President Barack Obama has dismissed concerns that measles vaccinations could cause autism, after a recent outbreak of measles in the United States led to scrutiny of families who opt out of vaccinations due to their alleged link to autism.
“The science is, you know, pretty indisputable,” Obama said Monday on NBC. “There is every reason to get vaccinated, but there aren’t reasons to not … You should get your kids vaccinated.”
However, the president had a decidedly different view on the subject when he was campaigning for president the first time. In April of 2008 Obama noted that the rate of autism was rising and research was needed on its possible link to vaccinations.
“We’ve seen just a skyrocketing autism rate. Some people are suspicious that it’s connected to the vaccines,” he said at a campaign stop. “The science right now is inconclusive, but we have to research it.”
Measles was nearly eradicated in America by 2000, but a resurgence in 2014 saw 644 cases. This year, 102 people in 14 states contracted the disease since January after it spread from California, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The initial carrier is believed to have been a tourist visiting Disneyland. Many cases from the 2014 outbreak were also associated with cases from the Philippines.
White House Press Secretary Joshua Earnest said Tuesday the president believes “it shouldn’t require a law to exercise common sense” on vaccinating children for measles, and that such mandates are within the purview of states, not the federal government.
Parents who opt their children out of measles vaccinations have been lambasted for undermining the herd immunity a population has when enough people are vaccinated. Views that vaccines can cause autism have been attacked as superstition.
Christie and Hillary Wade In
Vaccination became a point of contention for the upcoming 2016 presidential election when a few of the potential candidates provoked controversy in the increasingly partisan issue.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie issued a firm statement Monday in support of vaccinations after an earlier remark he made was perceived to downplay the threat of measles.
“The Governor believes vaccines are an important public health protection, and with a disease like measles there is no question kids should be vaccinated,” his office said in a statement. Still, he maintains that vaccinations should be voluntary.
Later the same day, Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton said in a twitter post: “The science is clear: The earth is round, the sky is blue, and vaccines work. Let’s protect all our kids.”
Clinton had previously courted the anti-vaccination vote during the 2008 Democratic primary. In a letter to an autism group, Clinton wrote that she was “committed to make investments to find the causes of autism, including possible environmental causes like vaccines.”