Donald Trump, a longtime vaccine denier, argued during the CNN Republican debate Wednesday night that vaccinations can and do cause autism.

Donald Trump On Vaccines & Autism

CNN debate moderator Jake Tapper prompted the presidential hopefuls to discuss their views on vaccines, which have been a hot-button issue for several years. Trump, along with the likes of Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey, has long objected to forced immunizations, believing that they can cause autism in children who otherwise would not have acquired the disorder.

“Autism has become an epidemic. Twenty-five years ago, 35 years ago, you look at the statistics, not even close,” Trump said. “I am totally in favor of vaccines but I want smaller doses over a longer period of time.”

Trump went on to offer an anecdote of a child who, according to him, only became autistic because of a vaccine. The businessman said an employee’s “beautiful child [who] went to have the vaccine and came back and a week later got a tremendous fever, got very, very sick, now is autistic.”

Tapper then turned to renowned pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson to respond to Trump’s claims. While Carson noted that studies have failed to show a correlation between autism and vaccinations, he did seem to back Trump’s desire for vaccines to be spread out.

“The fact of the matter is, we have extremely well-documented proof that there is no autism associated with vaccinations,” Carson said. “But it is true that we are probably giving way too many in too short a period of time.” Carson also stated during the debate that vaccines that “prevent death or crippling” should be given as soon as possible, but that there could be leeway when it came to others. “There are a multitude of vaccines which probably don’t fit in that category,” he said. “And there should be some discretion in those cases.”

Sen. Rand Paul, who has worked as an ophthalmologist and also provides prescription for contacts for astigmatism, also seemed to agree with Trump about spacing out vaccines. “I’m all for vaccines, but i’m also for freedom,” Paul said. “I’m also a little concerned about how they’re bunched up.”

Not agreeing with Trump, Carson or Rand is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Some vaccine-preventable diseases remain common in the United States,” the CDC said in a statement. “And children may be exposed to these diseases during the time they are not protected by vaccines, placing them at risk for a serious case of the disease that might cause hospitalization or death.”

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