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A Comparison Of The Presidential Candidates' Views On Vaccines

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While there are plenty of myths out there and arguments to be made about vaccinations, the vast majority of Americans seem to support vaccines — and perhaps more importantly, so does the scientific community. Even as the presidential election comes down to the wire debates among the believers and nonbelievers rage on. With that in mind, it’s important to know where the each nominee stands on this controversial issue — and a comparison of the presidential candidates’ views on vaccines shows stark differences between all four of the biggest names in the race.

Some believe that the topic of vaccines simply shouldn’t be up for debate at all because the scientific evidence is clear and, quite simply, vaccines save lives. Vox reported in detail back in August that there’s "no link between vaccines and autism" (one of the biggest arguments currently circulating social media) and that medical experts believe "vaccines are generally safe, although they can cause some rare, typically minor side effects."

Cold weather is here and that means flu season is also about to start. Coincidentally, this time of the year coincides with this year's presidential election, so while voters are deciding which candidate best fits their views and needs, they'll also be deciding whether or not to get the annual influenza vaccination. And although public health experts want everyone to know where they stand and that vaccines are safe, the 2016 White House contenders’ opinions and plans for vaccines in the United States might matter just as much.

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MIAMI, FL - SEPTEMBER 21: University of Miami pediatrician, Judith L. Schaechter, M.D., gives an HPV vaccination to a 13-year-old girl in her office at the Miller School of Medicine on September 21, 2011 in Miami, Florida. The vaccine for human papillomavirus, or HPV, is given to prevent a sexually transmitted infection that can cause cancer. Recently the issue of the vaccination came up during the Republican race for president when Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) called the vaccine to prevent cervical cancer 'dangerous' and said that it may cause mental retardation, but expert opinion in the medical field contradicts her claim. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, also a presidential contender, has taken heat from some within his party for presiding over a vaccination program in his home state. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Here's where the 2016 presidential candidates stack up when it comes to vaccinations:

Hillary Clinton, Democratic candidate

Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has been very clear when it comes to her stance on this issues, and she is the only candidate who unequivocally supports mandatory vaccinations. Not only that, Clinton has long been an advocate for childhood vaccines: According to Mother Jones, in 1993 she "spearheaded the Childhood Immunization Initiative and the Vaccines for Children program, which aimed to make vaccines affordable."

Donald Trump, Republican candidate

Republican nominee Donald Trump has cautioned against mandatory vaccinations and has repeatedly claimed that these vaccinations also hurt kids. In 2014, he tweeted that children who get vaccinations end up with autism.

However, Trump hasn't completely disavowed the idea of vaccinations; He says he is "totally in favor" of them, but he has certain specifications. During the second Republican primary debate in September of 2015, he said:

Jill Stein, Green Party candidate

Green Party candidate Jill Stein — who is a retired doctor of internal medicine and instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School —  is a bit more skeptical about vaccines than Trump, warning that the corporate influence in the vaccine approval process is something to think about.

She recently told The Washington Post:

Stein continued to explain that her concerns, along with the public's questions about any medication need be addressed before they're approved for widespread use.

Gary Johnson, Libertarian candidate

Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate, firmly said in the past that vaccines should not be mandatory. But, his position has since changed. In an interview with Vermont Public Radio back in August, he said that he now believes that vaccinations should be mandatory and should be handled at the local level.

"It’s an evolution actually just in the last few months, just in the last month or so," he told the radio station about why he changed his position. "I was under the belief that … 'Why require a vaccine? If I don’t want my child to have a vaccine and you want yours to, let yours have the vaccine and they’ll be immune.' Well, it turns out that that’s not the case, and it may sound terribly uninformed on my part, but I didn’t realize that."

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NEWARK, NJ - AUGUST 28: A nurse holds out a tray of immunization's at the city of Newark's 'School Bus Express' free immunization program for Newark youth on August 28, 2013 in Newark, New Jersey. The program is being held at the Department of Child and Family Well-Being and seeks to highlight the importance of childhood immunizations before the school year gets started. Newark, where some 30% of residents live in poverty, provides immunizations for all residents. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The topic of vaccinations isn't just an issue that can win or lose candidates votes on Election Day, but their stances are immensely important to the future of public health. When you go to the polls this November, consider the clear scientific evidence at hand, as well as the varying opinions from the presidential candidates, and make an informed decision.