New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is clarifying comments he made on Monday about vaccinations and the recent measles outbreak after criticism from Democrats and the media.
“To be clear: The governor believes vaccines are an important public health protection and with a disease like measles there is no question kids should be vaccinated,” Christie spokesman Kevin Roberts said Monday. “At the same time different states require different degrees of vaccination, which is why he was calling for balance in which ones government should mandate.”
During a trip to England, reporters asked Christie whether he thinks Americans should vaccinate their children. The Republican responded that he and his wife vaccinated their own children.
But Christie’s comment that “parents need to have some measure of choice in things as well” provoked a media firestorm and criticism from Democrats, who seem to suggest the potential Republican presidential candidate is sympathetic to the anti-vaccine movement.
In a statement to reporters, Democratic National Committee spokesman Mo Elleithee on Monday attempted to make a controversy out of Christie’s comments.
“Chris Christie isn’t a scientist,” Elleithee said. “He isn’t a doctor. And he sure as heck isn’t a leader. If his campaign is going to be about kissing up to the radical, conspiracy theory base that’s wagging the dog of today’s Republican Party, that’s up to him and his cracker-jack team.”
Christie, though, originally told reporters : “I can just tell people from our perspective, Mary Pat and I have had our children vaccinated and we think it’s an important part of making sure we protect their health and the public health.”
During a Super Bowl interview on Sunday with NBC, President Obama flatly said: “You should get your kids vaccinated.”
Christie is visiting the United Kingdom until Tuesday with a delegation to “strengthen business and cultural ties between New Jersey and the U.K.” It’s also viewed as an opportunity for the potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate to burnish his foreign policy credentials.
His office released a full transcript of his conversation with reporters on vaccinations, which they suggest shows how he actually feels about vaccination :
Question: Governor you’re here, this company makes vaccines. There’s a debate going on right now in the United States, the measles outbreak that’s been caused in part by people not vaccinating their kids. Do you think Americans should vaccinate their kids? Is the measles vaccine safe?
Governor Christie: All I can say is that we vaccinated ours. That’s the best expression I can give you of my opinion. It’s much more important, I think, what you think as a parent than what you think as a public official. And that’s what we do. But I also understand that parents need to have some measure of choice in things as well so that’s the balance that the government has to decide. But I can just tell people from our perspective, Mary Pat and I have had our children vaccinated and we think it’s an important part of making sure we protect their health and the public health.
Question: But you’re leaving people the option of not getting vaccinated and that potentially presents a great public risk.
Governor Christie: Michael, 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. And so I didn’t say I’m leaving people the option. What I’m saying is that you have to have that balance in considering parental concerns because no parent cares about anything more than they care about protecting their own child’s health and so we have to have that conversation, but that has to move and shift in my view from disease type. Not every vaccine is created equal and not every disease type is as great a public health threat as others. So that’s what I mean by that so that I’m not misunderstood.
Question: Do you think some vaccines are dangerous?
Governor Christie: I didn’t say that. I said different disease types can be more lethal so that the concern would be measuring whatever the perceived danger is by vaccine and we’ve had plenty of that over a period of time versus what the risk to public health is and you have to have that balance and that’s exactly what I mean by what I said.