With the anti-vaccine movement rearing its ugly head at the most magical place on Earth last week, President Obama took Sunday's pre-Super Bowl interview to make a stand on the question of whether parents should keep this whole disease eradication thing going, and in the process, may have imperiled our entire national immune system.
NBC News' Savannah Guthrie asked the President the obviously open question of whether not vaccinating kids against measles endangers other kids, and Obama responded with an emphatic "The science is pretty indisputable," and fairly laughed in the face of vaccine skepticism as he yammered on about how eradicating diseases like the measles has been "a major success of our civilization."
Guthrie also asked if there should be "a requirement" for people to vaccinate their kids, which is where President Obama's responses became problematic:
"You should get your kids vaccinated.”
"I would strongly encourage everybody, look at the science, look at the facts, the CDC can give you good information, listen to your pediatrician, get your children vaccinated..."
I'm actually not a huge fan of the President's answer, because as unequivocal as it seems to be, he stops short of explaining how the law should handle vaccines. Currently, every state has laws requiring children to be vaccinated according to CDC guidelines, but with varying degrees of wiggle room for religious or guano-based exemptions. Federal law requires doctors to give patients up to date vaccine information, and vaccination for all vaccine-preventable diseases by immigrants to the United States. The Disney measles outbreak should amply illustrate the need for strict federal laws requiring vaccines for children, at the very least.
Even Obama's soft-touch approach was too much for Republican presidential hopeful and current New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who was asked about the measles outbreak while on his current trip to the United Kingdom, and responded to the obviously-open question of whether the measles vaccine is dangerous by explaining that while he vaccinates his own kids, who is he to have a position on an issue like this as a public official?
"You know it's much more important 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."
When reporters followed up with Christie, he insisted that he wasn't actually saying what he was saying, but that he was just saying:
"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."
First of all, no you fucking don't. The only exemption for school vaccine requirements should be a medical one, period. Anything else is akin to allowing some kids to bring uranium to school, based on the parents' personal beliefs. President Obama knows this and says this. Vaccinate your kids. Do it now.
Christie's a different story. Whatever it is he thinks he is saying here, it is crystal clear that he is doing his level best not to alienate anti-vax wingnuts who think reviving polio is their God-given right. That's all well and good if you're trying to get through a cocktail party without causing a scene with the neighbor lady, but not if you want to run things. If you asked an auto mechanic if you should put sugar in your gas tank, and he said "Well, I don't put sugar in my gas tank, but there needs to be a measure of choice," would you let that guy touch your car?
Republicans have already proven themselves more than capable of politicizing vaccines, as they did with the HPV vaccine, a vaccine that can actually prevent cancer. I thought Christian conservatives were supposed to believe in miracles, not try to outlaw them. Now that President Obama has come out in favor of the measles vaccine, I can see this becoming one of those GOP debate questions where one weirdo like Jon Huntsman raises his hand to say he believes in science, while the rest of them scowl and secretly reach for the Purell under the podium. If Obama said he supported air, Republicans would stop breathing. Note to Savannah Guthrie: try asking that next time.