Indeed, although medical science has since refuted the claims of Wakefield, Kennedy, and others, many would argue the damage has been done. Outbreaks
of pertussis (in California in 2010), measles (222 cases in the US in 2011 alone), and multiple mumps outbreaks
over the past 5 years have been linked with poor vaccine uptake, caused in many cases by parents’ refusal to allow their children to be vaccinated due to safety concerns, according to James D. Cherry MD, MSc, Distinguished Professor of Pediatrics at the University of California, Los Angeles David Geffen School of Medicine. Parents may also refuse vaccination for their children for religious and/or cultural reasons, Dr. Cherry added.
“We have been having sporadic outbreaks of measles and mumps in the United States over the past few years, and increasing rates of pertussis, which may relate more to the lower efficacy of the acellular vaccine than poor rates of Tdap or DTaP immunization,” Dr. Hamer explained. “His appointment could place the US population at even greater risk of morbidity and mortality from these vaccine-preventable diseases that we have been able to control over the past few decades.”
Dr. Cherry, who has published
extensively on vaccine uptake and vaccine-preventable diseases, told Contagion
that his concerns go beyond “giving legitimacy to the anti-vaccine crowd” and discouraging pediatric vaccination. “That’s always going to be there,” he said. Rather, he’s more concerned about the role Kennedy and others will have in setting national healthcare guidelines and establishing vaccination protocols in schools. He’s also expressed concerns that the new administration may decide to undo much of the work—and perhaps even defund future initiatives—of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices
“[Professional societies] such as the American Academy of Pediatrics will be a voice of reason on this issue,” he said. “And the Infectious Disease Society of America and others have been vocal on this. But the money to run the CDC and the ACIP comes from the government. [The new administration] may decide to stop funding [these programs] And if they do that, the [professional societies] may be screaming into the wind.”
Brian P. Dunleavy is a medical writer and editor based in New York. His work has appeared in numerous healthcare-related publications. He is the former editor of Infectious Disease Special Edition.
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