Those remarks could be improved upon. Indeed, Christie's office released a clarifying statement after his original comments came under criticism. But isn't Christie's approach more likely to persuade anti-vaccine parents than likening their kids to bombs? Let's emulate the New Jersey governor. If I could address any anti-vaccine parents reading this article: Like you, I looked into the scientific evidence with an open mind. When I regard conventional wisdom or the ruling establishment to be wrong, I'm always eager to publicly dissent. In this case, I came to the same conclusion as my own hyper-cautious mother: Not only would I definitely vaccinate my own kid if I had one—the case is so strong that, were standard vaccinations more expensive, I'd spend 20 percent of my income to get my kids their shots. That's how high my confidence is in their safety and importance. And if you're surprised by this measles outbreak, you underestimated the costs of your choice, which you'd be smart to reverse as soon as possible.
Testimony from people who actually have kids is, of course, going to be more credible. (See Roald Dahl's story about his daughter for a particularly affecting testimony.) I'd urge parents with the impulse to shame and insult to try that approach instead, not just because it strikes me as more likely to persuade the typical anti-vaccine parent, but due to the conviction that while anti-vaxer ignorance has caused great damage, the vast majority are not, in fact, especially selfish people, and characterizing them as such just feeds into their mistaken belief system. Put another way, the parents I know who vaccinated their children, mine included, were not acting selflessly or sacrificially to protect the herd. They were appropriately confident that vaccinating their kids would significantly increase rather than reduce their chances of surviving and thriving in this world.
Well-informed selfish people get vaccinated!
Like Chris Mooney, I worry about this issue getting politicized. As he notes, there is presently no partisan divide on the subject. "If at some point, vaccinations get framed around issues of individual choice and freedom vs. government mandates—as they did in the 'Christie vs. Obama' narrative—and this in turn starts to map onto right-left differences ... then watch out," he writes. "People could start getting political signals that they ought to align their views on vaccines—or, even worse, their vaccination behaviors—with the views of the party they vote for."
As a disincentive to this sort of thinking, folks on the right and left would do well to reflect on the fact that the ideology of anti-vaxers doesn't map neatly onto the left or right, with the former willing to use state coercion and the latter opposing it.
For example, consider some of the standard language used to talk about abortion. If you're a progressive who believes in both a constitutionally guaranteed right to privacy and a moral right to autonomy over one's body, do you also believe that choices about vaccinations ought to be between patients and doctors, and that the state has no right to intrude on such a sensitive matter?