Two potential candidates for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016 came under criticism late Monday for stating that parents should have input about whether to vaccinate their children.
The remarks by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul were not a departure from previously stated positions, but drew widespread attention as public health officials try to cope with a major measles outbreak that has infected over 100 people in several states.
Christie, who spoke Monday after making a tour of a biomedical research lab in Cambridge, England, said that he and his wife had vaccinated their children. However, the governor added, “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.”
Later Monday, Paul said in a radio interview that he believed most vaccines should be voluntary.
“I have heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking, normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines,” Paul, an eye doctor, said in a subsequent interview while suggesting vaccines were “a good thing.” ”But I think the parents should have some input. The state doesn’t own your children.”
Both men’s staffs later sent out statements clarifying their remarks. Christie’s spokesman said the governor believed that “with a disease like measles there is no question kids should be vaccinated.” The statement from Paul’s office pointed out that the senator’s children have all been vaccinated and added that Paul “believes that vaccines have saved lives, and should be administered to children.