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America is grappling with the most predictable epidemic imaginable: Measles is back — just like health professionals warned it would be as the anti-vaccination movement has grown.

That Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul — a physician, no less — lent credibility to that misguided movement during a recent hearing is shameful. At least 18-year-old Ethan Lindenberger was there to tell how he bucked his anti-vaccination upbringing after recognizing the misinformation for what it is.

Measles isn’t always the harmless childhood rite of passage that some believe it to be; it killed 110,000 people worldwide in 2017. The threat is why medical science came up with a vaccine for school-age children. It works. The disease was declared effectively eradicated in 2000 in the U.S.

But now, cases are being reported in numbers not seen in years because some parents refuse to vaccinate their kids based on discredited claims that it can cause autism. The latest major study to debunk that meritless claim came out of Denmark recently — even as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed 159 new U.S. cases. A state of emergency has been declared in Washington state, an anti-vaccination hot spot.

Loosely written state laws mandating vaccination before children may attend public school are adding to the problem. In many states, parents no longer have to cite a medical or religious reason to get around the vaccination requirement, but just a philosophical one — which can mean anything.

At a recent Senate hearing on the subject, Paul, a libertarian-minded Republican, paid lip service to the anti-vaccination movement, calling it a freedom-of-choice issue — ignoring the fact that this unwise choice prevents other parents from their choice of keeping their kids protected.

Paul was quick to say he and his children are vaccinated and that he believes vaccination benefits outweigh the risks. But he fueled the anti-vaccination myth machine by stressing that vaccines aren’t always effective or safe. Nothing in life is. Responsible medical professionals understand that whatever minuscule risks vaccines present are dwarfed by the risks of forgoing them.

Paul should have taken off his politician hat and put on his doctor one.

Lindenberger, the Ohio teen whose parents blocked his childhood vaccination, took it upon himself when he turned 18. He recounted his discovery that his mother’s ideas were based on misinformation she found on Facebook. “Approaching this issue with the concern of education and addressing misinformation properly can cause change, as it did for me,” he said.

Influential figures like Paul must stop feeding the online rumor mill. States must close the loopholes that are letting a few misinformed parents endanger whole communities.

This isn’t one of those scary epidemics in which the cause and solution are unclear. The cause is a reckless embrace of myth over scientific fact. The solution is vaccination.

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