By Elise Viebeck - 02/02/15 02:23 PM EST
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Tom Frieden said Monday that people who do not vaccinate their children pose a health threat.
"Vaccines are tremendously important in protecting our children," Frieden said at a press briefing on the 2016 White House budget. "Not vaccinating your child has implications not only for your family but families around you."
Frieden noted that people who are not vaccinated can infect very young infants or ill individuals with diseases like measles, a highly infectious illness that is spreading in the Western United States.
Debate over vaccination is heating up in the political sphere, as the widening measles outbreak highlights the rising number of American parents who choose not to follow the recommended immunization schedule.
Some parents oppose vaccines because they want to provide an all-natural lifestyle to their children. Others are concerned that vaccines might cause autism, a claim that has been debunked in medical studies.
Calling on American parents to vaccinate their children, Frieden said the science on vaccines is "very clear … there are no long-term adverse consequences."
The comments from the CDC director follow a pro-vaccination call from President Obama during an interview with NBC News broadcast Monday.
"The fact is that, a major success of our civilization has the ability to prevent diseases that in the past have devastated folks,” Obama said.
"And measles is preventable. And I understand that there are families that, in some cases, are concerned about the effect of vaccinations. The science is, you know, pretty indisputable. We’ve looked at this again and again. There is every reason to get vaccinated, but there aren’t reasons to not."
Republican politicians have started to weigh in with their own opinions.
Sen. Rand PaulRand PaulWhat the 'Bernie Sanders wing of the GOP' can teach Congress GOP senators avoid Trump questions on rigged election How low is the bar for presidential candidates, anyway? MORE (R-Ky.) said Monday that most vaccines should be "voluntary" and said he staggered his own children's immunization schedule.
"While I think it's a good idea to take the vaccine, I think that's a personal decision for individuals to take and when they take it," Paul said on the "Laura Ingraham Show."
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) made headlines earlier in the day for saying parents should have a "choice" in the matter. He later clarified the comment, saying "there is no question kids should be vaccinated."