The AAFP joined a broad coalition of more than 350 organizations that signed a Feb. 7 letter(28 page PDF) to President Donald Trump that emphasized the safety and efficacy of vaccines, and called for greater effort to educate the public about the important role vaccines play in preventing disease.
"Vaccines have been part of the fabric of our society for decades and are one of the most significant medical innovations of our time," the letter stated.
To emphasize the value of vaccines to public health, the letter provides specific data about lives saved, as well as about outbreaks that highlight the continuing need for this preventive intervention. It points out that, thanks to mass vaccinations, smallpox has been eradicated worldwide and polio has been eliminated from the Western Hemisphere. Each year, vaccines prevent 2.5 million deaths among children around the globe, yet some parents in the United States refuse to have their children immunized because they think vaccines are unsafe despite extensive evidence to the contrary.
"Although vaccines are the safest and most cost-effective way of preventing disease, disability and death, this country still witnesses outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases," the letter stated.
Several recent outbreaks of disease might have been ameliorated through broader use of vaccines. In 2012, for instance, 48,277 cases of pertussis were reported to the CDC, including 20 pertussis-related deaths, the most cases of the disease reported since 1955. Although agency officials attributed many of these cases to waning immunity(www.cdc.gov) linked to the use of acellular rather than whole-cell vaccines, failure to adequately immunize patients also played a key role in this outbreak.
The letter also mentioned a measles outbreak that began at Disneyland in California in 2014 and spread to other states, sickening 147 people. The majority of cases involved people who had not been vaccinated or who did not know whether they had been vaccinated.
In addition, the letter said, over 200,000 individuals are hospitalized with influenza and thousands of influenza-related deaths are reported annually.
The CDC has for decades relied on a highly regarded commission(www.cdc.gov) of medical and public health experts to review the latest immunization science and make vaccine recommendations for patients. In addition, the National Vaccine Program Office(archive.hhs.gov) coordinates federal activities focused on the prevention of infectious diseases.
To bolster the fact that vaccines are safe, the letter was accompanied by multiple studies validating their safety.
"Claims that vaccines are unsafe when administered according to expert recommendations have been disproven by a robust body of medical literature, including a thorough review by the National Academy of Medicine (formerly known as the Institute of Medicine)," the letter stated. "Delaying vaccines only leaves our nation's citizens at risk of disease, particularly children."
The organizations offered to meet with the president "to share the robust, extensive scientific evidence supporting vaccine safety and effectiveness."
The issue of vaccinations was one of the first the AAFP raised with the new administration. In a Nov. 9 letter to (then) President-elect Trump, the Academy urged him to prioritize increasing vaccination rates for children and adults by improving access and payment policies.
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