During an impromptu news conference in England Monday, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie told reporters that parents in America should have a choice when it comes to providing their children with vaccinations for certain diseases. Per the New York Times, the 2016 GOP Presidential hopeful was asked about the need for mandated vaccinations in contrast to the recent measles outbreak that began at Disneyland in Southern California and spread to Arizona. The spread of the disease, essentially eliminated for decades in the country, has been blamed largely on parents — known as anti-vaxxers— who refuse to have their children vaccinated for diseases.
As if looking for the most ironic place to make his statement on parental choice, Christie was standing in front of a facility that produces a nasal flu vaccine when talking to reporters. According to the Times, Christie pointed out that he and his wife have had their children vaccinated, but as a public official, he needs to find the right balance between choice and government intervention.
Mr. Christie, when asked about the connection between the new measles cases and parents who object to the long-recommended vaccine against it, said that he and his wife had vaccinated their four children. He called that “the best expression I can give you of my opinion.”
But he added: “It’s more important what you think as a parent than what you think as a public official. 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.”
Mr. Christie said that “not every vaccine is created equal, and not every disease type is as great a public health threat as others.”
The Governor’s comments on the need for parents to vaccinate their children for potentially deadly illnesses are in stark contrast to those made by President Obama during his interview on NBC prior to the Super Bowl. During his conversation with Savannah Guthrie, Obama said in very clear terms that parents “should get your kids vaccinated.” He also told Guthrie that the science behind vaccines is “indisputable” and there is no reason for refusing to provide children with immunization shots.
Christie’s attitude that vaccines are no big deal is basically a complete 180-degree turn from how the Governor reacted to the possibility of the Ebola virus spreading in his state last year. Christie took a lot of heat, and clashed with scientists and medical doctors, when he tried to issue a mandatory quarantine to a nurse who had traveled back from West Africa after treating Ebola patients. Though the nurse, Kari Hickox, was asymptomatic, Christie still wanted to force her to stay in a tent for 21 days. Eventually, Hickox was allowed to return to her home state of Maine for monitoring.
Christie’s reaction to the two different situations shows just how much of a crass politician he truly is. In regards to Ebola, the Governor followed the lead of Fox News and Republicans who thought whipping up tons of fear over the disease could help the GOP in the upcoming midterms. Meanwhile, Christie is entirely focused on 2016 and a possible run at the White House. Therefore, it appears he is thinking that he can possibly appeal to the libertarians and upper-middle-class liberals who feel vaccinations are unnecessary, a tool of big government, responsible for autism, or any other crackpot reason anti-vaxxers have given for not immunizing their children. At the same time, Christie can tell conservatives his stance is due to an overall distrust of the federal government and scientists, which always sits well with the right.