Paul, an ophthalmologist, explained his decision on Sunday during a radio appearance on WABC 770 AM.
The senator said unless evidence comes to light that people who have been infected with Covid-19 are getting reinfected and dying at high rates, he will opt out of the vaccine, noting that having previously had Covid-19, he now has “natural immunity.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has encouraged people who have had Covid-19 to still get vaccinated, saying that “experts do not yet know how long you are protected from getting sick again after recovering,” though reinfection is “rare.”
“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,” Paul said. “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? All that would probably be good for me, but I don’t think big brother ought to tell me to do it.”
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) on WABC 770 AM today: "I've just made my own personal decision that I'm not getting vaccinated because I've already had the disease and I have natural immunity now." pic.twitter.com/5JVJZUFp6X
— The Recount (@therecount) May 23, 2021
The libertarian-leaning senator has been one of the most vocal critics of the government’s handling of the pandemic, getting into multiple heated arguments with White House health adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci about the actual safety that masks provided and the effects of pandemic-era lockdown measures.
Paul’s declaration follows reports that congressional Democrats are 100% vaccinated, while Republicans lag, with several saying they do not plan on getting inoculated.
The Kentucky senator’s open dismissal of getting vaccinated has set off alarms with critics, many of whom did not respond directly to Paul’s reasoning but rather accused him of discouraging getting vaccinated.
“This buffoonery is one of the main reasons we’re still unnecessarily losing hundreds of Americans each day,” author Amy Suskind tweeted in response.
“So brave… Such a leader… so manly…” Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Illinois) sarcastically added.
Parents, don't let your kids grow up to become curly-headed anti-vaxxer idiots like Rand Paul.
— BrooklynDad_Defiant! (@mmpadellan) May 23, 2021
— Crooks and Liars (@crooksandliars) May 23, 2021
More conservative social media users have defended Paul’s reasoning as “common sense” and noted the senator’s medical background.
For all the people saying Rand Paul isn’t entitled to an opinion, he is a medical doctor.
— Amy Tarkanian (@MrsT106) May 23, 2021
People are acting as if @RandPaul saying he won't get vaccinated because he already COVID is controversial. It's not. It's common sense.
It was also common sense when Paul said vaccinated people don't have to wear masks. He's ahead of the curve apparently https://t.co/TdQDj4Q2gc
— Jack Hunter (@jackhunter74) May 23, 2021
Paul contracted Covid-19 in March of 2020. He was the first senator known to have gotten the virus.
Recent polling has shown vaccine hesitancy is much higher among Republicans, though CDC data shows nearly half of US adults have received at least one vaccination dose.