Vaccine flap: Christie does damage control from London
Gov. Chris Christie took to Twitter Monday to announce a delayed opening for state government offices due to inclement weather, but later in the day, he set off a firestorm on social media when he said parents should have some measure of choice in vaccinating their children.
Christie later walked back the comments on Facebook, with the help of his press shop back at the State House in Trenton.
While visiting a company in England that makes vaccines, Christie was asked if Americans should vaccinate their kids, and if he thought the measles vaccine was safe.
"All I can say is that we vaccinated ours," he said. "That's the best expression I can give you of my opinion. It's much more important, I think, what you think as a parent than what you think as a public official and that's what we do, but 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."
Twitter and Facebook lit up in response to Christie's comments. Critics blasted him for pandering to anti-vaccine proponents in the Republican Party. The chairman of the Assembly Health and Senior Services in New Jersey weighed in too.
"Gov. Christie's wavering comments are irresponsible and endanger the health of our communities," said Assemblyman Herb Conaway, M.D. (D-Delran), in a press release. "Science has shown vaccination to be an extremely effective approach to securing public health. The only thing government has to balance is what's best for the overall public health, and that means unambiguously supporting vaccinations."
By mid-morning Monday, Christie's press office posted a clarification on the governor's Facebook and Twitter pages:
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."
This damage control and spin doctoring, all the way from London, could be more proof that Christie can run the state, get out his media message and travel the country running for president at the same time -- if he in fact tosses his hat in the ring for 2016, according to Peter Woolley, professor of comparative politics & Florham Campus Provost at Fairleigh Dickinson University.
"Whether you're governing or campaigning, you can do that 24/7, and the beauty of it is you don't even have to do it; you have a staff to do it," Woolley said. "Being abroad even in England, the governor is not going to miss a beat about what goes on in New Jersey or anywhere else."