For more details on this story, you can go to Mark Chu-Carroll, Orac, Mike the Mad Biologist, or the Autism Blog. I just wanted to share my personal views on the need for childhood vaccinations and support a public information campaign from the AAP.
Until I started medical blogging, I had not realized quite how vocal was the community of individuals refusing to vaccinate their children, mostly at the urging of those who claimed that vaccines and related components caused illness in their own children. I will first say that no drug product, natural or otherwise, is completely and absolutely free of side effects. One can never predict with absolute certainty how individuals in a genetically-diverse population of 300 million Americans or some 6 billion people worldwide will respond to any product.
But as a society, we have decided that the good of the public’s health is more than offset by the risks to the few; vaccines save lives but the generation that experienced life, and death, before vaccines is increasingly dying off. My child is completely up-to-date on vaccines because I could not bear to lose her to a preventable childhood disease; we still have family and friends who survived polio with varying degrees of debilitation – and they are the lucky ones, from an era before vaccines.
I have the utmost sympathy for any parent whose child has been harmed in those rare cases by unexpected reactions to vaccines or, for that matter, anyone who has been harmed by a product intended to improve health and prevent life-threatening diseases. However, it is in the interest of public health that we mandate certain preventative measures whose implementation saves millions of lives of children and are supported by voluminous medical literature. In public health and medicine, we cannot guarantee absolute safety but we strive continuously to make the modalities employed as safe as is absolutely possible.
As an analogy, 57,000 Americans are killed annually in automobile accidents. However, we don’t outlaw cars and trucks because their benefit to society is so great. Instead, we try to make them as safe as is humanly and technologically possible.
So, the American Association of Pediatrics needs our help to identify parents who have experiences that can be featured in a public relations campaign, supported overwhelmingly by scientific findings, to combat the public health hazard that is the antivaccinationist movement.
As part of our ongoing response to media stories regarding autism and vaccines, the AAP communications department is compiling a list of parents who support the AAP and are available for interviews. We are looking for two types of parents who could serve as spokespersons:
Parents of children with autism spectrum disorders who support immunization and who do not believe there is any link between their child’s vaccines and his or her autism.
Parents of children who suffered a vaccine-preventable illness. This could be a parent who declined immunization, whose child became ill before a vaccine was available, or whose child was ineligible for immunization.
We are asking for your help identifying parents who would be good spokespersons. They do not need to be expert public speakers. They just need to be open with their story and interested in speaking out on the issue. We will contact candidates in advance to conduct pre-interviews, to offer guidance on talking to reporters and to obtain a signed waiver giving us permission to release their name.
If a parent were placed on our list, we would offer their name and contact information to select media. We hope to build a list of parents from a wide range of geographical areas.
As the Jenny McCarthy and “Eli Stone” stories illustrate, this issue is likely to recur in the national and local media. The AAP is committed to doing all we can to counter such erroneous reports with factual information supported by scientific evidence and AAP recommendations.
The anti-vaccine groups often have emotional family stories on their side. The ability to offer a reporter an interview with a similarly compelling parent who is sympathetic to the AAP’s goals is a powerful tool for our media relations program.
Please contact me if you have any questions or to suggest a parent to interview.
Susan Stevens Martin
Director, Division of Media Relations
American Academy of Pediatrics