CNN  — 

Rand Paul is a Republican senator from Kentucky. He is also a doctor.

It’s that second part of his resume that makes what he said on Thursday all the more troubling.

“I’m kind of pro-vaccine, but also pro-freedom,” Paul said when asked about the virus and a possible vaccine in an appearance promoting a new book he co-wrote with his wife, Kelley, adding: “Look, there’s millions of us like me now who are immune. Are they going to hold me down and stick a needle in my arm? They probably will, because these people believe in the idea they are so right and that their cause is so righteous that they can inflict it on others.”


I am not a medical doctor and even I know that a) vaccines work and are widely recognized as a good thing by the medical community and b) we simply do not know yet whether having had Covid-19 makes you immune from getting it again.

And the US government does not force people to get vaccines. No adult is ever even pressed to get a vaccine by the federal government. States and local public school districts often require vaccination for children to attend schools, camps and day cares.

Reminder: Rand Paul is a medical doctor. And he should know better than to say the sort of dangerous junk he peddled in this interview.

Unfortunately, this is par for the course for Paul vis-a-vis the coronavirus.

Let’s remember the way that he handled his case of Covid-19 in mid-March. As I wrote at the time:

“Paul was aware as early as March 15, according to a source close to the senator who spoke to CNN’s Jake Tapper, that he had potentially been exposed to the virus – at a March 7 dinner in Louisville where two attendees later tested positive. Paul hadn’t interacted with them according to the source, but he decided to be tested for coronavirus six or seven days ago. As recently as Sunday morning, the Kentucky Republican was working out at the Senate gym. …

“Paul spent six or seven days going about a fairly normal routine – sitting in meetings with fellow senators, going to the gym(!) – all the while knowing a) he might have been exposed to the virus and b) he was awaiting coronavirus test results.”

So good job there, Doc!

Then there are Paul’s repeated clashes with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

At a congressional hearing in May, Paul openly questioned Fauci’s expertise when it came to decisions about reopening states’ economies.

“I think we ought to have a little bit of humility in our belief that we know what’s best for the economy, and as much as I respect you, Dr. Fauci, I don’t think you’re the end-all,” Paul said. “I don’t think you’re the one person that gets to make the decision. We can listen to your advice but there are people on the other side saying there’s not going to be a surge and then we can safely open the economy. And the facts will bear this out.”

Paul’s “facts,” as the current surge in cases across the nation can attest, did not, uh “bear this out.”

Paul was at it again earlier this month, berating Fauci at another Senate hearing. “Dr. Fauci, every day we seem to hear from you things we can’t do,” Paul said. He added that:

“It’s important to realize that if society meekly submits to an expert and that expert is wrong, a great deal of harm may occur. Take, for example, government experts who continue to call for schools and day care to stay closed or that recommend restrictions that make it impossible for a school to function.”

CNN fact-checked that claim from Paul and, this will stun you, he’s not right.

All of which brings us back to what Paul said on Thursday, which is not just wrong but dangerously wrong.

When it comes to immunity for those who have already had Covid-19, here’s what Fauci said in May: “You can make a reasonable assumption that it would be protective, but natural history studies over a period of months to years will then tell you definitely if that’s the case.”

And as CNN reported in April, the World Health Organization warned that people who have had Covid-19 are not necessarily immune by the presence of antibodies from getting the virus again.

“There is no evidence yet that people who have had Covid-19 will not get a second infection,” WHO said in a scientific brief published at the time.

So unless Paul is privy to some sort of proof – it’s a safe bet that he’s not – he is just making claims without any facts.

Then there is his skepticism about vaccines. Here’s how he described what will happen once – hopefully! – a vaccine for Covid-19 is developed: “These people believe in the idea they are so right and that their cause is so righteous that they can inflict it on others.”

Er, no. When it comes to the efficacy (and societal benefits) of vaccines I am much more apt to listen to CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Here’s what he wrote on that subject way back in 2015:

“The benefit of vaccines is not a matter of opinion. It is a matter of fact.

Studies, including a meta analysis of 1.2 million children in 2014, show no link between vaccines and autism. That is not a matter of opinion. It is a matter of fact.

“That you are 100 times more likely to be struck by lightning than to have a serious allergic reaction to the vaccine that protects you against measles is not a matter of opinion. That is also a matter of fact.”

There are ample amounts of anti-vaxxer and coronavirus conspiracy theorists in American life at the moment. We don’t need a US senator and medical doctor to be in their ranks.