The nation’s top disease fighter pleaded with Americans on Monday to vaccinate their children against measles for both their own sake and that of others, a response to the outbreak that’s been linked to the Disneyland theme park and anti-vaccine movements in some communities.
Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said “study after study” have shown the measles vaccine to be safe and effective.
“The science on this is very clear,” he told reporters at a press conference on the Department of Health and Human Services budget Monday, as the issue of vaccination threatened to become something of a political football.
The CDC said 102 people in 14 states reported having measles between Jan. 1 and Jan. 30, and that most of them could be traced to Disney’s amusement park in California.
New cases are frustrating health officials and experts, who’ve seen an illness that was virtually stamped out come creeping back into American life. The U.S. experienced 644 measles cases in 27 states in 2014, including one large outbreak among unvaccinated Amish people in Ohio that resulted in 383 cases.
Meanwhile, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie ignited a flap on an overseas trip to the United Kingdom by saying Monday there needs to be a balance in considering parental concerns over vaccinations, though this is approximately what current laws do.
Asked if he would urge Americans to vaccinate their children, Mr. Christie said that “we vaccinate ours, and so, you know, that’s the best expression I can give you of my opinion.”
“You know, it’s much more important what you think as a parent than what you think as a public official,” he said, according to NBC News. “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.”
This approximately reflects the run of state laws in the U.S., which require that almost all children be vaccinated against childhood diseases. But almost all states also let parents opt out based on religious reasons, and an increasing number (20) based on philosophical or moral objections that the state generally does not judge on merits.
Those opt-outs are becoming increasingly common in left-leaning enclaves such as Marin County, California, and pushed by liberal politicians and opinion leaders who see vaccination as unnatural and a health risk being pushed by big pharma.
Asked whether he thinks some vaccines are dangerous, Mr. Christie said he didn’t say that.
“I said different disease types can be more lethal, so … 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,” he said.
His office later sent out a clarification on the remarks, saying that Mr. Christie believes vaccines are an important public health protection, and with a disease like measles there is “no question” kids should be vaccinated.
At the same time, his office said, different states have different requirements on vaccinations, which is why he called for a balance in which ones should be mandated by the government.
Asked about the subject by radio host Laura Ingraham Monday, Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, said that he’s not “anti-vaccine” at all, but that for the most part they should be voluntary.
“Well, I guess being for freedom would be really unusual. I guess I don’t understand the point why that would be controversial,” Mr. Paul said later on CNBC when asked about the remarks.
“I’ve heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking, normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines,” he said on CNBC. “I’m not arguing vaccines are a bad idea; I think they’re a good thing. But I think the parent[s] should have some input. The state doesn’t own your children; parents own the children, and it is an issue of freedom.”
Earlier Monday, President Obama told NBC’s “Today” show that no legitimate reason exists not to get the vaccine and that “we should be able to get back to the point where measles effectively is not existing in this country.”
Dr. Frieden said the vaccine will result in nothing more than a sore arm or a slight fever. “There are no long-term adverse consequences from the measles vaccination,” he said.