The impact of the anti-vaccination lobby

Pharmaceutical CommercePharmaceutical Commerce - January/February 2016

Today’s leading scientific and public health organizations—including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the National Association for Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, the Infectious Diseases Society of America, and many others—emphatically endorse strict adherence to accepted vaccine schedules, and despite lingering questions some skeptics have about potential side effects, countless scientific studies have been published in peer-reviewed journals to verify the safety of today’s vaccines; many can be accessed at the CDC’s repository of vaccine safety publications [10].

Some of the most prevalent misconceptions related to vaccines are addressed in Reference [11]. And when it comes to the worn-out claims that vaccines cause autism, a large-scale study involving more than 95,000 children and published in 2015 [12] found no link between having the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and the risk of developing autism. This study joins a long list of others demonstrating no causal link between autism and vaccinations.

While many in the medical community label today’s anti-vaxx crusaders as “quacktivists” because of their disdain for the established body of medical literature, the impact of their persistent, alarmist messaging about vaccines continues to be felt throughout the healthcare spectrum. As an increasing number of parents in some communities have chosen to opt out of recommended (and in some cases, compulsory) vaccination schedules for their children, this situation has opened the door for a disconcerting number of vaccine-preventable outbreaks and epidemics that have been directly correlated to lowered vaccination rates within the afflicted communities.

For instance, despite the fact that measles elimination in the US was documented by the CDC in 2000, numerous outbreaks have happened since 2008, including the well-publicized outbreak at the Disneyland theme park in California last year; and within several Amish communities in Ohio in 2014. In 2010, the worst outbreak of whooping cough in 50 years took place in California, with 9,210 cases and 10 deaths.

Meanwhile, polio, which can be eradicated by mass vaccination programs, is once again on the rise in Pakistan, because the Taliban has banned aid workers from vaccinating children there. More than 100 polio cases have been reported in the country as of mid-November 2015, and an estimated 240,000 children have not been vaccinated.

“If there is any silver lining to the enormous skirmish of outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases that have resulted from falling vaccination rates in some communities, it’s that the situation allows us to really look at the big data around these cluster outbreaks and analyze the risk factors related to how long the outbreak lasted, who was vaccinated and who was not, and more,” says Doyle of Quintiles.

“These outbreaks provide the best examples of what actually happens when vaccination rates dip,” adds Million of Trinity Partners. “That’s just data with no judgment and no need for interpretation.”

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