President Obama Has a Blistering Warning for Anti-Vaxxers Across America
President Barack Obama has delivered a strict edict for parents all across America: Vaccinate your kids.
In a sit-down interview with NBC News' Savannah Guthrie, Obama emphasized the importance of science and facts. "The science is, you know, pretty indisputable," he said. "We've looked at this again and again. There is every reason to get vaccinated, but there aren't reasons to not."
He rejected anti-vaccination fears, arguing instead that shots protect the population as a whole, particularly those who are at risk for infection.
"You should get your kids vaccinated," he said. "It's good for them, and the challenge you have is if you have a certain group of kids who don't get vaccinated, and if it grows large enough that a percentage of the population doesn't get vaccinated, and they're the folks who can't get vaccinated, small infants, for example ... they suddenly become much more vulnerable."
His pro-vaccination stance came in response to Guthrie's question about the recent measles outbreak at Disneyland in California. "Measles is preventable," he said. "The fact is that a major success of our civilization has the ability to prevent diseases that in the past have devastated folks."
The president is right. Because of the development of a highly effective measles vaccination, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared the disease eliminated from the United States in 2000. But thanks in large part to a growing anti-vaccination movement — which believes that vaccinations cause chronic conditions, like autism — the number of measles cases in the U.S. has spiked.
According to the CDC, 2014 was a record year for measles cases, "with 644 cases from 27 states reported to the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases."
Now, nearly 107 people in eight states are diagnosed with the disease, and they're all linked to Disneyland. Now Arizona health officials say that a family exposed to it on vacation could infect up to 1,000 residents.
This most recent outbreak has prompted a large outpouring of concern. On Sunday, CDC Director Tom Frieden warned that the country could be in store for a "large outbreak" of the disease. "We are very concerned by the growing number of people who are susceptible to measles and the possibility that we could have a large outbreak in this country as a result," he said in an interview with CBS.
Not everyone is listening. Though the anti-vaxxer crowd has been the target of quite a bit of disdain, there are a few high-profile figures who have come down on its side.
The latest person to waffle over vaccines is New Jersey's governor, and likely 2016 Republican presidential hopeful, Chris Christie. On Monday, he noted that there needed to be "balance" within the vaccine debate: "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," he told reporters.
Though he later backpedaled after his remarks received criticism, Christie's comments came in stark contrast to Obama's defiant advice for parents.
Thus far, we haven't seen the vaccination debate come up as a campaign issue. But given both the recent outbreak and comments by both Christie and Obama, the issue may yet see its time in the spotlight.
Editor's Note: Feb. 13, 2015
Due to an attribution error in the editing process, a previous version of this story cited and linked to the CDC, but did not include quotations around the phrase "with 644 cases from 27 states reported to the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases." The article has been updated to fully attribute the CDC language.