Kaci Hickox is in the news yet again challenging New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on his response to a public health issue. But this time the controversy centers around vaccines and measles, a much more pressing health threat to Americans than the Ebola virus.
Hickox, as you may recall, grabbed headlines in late October when she was forced into quarantine near the airport in Newark, New Jersey, after returning from a tour treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone with Doctors Without Borders. She went on to challenge a quarantine order in Maine.
On Monday, Christie sparked controversy by saying parents need to have “some measure of choice” in vaccinating their children. Critics found his stance worryingly equivocal.
Christie, speaking in London, also said his children had been vaccinated and that immunization was “an important part of being sure we protect their health and the public health.”
The scientific consensus is clear that vaccines are safe and their benefits indisputable. Public health officials are stressing that immunization is critical to halting a measles outbreak that began in California and now has spread to 102 people in 14 states. The respiratory illness is highly contagious and can lead to dangerous complications, including pneumonia and brain swelling.
Hickox, appearing on MSNBC’s “All in with Chris Hayes,” accused Christie of “still ignoring science.”
“I think this is a good example of Governor Christie’s making some very ill-informed statements,” she told Hayes. “We heard it a lot during the Ebola discussion and now it seems to have happened again, making these statements about vaccines and sort of balancing parental choice.”
The full interview can be seen here. (Her appropriately rustic surroundings remind me of the set in SNL’s spoof of the story. Minus the famous Fort Kent lighthouse tourists are still trying to find in their Gazetteers.)
As she insisted throughout the ordeal, Hickox never was infected with Ebola.
Her comments on MSNBC echoed statements she made in January, when Hickox told a group in South Portland that, “Politicians have decided they’re invincible, and that’s scary to me. Almost as scary as Ebola.”
Christie’s office later sought to clarify his comments, saying in a statement that “with a disease like measles there is no question kids should be vaccinated” and “calling for balance in which [vaccinations] government should mandate.”
Maine is among 19 states that allow parents to opt out of vaccinating their children for philosophical reasons. New Jersey does not.