Haley's Image as a Voice of Reason in the GOP
Former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley has positioned herself as a voice of reason within the Republican Party. During the first GOP primary debate, she called for finding consensus and treating abortion as a respectful issue. Her moderate stance and strong polling against President Biden have put her in contention to become the GOP's "plan B" presidential candidate, potentially overtaking Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
Haley's Record on Vaccination
However, a closer look at Haley's record on vaccination reveals her alignment with the views of the Republican base. Many GOP presidential candidates have struggled to navigate their stance on vaccination, as Republican voters become increasingly skeptical of vaccine recommendations. According to a September survey, 40% of Republicans believe parents should be able to opt out of required childhood vaccines, double the rate in 2019. In contrast, support for vaccination among Democrats has remained stable, with 84% in favor of required vaccines for public school students.
Haley's Position on Covid Vaccines
Addressing the Covid-19 pandemic, Haley initially praised the Trump administration's efforts to expedite vaccine development and even highlighted Bill Gates's contributions to vaccine manufacturing plants. However, she has since declared her opposition to vaccine mandates, stating that mandates are not what America does. Haley has also endorsed some anti-vaccine themes, suggesting that vaccination decisions should be personal family choices. This echoes concerns raised by anti-vaccine activists about the vaccine's impact on fertility, despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stating there is no evidence of such a connection.
Haley's History with HPV Vaccination
Early in her political career, Haley co-sponsored a bill mandating vaccinations for HPV, a sexually transmitted virus that can cause cervical and other cancers as well as genital warts. However, she faced strong opposition from evangelical groups who feared that the vaccine would encourage sexual activity among children. Support for the bill waned, and Haley ultimately voted against it. As governor, she vetoed a bill that aimed to encourage, but not mandate, HPV vaccinations.
Less Extreme Positioning Compared to Rivals
While Haley's stance on vaccines is less extreme than some of her rivals, such as biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, who has expressed regret over receiving the Covid-19 vaccine, her history on vaccination issues is seen by some as contributing to the vaccine misinformation movement. Megan Weis, a faculty member at the University of South Carolina's Arnold School of Public Health, believes that the state's struggle over the HPV vaccine was the beginning of this movement.
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