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What Barack Obama really said about vaccination

Are claims that Obama equivocated about anti-vaxxers true?

An outbreak of measles has sparked fresh debate about vaccination in the United States, with President Barack Obama caught in the crossfire.

Over 100 cases of measles have been diagnosed as a result of an outbreak traced back to Disneyland, California.

Speaking on Sunday, President Obama said: “You should get your kids vaccinated...I understand that there are families that, in some cases, are concerned about the effect of vaccinations... The science is, you know, pretty indisputable.”

But millenial news site Vox claimed yesterday that Obama had not been so sure about vaccination while on the campaign trail in 2008, quoting him as telling a rally in Pennsylvania: "We've seen just a skyrocketing autism rate. Some people are suspicious that it's connected to the vaccines. This person included. The science right now is inconclusive, but we have to research it.

Seems damning.

But the full quote is somewhat different, as this video of the 2008 event shows:


"We’ve seen just a skyrocketing autism rate. Nobody knows exactly why. There are some people who are suspicious that it’s connected to vaccines and triggers, but (pointing to his right) this person included. The science right now is inconclusive, but we have to research it. Part of the reason I think it's very important to research it is those vaccines are also preventing huge numbers of deaths among children and preventing debilitating illnesses like Polio. And so we can't afford to junk our vaccine system. We've got to figure out why is it that this is happening so that we are starting to see a more normal, what was a normal, rate of autism. Because if we keep on seeing increases at the rate we're seeing we're never going to have enough money to provide all the special needs, special education funding that's going to be necessary."

At worst, that's a politicians answer, or, in science terms, an equivocal "more research needed". And it may give a little too much credibility to the supposed link between autism and vaccination. But can it really be held up as an endorsement of anti-vaxxers?

Padraig Reidy is the editor of Little Atoms. He is Director of Editorial at 89up and has written and ghostwritten for The Evening Standard, The Guardian, The Observer, The Irish Times, The Daily Telegraph, The New Statesman, The Sun, and The Irish Post.

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