The office of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) said Monday that he believed there is "no question kids should be vaccinated" for the measles virus, clarifying comments he made earlier in the day.
"To be clear: The Governor believes vaccines are an important public health protection and with a disease like measles there is no question kids should be vaccinated," this office said in a statement emailed by aide Kevin Roberts. "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."
Earlier on Monday, Christie was asked whether he believed parents should vaccinate their children and whether he believed the measles vaccine to be safe. In recent weeks, measles cases blamed on unvaccinated children have been appearing around the country. Officials warned this weekend of a large scale outbreak.
Christie said that he and his wife had vaccinated their children but said parents need to have a "choice" in the matter.
"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," he said, according to The New York Times. "So that’s the balance that the government has to decide.”
The comment was quickly criticized online, especially because it sharply contrasted with President Obama's call Sunday for parents to vaccinate their children. Some noted that Christie had quarantined a nurse who was at risk of having been exposed to the Ebola virus, even when she said the isolation was unwarranted.
Christie is in London this week as he looks to burnish his foreign policy credentials before a likely run for president in 2016.
“Chris Christie isn’t a scientist. He isn’t a doctor. And he sure as heck isn’t a leader,” Democratic National Committee spokesman Mo Elleithee said in a statement released Monday. “If his campaign is going to be about kissing up to the radical, conspiracy theory base that’s wagging the dog of today’s Republican Party, that’s up to him and his cracker-jack team.
“But if he wants to actually be a leader, then he should stop bowing to junk science and take a cue from President Obama by showing leadership that promotes facts and keeps our children and our nation safe. He may be trying to walk back his latest comments on vaccinations, but it’s not the first time he’s courted the anti-vaccination vote. It may cause his press office headaches, but his loud mouth isn’t charming. He ought to take his own advice – sit down and shut up, before people actually get hurt,” Elleithee added.
--Peter Sullivan contributed to this report, which was updated at 12:00 p.m.