Rick Perry Still Misleading the Country About His Record on Vaccines

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As measles continues to spread across the United States, vaccines are continuing to be a topic of national conversation. And of course, that means presidential hopeful Rick Perry is continuing to weigh in.

Last week, we reported on Perry’s misleading comments about his vaccine record. He touted Texas’ increased vaccination rates during the time he was governor, while avoiding the fact that he signed the bill that made it possible for parents to exempt their children from vaccines for reasons of “conscience.”

Now, he’s at it again, and this time he was caught trying to inflate the increase in the Texas vaccination rate that occurred while he was governor. In an interview with The Texas Tribune and The Washington Post, Perry said, “Our vaccination rate in Texas was 65 percent. …When I left [office]two weeks ago, it was 95 percent.”

Perry’s flub comes as no surprise–we all know he’s not good with numbers. He had been trying to get away with comparing the vaccination rate for children under 3 to that of kindergarteners. As The Washington Post‘s Fact Checker blog pointed out (emphasis added):

    “[Perry’s spokesman] quickly provided two documents. One was a 2008 news release from the Texas Health Department, stating the immunization rate for children under age 3 was 65 percent in 2002 and had climbed to 77.3 percent in 2007. The other was 2014 CDC news release showing the vaccination rate for kindergartners in Texas was over 97 percent.

    In other words, he was selling apples and oranges. There’s a huge difference between counting the rate for those under 36 months and counting the rate for children going into kindergarten. This was quickly discovered by digging into the CDC document and finding the data for Texas children between the ages of 19 and 35 months.”

When looking at actual comparable vaccination rates, Perry’s claim was off by nearly 20%. During Perry’s tenure as governor, the vaccination rate for children under three rose from 63.5% to 72.5%, far from the dramatic increase he had claimed. The fact that parents could now opt-out of vaccines, thanks to Perry, likely contributed to the still-low rates of vaccination.

Perry spokesman Travis Considine provided The Texas Tribune with a weak excuse for Perry’s mistake, not acknowledging their own attempts to mislead The Washington Post with documents comparing two different vaccination rates. Considine explained, “We cited incomplete numbers…The vaccination rate went up 14 percent in Texas during Gov. Perry’s leadership, and that is the number he uses to convey how Texas increased its immunization rates.”

Rick Perry’s attempt to claim a strong position on vaccines is likely part of his attempt to stake out a position as one of the more moderate 2016 Republican candidates. After all, Chris Christie and Rand Paul have both suggested that they don’t think vaccinations should be mandatory. (It should be noted that Rand Paul is an actual doctor and should absolutely know better than to say that.) Advocating in favor of vaccines makes Perry seem more reasonable–too bad the things he’s claiming aren’t true.


About Author

Katie Singh

Katie grew up in Austin and has been involved in Texas politics since 2004. She has been a part of several campaigns, from state house races to working at President Obama's campaign headquarters in 2012. She loves public policy, public health, and tacos. Katie tweets from @kasingh19.

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