Rand Paul misses vaccines hearing for classified Iran briefing

Rand Paul misses vaccines hearing for classified Iran briefing

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulSunday shows — New impeachment phase dominates Rand Paul says Trump has 'every right' to withhold Ukraine aid over corruption Paul dismisses Bevin loss, touts 'red wave' in other Kentucky races MORE (R-Ky.) was absent from a Senate hearing on vaccines Tuesday — one week after he came under criticism for suggesting a link between vaccines and mental disorders in children. 

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Paul's office said he missed the hearing because he was attending a classified Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Iran sanctions that was held at the same time. 

Paul was one of eight senators who missed the hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on “the reemergence of vaccine-preventable diseases.” Twenty-two senators sit on the panel.

It’s not uncommon for senators to miss hearings, and it's not unusual for senators to have conflicts between hearins.

Still, the absence was notable given the coverage of Paul’s remarks about vaccines last week — and it was referenced at the vaccines hearing by Democratic Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenJuan Williams: Honesty, homophobia and Mayor Pete Trump DACA fight hits Supreme Court Democrats on edge as Iowa points to chaotic race MORE (D-Mass.).

Paul in an interview last week said that most vaccines should be “voluntary” and that he knew of children who developed “profound mental disorders” after being vaccinated. 

After the remarks stirred criticism, Paul went to get vaccinated himself and said that he was not implying causation in his mental disorder comments.

Warren at Tuesday’s hearing 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," adding that some of the diseases themselves can cause mental disorders. 

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). 

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the 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.”

This story was updated at 2:21 p.m.