I’m not one who likes to wade into the topic of politics, but when it comes to well-documented information on issues relating to the public health of America, my ears perk up.

And what I heard during the debate made me cringe.

The candidates were asked about vaccines and autism — an issue that has been scientifically dissected to the max. But when given the chance to hit an easy home run with a simple answer, they swung and missed.

Now before you start thinking this is a politically motivated opinion, think again. Groups such as the AMA, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Autism Science Foundation, and a large number of respected physicians across the country agree the opinions rendered were just plain wrong. Some even called the comments dangerous.

Now these politicians are supposedly all smart people, and it only benefits us as voters to hear candidates of both parties respectfully debate. But please don’t offer health advice that’s just plain off-the-mark.

Here’s a short breakdown of their smackdown of vaccines:
Donald Trump blamed vaccines for an “epidemic” of autism over the past couple of decades. He even offered a tragic story of a child who was vaccinated, developed a fever, and then went on to be diagnosed with autism. He later couched his comments by saying that maybe vaccinations should be “spread out.”

Donald Trump

Donald Trump takes part in the presidential debates at the Reagan Library on Sept. 16.(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Mr. Trump has somehow missed the news that any link has been clearly disproven, and that the initial study which first suggested a link was found to be fraudulent. And while it is true that the number of autism cases is up, the reasons may be better diagnosis, and a broader definition of what can be called an autistic disorder.

Right now researchers continue to look at other possible causes, such as environmental or social, such as children being born to older parents. We just don’t know all of the answers — but we do know that vaccines are not to blame.

Finally, “spreading out” vaccines only increases the risk of becoming infected … and the science on this clearly shows that the current vaccine schedule is safe and effective.

Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson

Ben Carson speaks during the presidential debates at the Reagan Library on Sept. 16. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Dr. Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon disagreed with Mr. Trump and disputed the link, but then went on to say that “too many vaccines are being given in too short a period of time.” Once again, not so.
He then went on to say that there are multiple vaccines that could be skipped, and that the ones that should be given are those that prevent diseases that may cause death or crippling disability.

However, when you look at the 14 diseases children are immunized against.. ALL can either cause death or crippling disability. So I don’t know what’s in the vaccine cabinet that could be skipped.

Another candidate with a medical degree, ophthalmologist Dr. Rand Paul, also disputed the vaccine/autism link. He stated “I’m for vaccinations but I’m also for freedom.”

Rand Paul

Rand Paul takes part in the presidential debates at the Reagan Library on Sept. 16. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

This probably relates to previous comments where he said parents should be given a choice whether to immunize or not. Unfortunately, in my opinion and that of others, “freedom” doesn’t always work out so well — for reference, please note recent measles and whooping cough outbreaks.

Bottom line: everyone is entitled to an opinion. But whether it be politics or baseball, it’s always good to have some facts to back you up.

And when it comes to those who might lead us, you really would hope they’ve got their facts straight. There are reasons for vaccines and for the schedule they are administered — and reasons not based on opinion, but scientific study.

Dr. Dave Hnida is CBS4’s Medical Editor. He blogs about the latest studies and trends in the health world. Read his latest blog entries, check out his bio or follow him on Twitter @drdavehnida