The GOP And The Anti-Vaxxers

Andrew Sullivan —  Feb 2 2015 @ 3:19pm

Chris Christie’s endorsement of parental choice over public health while we have a measles epidemic strikes me as yet another disqualifying aspect of his judgment, character and personality in his bid for the presidency. Here’s some important context for his remarks – Christie:

Michael, what I said was that there has to be a balance and it depends on what the vaccine is, what the disease type is and all the rest. And so I didn’t say I’m leaving people the option. What I’m saying is that you have to have that balance in considering parental concerns because no parent cares about anything more than they care about protecting their own child’s health and so we have to have that conversation, but that has to move and shift in my view from disease type. Not every vaccine is created equal and not every disease type is as great a public health threat as others. So that’s what I mean by that so that I’m not misunderstood.

His office is now qualifying even more:

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. 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.

That’s a relief. And, of course, parents always have the ultimate say over their children. But a public official should not, in my view, be messing around with basic concepts of public health, and giving any credence to anti-vaxxers. So why the equivocation when we need more public support for childhood vaccination?

My best answer is that any potential GOP candidate has to cater to the Christianist right, and the critical HPV vaccine is not exactly popular with that section of the population. Lo and behold, Carly Fiorina is saying something similar as well:

I think there’s a big difference between — just in terms of the mountains of evidence we have — a vaccination for measles and a vaccination when a girl is 10 or 11 or 12 for cervical cancer just in case she’s sexually active at 11. So, I think it’s hard to make a blanket statement about it. I certainly can understand a mother’s concerns about vaccinating a 10-year-old … I think vaccinating for measles makes a lot of sense. But that’s me. I do think parents have to make those choices. I mean, I got measles as a kid. We used to all get measles … I got chicken pox, I got measles, I got mumps.

An alternative explanation may, of course, be that president Obama has strongly endorsed childhood vaccinations and therefore any GOP candidate has to disagree. I’m not sure which interpretation is accurate, but neither is exactly encouraging.