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Chris Christie Clarifies Vaccine Remarks

Gov. Chris Christie Backs Measles Vaccination 0:33

CAMBRIDGE, England -- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Monday said the government needs to strike a "balance" between public health and parental choice in making decisions about vaccinating kids, even as an outbreak of measles is spreading among unvaccinated people in the United States. But hours later, his office sent out a clarification of those remarks.

"We vaccinate ours [kids], and so, you know that's the best expression I can give you of my opinion," Christie first told reporters when asked if he would urge Americans to vaccinate their children. "You know it's much more important what you think as a parent than what you think as a public official. And that's what we do. But 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."

The governor's office issued a statement later Monday morning to clarify his remarks, stating: "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."

Christie is in the United Kingdom for a three-day trip that's officially billed as a trade mission for his state but largely viewed as a chance to build foreign policy credibility ahead of the 2016 presidential election. He made the comments standing outside MedImmune, a company with business ties to New Jersey that makes vaccines and biologic drugs.

Pressed by reporters about whether he believes vaccines are dangerous, Christie responded: "I didn't say that - I said different disease types can be more lethal so that the concern would be measuring whatever the perceived danger is by a vaccine and we've had plenty of that over a period of time versus what the risk to public health is. And that's exactly what I mean by what I said."

President Obama on Sunday told Americans, "get your kids vaccinated." He told NBC News' Savannah Guthrie, "The science is, you know, pretty indisputable."

Democrats jumped on Christie's statement, saying his comments show his embrace of "junk science."

"If his campaign is going to be about kissing up to the radical, conspiracy theory base that's wagging the dog of today's Republican Party, that's up to him and his cracker-jack team," said Democratic National Committee spokesman Mo Elleithee. "But if he wants to actually be a leader, then he should stop bowing to junk science and take a cue from President Obama by showing leadership that promotes facts and keeps our children and our nation safe."

- MSNBC's Kasie Hunt