Chris Christie Says Vaccines Should Be Voluntary -- Is He Right?

baby vaccinesNew Jersey governor and presumed presidential candidate Chris Christie said that he wants your children to catch measles and die! Or so you would think, based on the uproar triggered by his statement on Monday that American parents should be allowed some choice in the matter of whether or not to have their children vaccinated.


The opinion wasn’t a popular one, in light of an outbreak of measles that has sickened more than 100 people so far. Like any obsequious politician, Christie promptly backtracked on his comments, with his office issuing a follow-up statement that the governor believes “with a disease like measles, there is no question kids should be vaccinated.”

Still, Christie appears to be holding fast to his stance that immunizations should be voluntary.

And he’s not the only one. According to the National Vaccine Information Center, 50 states allow a medical vaccine exemption, 48 states allow a religious vaccine exemption (West Virginia and Mississippi are the exceptions), and 17 states allow a philosophical, conscientious, or personal belief exemption. And while smug critics love pointing the finger at groups they disagree with, the numbers show that the biggest clusters of families who don’t vaccinate come up in both red-state, Christian, home-schooling enclaves, and blue-state, organic, liberal communities (with Oregon leading the pack at 7 percent unvaccinated).

Rest assured, there’s plenty of support for leaving it up to parents to choose whether or not to vaccinate.

A recent survey by YouGov found 43 percent of Americans 30 and under -- almost half -- think it should be up to parents to decide whether or not to vaccinate. Another 21 percent of Americans 65 or older and 26 percent in the 45-64 age bracket agree.

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Me, personally, I get my kids vaccinated on-schedule, including the non-mandatory HPV and Hepatitis shots. If the medical establishment has developed it, I want it.

But that’s me. That’s my choice. For my kids.

I happen to believe that there is no link between the MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) vaccine and autism. But I know others who are certain that their child was fine beforehand and neurologically damaged afterward. Who am I to tell them differently? (I'm the one who wouldn't let her kid be labeled special needs. I believe a parent knows their child best.)

If a parent is convinced that their child’s health would be compromised by an MMR shot, I cannot summon up the moral authority to command, “No! You go and put your child at risk today, so that mine might not be at risk tomorrow.”

I also personally believe that requiring every child to be vaccinated would be what’s best for society. I believe a lot of things would be best for society (a much more rigorous school curriculum, an end to the “everyone gets a trophy” mentality, heck, I think people like Chris Christie should lose weight, as their obesity takes health-care resources away from others). But I know that there are many who disagree with me.

And I know that I have no right to force them to either see or do -- or eat -- things my way.

More From The Stir: A Mom of 3 on Why She Doesn't Vaccinate Her Kids

That said, while not getting your child vaccinated is a choice, not letting your unvaccinated child within 50 feet of mine is also a choice. A private organization like Disneyland (deemed the epicenter of the recent outbreak) could easily start demanding medical records as a condition for entering their park. And if they decline to do so, those who don’t want to inadvertently expose themselves to something deadly could express their displeasure by not fraternizing their establishment. This is where strength in numbers comes in, without getting the government involved. The same tactics could be employed by restaurants and other public places.

That includes schools. We heard recently about a Northern California dad who wants his son's elementary school to make the MMR mandatory. Right now, it isn’t. So the logical thing for the father of this immune-compromised child to do would be to transfer him to a school that complies with his beliefs. He can take action instead of forcing others to change theirs.

Chris Christie is right: I don’t have the right to tell others what to do, and I have every right to make my own decisions, accordingly.

What do you think of Chris Christie's comments?


Image via shutterstock

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