Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) questioned the dean of Johns Hopkins School of Nursing on Thursday about vaccine mandates, arguing other nations have more medical freedoms than some people in the U.S. when it comes to vaccinations.
Dr. Sarah Szanton testified during the Senate’s “Examining Health Care Workforce Shortages” hearing, which focused on the doctor and nursing shortages nationwide.
Paul took the floor, following Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), asking Szanton if she is pro-choice for medical purposes.
“Dr. Szanton, are you pro-choice in regards to patients making individualized medical choices?”
“Broadly, thank you, yes,” Szanton said.
“Are you aware that your university doesn’t allow choice with regard to vaccination, that you require all of your students to have three vaccines in order to be students?” Paul asked.
“Yes,” she responded.
“So it’s sort of choice, but not so much when regarding vaccination,” Paul continued, before asking Szanton if she is “aware of the increased risk of myocarditis with the COVID vaccine, particularly with successive COVID vaccinations in males between the ages of 16 and 24?”
“I’m prepared to talk about the nursing crisis, and that we have vaccine requirements across the board for–” Szanton said before Paul interjected.
“Here’s the problem, if you exclude everybody from being a nurse who believes in basic immunology, you’re gonna include [sic] a lot of smart people, people who believe that you can get immunity from both vaccination as well as infection, and if you say, ‘Well, we’re just not gonna take the people who believe in that old-fashioned infection thing providing immunity, we’re only gonna take the people who do as they’re told’ — I mean, do you think individuals should be treated the same when they come to the emergency room?” he continued, saying different patients require different treatment, especially those in different age groups.
Paul added that individuals should be able to voice their concerns about the vaccines, then pointed to the policies of other developed nations.
“In Britain, France, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, they don’t have university mandates on this,” Paul said. “Some countries don’t recommend it for children at all. There really is a debate and a discussion, you can have an opposite debate that if you believe in choice, when something has a debate and there’s arguments on both side, you’d give people a choice.”
Paul added that the vaccine does not stop transmission completely, saying, “when you mandate this you can’t make any arguments about protecting other people, it’s only about you at this point.”
“This isn’t an argument against vaccinations, it’s an argument for thinking and understanding that people of different ages could respond differently,” Paul added.
In November 2022, Sweden’s Public Health Agency recommended suspending administration of the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine to individuals aged 30 and under, due to concerns about increased risk of heart inflammation. That same month, a Canadian study found that Moderna’s COVID-19 shot may cause two to three times as many heart-related side effects as Pfizer’s while still cautioning heart inflammation instances were fairly rare.
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