The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

30 percent of Americans agree with Chris Christie on vaccines; 13 percent of scientists do.

FILE: At Global Academy in Columbia Heights, Minn., New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie talks with students at the charter school while stumping for GOP governor hopeful Jeff Johnson, left, Monday, Oct. 13, 2014. (AP Photo/The Star Tribune, Richard Tsong-Taatarii)
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Update 11:26 a.m.: Christie has clarified his comments. From a spokesman: "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."

New  Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) has turned up the burner on a long-simmering issue in American society: vaccinations.

In saying that parents should have "some measure of choice" in deciding whether their children should be vaccinated, Christie finds himself among a not-insignificant minority of Americans. And this group includes about equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats.

A Pew Research Center study released just last week shows 30 percent of Americans say that vaccines should be a matter of parental choice, while 68 percent say the vaccines should be required.

The reason Christie's comments caused such a ruckus Monday morning is because very few scientists agree with him -- just 13 percent of scientists in the American Association for the Advancement of Science, in fact. They also come as the United States is dealing with the re-emergence of diseases for which there are available vaccines, including measles. President Obama saw fit Sunday to urge parents to get their kids vaccinated.

And while some might want to chalk up Christie's comments to politics (perhaps he doesn't want to alienate the anti-vaccine crowd, after all), there is very little evidence to suggest he has much to gain from aligning himself with this group. That's because many of them aren't even Republicans -- and the ones who are probably weren't in Christie's bailiwick anyway.

The 2009 version of the just-released Pew study showed 26 percent of Republicans and 27 percent of Democrats favored parental choice on vaccinations over mandating them. Thirty percent of independents agreed.

Update 12:29 p.m.: Pew has released more data from their new study on this, and slightly more Republicans and independents now favor parental choice on vaccines than in 2009.

Polling on vaccines is relatively scarce at this point. An October Reason-Rupe study for the libertarian Web site showed slightly higher resistance to mandating vaccine -- 37 percent. An AP-GfK poll from March 2014, meanwhile, showed 53 percent of Americans were "extremely" or "very" confident that vaccines were safe. Another 30 percent were "somewhat confident," while 15 percent were "not too" confident or "not at all."

The issue of vaccines, it seems, is merely another one on which Americans and scientists are simply on different pages. But Christie isn't even on the same page as his party on this one.

The CDC is urging people to get vaccinated for measles amid an outbreak that began at Disneyland and has now spread to other states, including Utah, Washington, Oregon and Colorado. (Video: Reuters)
With the latest measles outbreak spreading fast, you may be surprised by the state with the best child vaccination rate in the country. (Video: Gillian Brockell/The Washington Post)