Pete Buttigieg has reversed course on a controversial stance after online backlash.
On Tuesday, BuzzFeed released an article surveying how all the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates feel about vaccines in light of the measles outbreaks happening throughout the United States. The candidates were asked: “What do you believe about vaccines?” “Do you believe vaccines are a possible cause of autism?” and “Do you support efforts to end religious and personal belief exemptions, leaving only medical exemptions?”
Out gay South Bend, Indiana, mayor Pete Buttigieg’s answer caused an uproar online. A spokesperson for Buttigieg said that Buttigieg believes in both medical and religious exemptions for vaccines as long as there is no public health crisis.
"These exemptions include medical exemptions in all cases (as in cases where it is unsafe for the individual to get vaccinated), and personal/religious exemptions if states can maintain local herd immunity and there is no public health crisis," the spokesperson told BuzzFeed. A screenshot of the comment began to go viral after the article’s publication.
Buttigieg was the sole candidate of the crowded Democratic field who said he believed parents should be able to opt out of vaccines based on personal or religious beliefs. Beto O’Rourke declined to answer at the time of publication and Klobuchar did not respond.
At least one person called Buttigieg’s answer “unacceptable” while many others felt that his answer was irresponsible and ill-conceived.
But by Wednesday morning, Buttigieg publicly changed course on vaccines. His campaign issued a “clarifying statement” to BuzzFeed that called vaccines “necessary” to maintaining public health.
"Pete believes vaccines are safe and effective and are necessary to maintaining public health," the spokesperson’s clarifying statement said. "There is no evidence that vaccines are unsafe, and he believes children should be immunized to protect their health. He is aware that in most states the law provides for some kinds of exemptions. He believes only medical exemptions should be allowed.”
This vaccine stance is the latest in a list of gaffes and policy stances that have raised eyebrows against Buttigieg. During a CNN Town Hall in late April, Buttigieg said that people currently serving sentences in prison should not be allowed to vote, which increased the distance between him and voters of color.