Christie and Vaccines: What They’re Saying

The New Jersey governor stirred up a hornet's nest with comments.

Chris Christie unleashed a torrent of criticism Monday when he suggested — in the middle of a measles outbreak — that vaccinations should be left up to parent choice. He later walked the comment back, saying that measles vaccinations are important, but by then the frenzy was under way.

Here’s some of what they’re saying about Christie and his vaccine comments.

“Christie is not the first nationally known Republican to flirt with the anti-vaccine movement—then-Representative Michele Bachmann infamously argued for a link between the HPV vaccine and mental retardation during and after a 2011 GOP presidential debate,” David Graham writes at The Atlantic. “But Bachmann has always been seen as a somewhat fringe figure, and in that case she was criticizing then-Texas Governor Rick Perry, no one’s idea of a squishy liberal. Christie, on the other hand, is the somewhat more moderate governor of a northeastern state, a major presidential contender, and perhaps the highest-profile officeholder to countenance anti-vaccine theories.”

“The craven deference to misguided parental prerogatives is what creates pockets of under-vaccinated children, and sets the stage for measles outbreaks exactly like the one we’re all enjoying right now,” pediatrician Russell Saunders writes at The Daily Beast. “Gov. Christie just handed a talking point to any number of anti-vaccine groups, who will happily brandish his quote supporting their self-centered campaign to avoid responsibility for undermining our collective health. By making what parents think the trump card in the vaccination debate, rather than the overwhelming mass of scientific evidence that firmly establishes the effectiveness and safety of immunizations, he’s demonstrated an egregious willingness to play politics with the nation’s protection against preventable illness.”

“It is hard to know what Christie was thinking here,” says Noah Rothman at the conservative Hot Air website. “Has he been advised that, because choice on issues like education and health care are conservative rallying cries, even immunizing children against life-threatening diseases should be a matter of personal discretion? Though he may be one, it seems unlikely that the governor is a genuine skeptic on the medical value of immunization regimens. If he is not, though, why then would he not clearly and definitively articulate his view on this matter when he has done the same on infinitely more controversial and debatable matters in the past? If he is a vaccine skeptic, why would he not come out and say as much? The stigma associated with holding those beliefs couldn’t be nearly as traumatizing as confessing life-long Dallas Cowboys fandom in the home of the Meadowlands.”

“After getting some criticism over his initial remarks, Christie clarified through a spokesperson that he believes all kids should be vaccinated. Which is good, and I hope that this episode provides a lesson for him and other officeholders,” Paul Waldman writes at the Washington Post. “Politicians are always trying to tell us that they’re just regular folks like us, and all you need to succeed in high office is common sense and a strong memory of your humble roots. It’s baloney. We choose them for those offices because we need them to make complex and difficult decisions that require more than common sense. We don’t try to elect the best dad to be governor or president, we try to elect the person who’ll be the best governor or president.”

Even The Onion weighed in, with one of its satirical persons on the street opining: “It’s refreshing to see a public official standing up against public health measures.”