More than 350 organizations, including leading U.S. medical, advocacy and professional organizations, have sent a letter to President Donald Trump expressing their “unequivocal support for the safety of vaccines.”
The effort, organized by the American Academy of Pediatrics, reflects the growing alarm among a wide array of groups over Trump’s embrace of discredited claims about vaccine safety. After a meeting in January with Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a proponent of the debunked theory that vaccines cause autism, a Trump spokeswoman said he was considering creation of a commission on autism.
“Vaccines protect the health of children and adults and save lives,” the letter opens. “Vaccines have been part of the fabric of our society for decades and are one of the most significant medical innovations of our time.”
It continues: “Claims that vaccines are unsafe when administered according to expert recommendations have been disproven by a robust body of medical literature.”
The letter was sent to Trump on Tuesday. Organizations that signed on represent families, providers, researchers, patients and consumers. They include the American Medical Association, the advocacy group Autism Speaks and major children and disability groups such as the Children’s Defense Fund, Easter Seals and the March of Dimes.
Following their meeting last month, Kennedy said he and Trump had discussed creation of a vaccine commission, which he would chair. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention already has a well-established expert panel, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which follows a scientifically rigorous and open process to evaluate all aspects of vaccine safety.
Trump tweeted: “Lots of autism and vaccine response. Stop these massive doses immediately. Go back to single, spread out shots! What do we have to lose.”
Trump also tweeted: “Healthy young child goes to doctor, gets pumped with massive shot of many vaccines, doesn’t feel good and changes — AUTISM. Many such cases!”
The letter calls vaccines the safest and most cost-effective way of preventing disease, disability and death. It notes that the United States is still experiencing outbreaks of vaccine-preventable illness, disability and death, such as the 2014-2015 measles outbreak that began at Disneyland or the sharp spike of pertussis, or whooping cough, in 2012.
The organizations wrote that they would welcome a meeting with Trump “to share the robust, extensive, scientific evidence” supporting vaccine safety and effectiveness. After just over a page of text, the letter continues for 26 additional pages to list all the national and state-based groups that signed as well as a summary of more than 40 studies on vaccine safety.
Here is the letter in full:
Dear Mr. President:
On behalf of organizations representing families, providers, researchers, patients, and consumers, we write to express our unequivocal support for the safety of vaccines. Vaccines protect the health of children and adults and save lives. They prevent life-threatening diseases, including forms of cancer. Vaccines have been part of the fabric of our society for decades and are one of the most significant medical innovations of our time.
Because of the introduction of mass vaccinations, smallpox was declared eradicated from the world in 1977. Polio, a disease that routinely afflicted 13,000 to 20,000 Americans every year in the United States before the availability of the vaccine, was officially eliminated from the Western Hemisphere in 1991. Globally, vaccines prevent the deaths of roughly 2.5 million children per year. And, data shows that just for children born in the United States in 2009, routine childhood immunizations will prevent approximately 42,000 early deaths and 20 million cases of disease with savings of more than $82 billion in societal costs.
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, as highlighted by the measles outbreak at Disneyland in 2014. In 2012, 48,277 cases of pertussis (whooping cough) were reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), including 20 pertussis-related deaths. This was the most reported cases of pertussis since 1955. In addition, each year, more than 200,000 individuals are hospitalized and 3,000-49,000 deaths occur from influenza-related complications.
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). Attached to this letter is a non-exhaustive list of studies demonstrating the safety of vaccines. Delaying vaccines only leaves our nation’s citizens at risk of disease, particularly children. As a nation we should redouble our efforts to make needed investments in patient and family education about the importance of vaccines in order to increase the rate of vaccination among all populations.
Put simply: Vaccines are safe. Vaccines are effective. Vaccines save lives. Our organizations welcome the opportunity to meet with you to share the robust, extensive scientific evidence supporting vaccine safety and effectiveness.