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Christie clarifies comments on measles vaccine after call for ‘balance’ causes stir

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and his wife Mary Pat Christie visited the One Nucleus life science company headquarters in Cambridge on Monday. REUTERS/Neil Hall

CAMBRIDGE, England – New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie walked back comments he made here Monday morning calling for "balance" on the measles vaccine debate to allow for parental choice, asserting that "there is no question kids should be vaccinated."

"The Governor believes vaccines are an important public health protection and with a disease like measles there is no question kids should be vaccinated," Christie's office said in a statement. "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."

Earlier Monday, Christie waded into the vaccination debate during his visit to the United Kingdom, telling reporters in Cambridge that he believes U.S. government must "balance" public health interests with parental choice. In a break with President Obama, Christie said parents should have "some measure of choice" about immunizing their children from measles and other viruses and diseases.

The potential Republican presidential candidate's comments, which came amid a measles outbreak in the United States and a day after Obama urged all parents to get their kids vaccinated, quickly caused a stir.

“Mary Pat and I have had our children vaccinated and we think that it’s an important part of being sure we protect their health and the public health,” Christie told reporters here Monday. But the likely Republican presidential candidate 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.”

Christie’s initial comments came after a laboratory tour at MedImmune, a biologics company that makes vaccines in Cambridge. Christie is on a three-day tour of Britain designed to promote trade with New Jersey businesses and round out his foreign policy resume ahead of a likely 2016 run for the White House.

[‘Get your kids vaccinated,’ Obama tells parents doubting ‘indisputable’ science]

Christie was asked to weigh in on the debate in the United States over the measles outbreak. On Sunday, Obama told NBC News anchor Savannah Guthrie, “You should get your kids vaccinated.”

“I understand that there are families that, in some cases, are concerned about the effect of vaccinations,” Obama said. “The science is, you know, pretty indisputable. We’ve looked at this again and again. There is every reason to get vaccinated, but there aren’t reasons to not.”

Christie, however, said, “There has to be a balance and it depends on what the vaccine is, what the disease type is, and all the rest.” He added, “Not every vaccine is created equal and not every disease type is as great a public health threat as others.”

[Amid growing vaccination debate, measles continues to spread and is now in New York state]

Christie also took the unusual step of criticizing the president on foreign soil, saying Obama had been a poor negotiator, specifically regarding the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

“You need an effective negotiator at the top, and, as I’ve said before, I think the president has shown over and over again that he’s not the most effective negotiator, whether you’re talking about the Iranian nuclear talks or whether you’re talking about his recent foray into Cuba,” Christie said. “The president has not proven himself to be the most adept negotiator, in my opinion, on behalf of American interests.”

Later Monday, Christie was scheduled to be in London for a meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron at 10 Downing Street followed by a private dinner with members of Cameron’s cabinet.

At the morning news conference, Christie was complimentary of Cameron, who is up for reelection this spring, and said some of the austerity measures he had taken in Britain were similar to ones Christie implemented in New Jersey. Christie and Cameron met in 2011, during Christie’s first term as governor.

“We were comparing notes pretty feverishly back in 2011,” Christie said. “So I hope that part of what we’ll do today is compare notes on progress as well and I think that the prime minister has led some really great progress economically here, especially when you compare it to the rest of Europe.”

While in Cambridge, Christie and his wife, Mary Pat, laid several wreaths at the Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial, the burial site for several thousand U.S. service members in World War II. The couple knelt at the nave of the cemetery’s chapel for a moment of silent tribute to the fallen soldiers.

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