Chris Christie Says Parents Should Have a 'Measure of Choice' on Vaccinating Kids

N.J. governor breaks from President Obama on child vaccinations.

ByABC News
February 2, 2015, 11:05 AM
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie delivers his State Of The State address, on Jan. 13, 2015, in Trenton, N.J.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie delivers his State Of The State address, on Jan. 13, 2015, in Trenton, N.J.
Mel Evans/AP Photo

— -- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie broke with President Obama on Monday, saying there must be a "balance" from the government between parental choice and views on vaccines and public health interests, stressing families must have a "measure of choice" on the issue.

"Mary Pat and I have had our children vaccinated and we think that it’s an important part of being sure we protect their health and the public health," Christie said, according to the Washington Post, traveling with Christie, who is currently on a trip to the United Kingdom. "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."

Christie spoke with reporters in Cambridge on his second day of his trip after touring MedImmune, a biologics company that makes vaccines.

"There has to be a balance and it depends on what the vaccine is, what the disease type is, and all the rest," Christie added. "Not every vaccine is created equal and not every disease type is as great a public health threat as others."

This is a clear break from the president, who in an interview with NBC on Sunday said clearly: "You should get your kids vaccinated."

Noting that "measles is preventable," Obama said, "I understand that there are families that, in some cases, are concerned about the effect of vaccinations."

"The science is, you know, pretty indisputable," the president told NBC's Savannah Guthrie. "We've looked at this again and again. There is every reason to get vaccinated, but there aren’t reasons to not."

Christie's office issued a statement to clarify the comments, saying, "The Governor 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 different states require different degrees of vaccination, which is why he was calling for balance in which ones government should mandate," the statement reads.

Christie wasn't the only possible 2016 candidate to weigh in on the vaccine debate raging across the country. In a radio interview with Laura Ingraham today, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said that while he thinks there should be rules for some vaccines, most vaccinations “ought to be voluntary.”

“I’m not anti-vaccine at all, but particularly, most of them ought to be voluntary,” Paul said. “What happens if you have somebody not wanting to take the small pox vaccine and it ruins it for everybody else? I think there are times in which there can be some rules but for the most part, it ought to be voluntary.”

He also revealed he delayed some of his children’s vaccines when they were born.

“I was annoyed when my kids were born that they wanted them to take hepatitis B in the neo natal nursery and it’s like that’s a sexually transmitted disease or blood borne disease,” Paul said. “I didn’t like them getting 10 vaccines at once, so I actually delayed my kids vaccines and had them staggered over time.”

Christie and Paul were asked about the issue amid a measles outbreak linked to Disneyland in California and that has now spread to 14 other states. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging all unvaccinated people to get vaccinated and to make sure to vaccinate their children on schedule.

This isn't Christie's first controversial comments on a public health issue. Last October, he broke with the White House and federal guidelines when he quarantined a nurse returning from West Africa where she had treated Ebola patients. The nurse did not show any symptoms of the disease and the quarantine caused an outcry on both sides of the issue.

White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer said in an exchange with a reporter on Twitter that he hopes Christie will "clarify" his comments on the vaccination issue because "it's important that responsible leaders speak with one voice." Pfeiffer added that he didn't know what Christie will do, but "not clarifying will say a lot about how he plans to run his race."

Pfeiffer is referring to Christie's potential 2016 presidential campaign. His three-day trip to Great Britain is an effort to promote trade with the U.K. and New Jersey businesses, but is also an effort to give the governor some foreign policy credentials ahead of a likely run for the White House. He recently visited both Canada and Mexico as well.

Later today, he is scheduled to visit with Prime Minister David Cameron at 10 Downing Street before attending a dinner with members of Cameron's cabinet.

This story has been updated.

ABC's Arlette Saenz contributed to this report.