Politics

Rand Paul refuses COVID vaccine because his “medical decisions” are personal. Trans people’s aren’t.

Sen. Rand Paul
Sen. Rand PaulPhoto: Shutterstock

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) vowed not to get the COVID-19 vaccine, saying that it’s a “free country” where “each individual would get to make the medical decision,” even though he drew national attention in February with a furious rant in the Senate about how gender-affirming health care should be banned for transgender minors.

“Genital mutilation has been nearly universally condemned,” Rand bellowed to open his questioning of Dr. Rachel Levine at her Senate confirmation hearing for assistant secretary of health in February, comparing the life-saving treatments to human rights violations and saying that it’s “a violation of the rights of children,” even though gender-affirming surgery isn’t performed on minors in the U.S.

Related: Puberty blockers reduce suicidal thoughts in trans people. Republicans want to ban them.

But he struck a different tone about medical freedom when talking about his personal decision not to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

“In a free country you would think people would honor the idea that each individual would get to make the medical decision, that it wouldn’t be a big brother coming to tell me what I have to do,” Rand said on the radio station WABC 770 AM on Sunday.

He said that he has already tested positive for the virus and therefore believes that he has “natural immunity.” The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommend that even people who have had the virus get the vaccine because they don’t know how long antibodies built during an infection last.

Rand was very bothered that anyone would dream of criticizing someone else’s medical decisions, much less allowing the government to intervene.

“Are they also going to tell me I can’t have a cheeseburger for lunch? Are they going to tell me that I have to eat carrots only and cut my calories?” he said on the radio show. “All that would probably be good for me, but I don’t think big brother ought to tell me to do it.”

At the February Senate hearing, Rand tried to get Dr. Levine to say she supports the government banning doctors from providing gender affirming health care to trans youth, a move that would directly put the government between the families of trans youth and doctors.

“Do you support the government intervening to override the parents’ consent to give a child puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and/or amputation of breasts and genitalia?” he asked her in an aggressive line of questioning of the first transgender person nominated to a Senate-confirmed position.

“Dozens of people who have been through this regret that it has happened,” he claimed, implying that the government should intervene in a medical decision if there is even a one- to two-percent chance that someone may change their mind later on.

The possibility of regret from foregoing the COVID-19 vaccine, though, isn’t enough to get Paul to get the vaccine himself, much less support government intervention.

Some well-known conservatives – including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), former President George W. Bush, and pastor Franklin Graham – have been encouraging people to get the COVID-19 vaccine as evangelical Christians and white Republicans show more reluctance to get vaccinated than other groups.

A recent poll found that 41 percent of Republicans do not plan to get the vaccine, over ten times higher than Democrats’ four percent.

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