clear that a 1998 study linking vaccines to autism has been discredited. 

"Vaccines don’t cause autism. They are highly effective and safe," Schuchat said. "One thing we know is that vaccines don’t cause autism."

She said the previous decline of some of these diseases had led to complacency about the need for vaccinations. 

"The increase in measles cases should be seen as a wake-up call," she said.