By David Cruz
Gov. Chris Christie left 10 Downing St. after his meeting with the British prime minister all by himself yesterday. Back home, his comments about vaccinations had kicked up a dust storm among so-called anti-vaxx proponents on one side and pretty much the entire medical establishment on the other.
“Parents need to have some measure of choice in things as well. So that’s the balance that the government has to decide,” Christie said.
The governor’s remarks drew applause from Louise Kuo Habakus, author and Founder of Fearlessparent.org, which believes “The medical system is paternalistic and fear is its currency.”
“He has wanted to engage in a dialogue. He has demonstrated receptivity to listening to his constituents and wanting to understand what’s on their minds. And parents want choice,” Habakus said.
However, Assemblyman and physician Herb Conaway expressed concern about the message the governor was sending to parents.
“He is the leader of our state. It’s important for him, perhaps more than any one of us, to say that vaccines are important and that parents need to get their children vaccinated,” Conaway said.
But Christie is not the only public official to express skepticism about vaccines and their potential side effects. Rand Paul, another potential GOP presidential hopeful — an ophthalmologist — echoed Christie on CNBC.
“I’m not arguing vaccines are a bad idea. I think they’re a good thing, but I do think the parent should have some input. The state doesn’t own your children. The parents own the children and it is an issue of freedom,” Paul said.
Even President Obama, a presidential candidate in 2008, said the jury was still out on the effects of some vaccines on children.
“We’ve seen just a skyrocketing autism rate. Nobody knows exactly why. There’s some people who are suspicious that it’s connected to vaccines and triggers. The science right now is inconclusive but we have to research it,” Obama said at the time.
New Jersey mandates vaccines for measles, mumps, hepatitis B and several other diseases. It’s states mandating vaccines that has drawn criticism from some conservatives and Libertarians, and Christie’s comments helped raise the temperature on a debate that has been simmering since the outbreak of over 100 new measles cases in the U.S. By comparison, European countries are much less stringent about mandating vaccines. There were more than 4,100 measles cases in Europe last year.
“But what I said was that there has to be a balance and it depends on what the vaccine is. What the disease type is and all the rest. So I didn’t say I believe in giving people the option, what I’m saying is that you have to have that balance in considering parental concerns,” Christie said.
The governor may have been trying to thread a needle with his nuanced answer but instead ended up getting pricked with the fine point of a controversial issue. Still, this early in the race, if there is to be a race, the governor is unlikely to face any lasting side effects.