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grew up in Pittsburgh, the daughter of a beloved pediatrician. My dad firmly believed in the importance of vaccinations, and had no compunction about “firing” families in his practice that refused to vaccinate their children.

Unfortunately, there is no such mechanism to “fire” people running for public office who equivocate on well-worn myths about vaccines. Green Party nominee Jill Stein told the Washington Post in late July that there were real questions about the health effects of vaccines that need to be addressed “and I don’t know if all of them have been addressed.” But, last week Stein visited the paper again to re-state that “what I have raised questions about is just influence peddling in the FDA.” Republican nominee Donald Trump has been making the false claim for years that vaccines have in “many” cases caused autism, including during one of the fall primary debates, and has also advocated for changes in the recommended vaccine schedule. Whether the intent is to appease the anti-vax fringe or to ride the cultural wave of feelings superseding facts, the potential impact of their fudging is substantial.

Take measles as an example. Last year, an outbreak of measles among visitors to Disneyland in California affected 189 people from 24 states and the District of Columbia. It likely started from a traveler who became infected overseas with measles, where the disease is fairly common, then visited the amusement park while infectious. The majority of people who got measles were found to have been unvaccinated. (California has since passed one of the nation’s toughest vaccine mandates.)

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The outbreak wasn’t worse because so many Americans have been vaccinated against measles. When we let ourselves become vulnerable by not vaccinating, a case that could touch off an outbreak of a disease that is currently under control is just a plane ride away.

Vaccines work. Look at the history of any vaccine-preventable disease and you will see that the number of cases drop when a vaccine is widely used.

Back in 1921, more than 15,000 Americans died from diphtheria. Two years later, a vaccine was developed against it. It is now part of the standard DTaP vaccine that all American children should get. Only one case of diphtheria has been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention since 2004.

An epidemic of rubella (German measles) in 1964-65 infected 12.5 million Americans, killed 2,000 babies, caused 11,000 miscarriages, and left thousands of children blind, deaf, or mentally impaired. In 2012, just nine cases of rubella were reported to the CDC.

While the US has low rates of many vaccine-preventable diseases, this isn’t the case everywhere in the world. Only one disease, smallpox, has been totally erased from the planet.

Polio no longer occurs in the US and is nearly eliminated in Africa, but it is still paralyzing children in Afghanistan and Pakistan. More than 350,000 cases of measles were reported from around the world in 2011, with outbreaks in the Pacific, Asia, Africa, and Europe. Americans’ high rates of vaccination against these diseases has helped prevent these clusters of cases from becoming epidemics here.

The misinformation that links vaccines and autism continues to percolate at the highest levels of election discourse despite decades of studies that have shown vaccines to be safe and effective. The purported link between vaccines and autism has been debunked. The paper that made this claim was retracted due to fraudulent research and the researcher, Andrew Wakefield, lost his medical license. Yet the vaccine-autism myth continues to spread.

Getting the recommended doses of vaccines at the CDC’s recommended time is important to protect against infectious diseases that are still threats today and that can be especially serious for infants, very young children, and many older adults. Suggesting otherwise is playing fast and loose with our nation’s public health and the health of its most vulnerable citizens.

Older adults can play an influential role in increasing the immunity of their family members and social circles, particularly those who are vulnerable to infectious disease or who are too young to receive vaccinations themselves, by making sure their own vaccinations are up to date. They can also inject a dose of reality into the myth-driven debates around vaccines and lead their families by example.

As for our candidates for office, one can hope they heed the words of their long-ago predecessor, President John Adams, “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”

Susan Peschin is president and CEO of the Alliance for Aging Research. This article represents her personal views, not those of the alliance; her title and affiliation are provided for identification purposes only.

  • As soon as I saw you are taking the CDC’s schedule for vaccines, this was over lol. They admitted they did absolutely no studies on vaccinated children to not vaccinated children, they did not test the MMR the same way they do with other drugs or vaccines.

  • susan,

    it is a fact the CDC conducted mutliple vaccine – brain injury studies where causation was found. the CDC spent years covering up their findings by watering down their data sets.

    one such example is the 2014 CDC whistleblower who stated statistical significance was found in a major study in the southern US, near the Atlanta, Georgia area. in addition, he submitted sworn testimony to congress that his supervisors ordered to destruction of files and data related to their findings of causation.

    An Oct 19th update here: http://www.ecowatch.com/cdc-vaccines-autism-2051536402.html

    In addition, in a separate major study involving 400,000 children in the northwest US, CDC scientists also found causation of vaccines and brain damage, and spent several years afterwards diluting their findings so that no such associations were published:

    Dr. Verstraeten [CDC], pg. 40: “…we have found statistically significant relationships between the exposure and outcomes for these different exposures and outcomes. First, for two months of age, an unspecified developmental delay, which has its own specific ICD9 code. Exposure at three months of age, Tics. Exposure at six months of age, an attention deficit disorder. Exposure at one, three and six months of age, language and speech delays which are two separate ICD9 codes. Exposures at one, three and six months of age, the entire category of neurodevelopmental delays, which includes all of these plus a number of other disorders

    Dr. Verstraeten [CDC], pg. 44: “Now for speech delays, which is the largest single disorder in this category of neurologic delays. The results are a suggestion of a trend with a small dip. The overall test for trend is highly statistically significant above one.”

    Dr. Verstraeten [CDC], pg. 76: “What I have done here, I am putting into the model instead of mercury, a number of antigens that the children received, and what do we get? Not surprisingly, we get very similar estimates as what we got for Thimerosal because every vaccine put in the equation has Thimerosal. So for speech and the other ones maybe it’s not so significant, but for the overall group it is also significant….Here we have the same thing, but instead of number of antigens, number of shots. Just the number of vaccinations given to a child, which is also for nearly all of them significantly related.”

    Dr. Guess, pg. 77: “So this essentially is a 7% risk per antigen, an antigen is like in DPT you’ve got three antigens.”

    Dr. Verstraeten [CDC], pg. 77: “Correct.”

    Dr. Egan, pg. 77: “Could you do this calculation for aluminum?”

    Dr. Verstraeten [CDC], pg. 77: “I did it for aluminum…Actually the results were almost identical to ethylmercury because the amount of aluminum goes along almost exactly with the mercury one.”

  • We don’t have a vaccine for EBV or CMV and these are carried by and easily transmitted among the transgenders and people from LGBT community.

  • Susan Peschin, it is really unfortunate that we can not fire politicians who spread lies about vaccines! But it is still possible to sue those politicians who hide the truth about vaccines, and those media shills like you who keeps lying about tragic and even fatal results of baby and childhood vaccinations. And frankly, I think it is perfectly OK to kill or maim pediatricians who kill our children or disable them for life just so that they can make moneyfor themselves and pharmaceutical companies. You forgot to mention that Pharma and pediatricians have no liability for millions of vaccine injuries. But you do – for spreading lies. I hope with all my heart that no child or grandchild of yours escapes that terrible fate – getting seizures, cancer, autism, or even dies as a result of vaccines. You will never dare to lie again!

  • I wholeheartedly agree about the value and importance of vaccines. But we don’t have a mechanism to fire politicians that incite racism or gender bias or even encourage violence, either. Sadly, that’s left to the political process. The response has to be social and political. The content of the article suggests you agree, but the title goes the other way, so I thought it’s worth saying.

    And yes. Politicians should know better than to irresponsibly speak in ways that can increase risks of disease outbreaks.

  • This is pretty much an opinion piece, totally evidence-free.

    If you are actually interested in vaccine safety, start by reading the vaccinepapers.org site from beginning to end. It lays out the overwhelming case that aluminum-adjuvanted vaccines are a major driver for brain damage and the autism epidemic, and includes hundreds of free full-text peer-reviewed studies that it quotes.

    Then read Robert F Kennedy Jr’s book Thimerosal, which includes hundreds of peer-reviewed studies on mercury toxicity, and documents the CDC’s cover-up.

    Then read Dr James Lyons-Weiler’s posts. He has read 3,000 studies about the causes of autism. In particular, try this post: https://jameslyonsweiler.com/2016/03/27/you-know-nothing-about-autism-john-snow/

    Finally, watch some of the youtube videos on the hearthiswell channel ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WsLuR3X6cpg&list=PLJpPObXpZncOfT0bG2ghgkVb2Nxjd_bNe ). Watch them until you cry, as you realize what we’ve done to hundreds of thousands of our kids.

    And do go see the movie Vaxxed, so you understand even more vividly how the CDC learned that there is a correlation between vaccines and autism, covered it up, and lied to us.

    If you are concerned that we’ll have thousands of kids dying if we don’t vaccinate, studies show that the mortality rate to expect will be close to zero. In other words, we don’t need vaccines. For more detail, read the book Dissolving Illusions, which discusses the history of vaccination and infectious disease. For example, the British city of Leicester did not use mass vaccination, and had the lowest smallpox mortality rates of any city, dramatically lower than with mass vaccination programs.

  • The issue is not about the efficacy of vaccines but rather about political issues, i.e., will how I vote on or support vaccinations for children help or hurt me to get re-elected? If you polled politicians, they have most likely had their children vaccinated. But this issue is not about their children or grandchildren. It is about getting re-elected. Until those who vote start choosing politicians who have intelligence and strong character, who are devoted to public service rather than their bank account, the public will get that for which they voted. Why do you think Trump “loves the poorly educated”?

  • Seriously one-sided article. You should be so lucky not to have experienced severe vaccine reaction. No one is saying anything false. Vaccines have risks, and where there is risk, there must be choice.

    • Im vaccinated and I’m also against vaccinating. It should be my choice whether to vaccinate or not. People who are for vaccinations are only doing what’s told to them they’re not looking at all the evidence and research that’s out there, they’re ignoring vaccine injured stories, if vaccines are so safe why is there a law preventing vaccine manufacturers and doctors from being liable if there is an injury? You can’t sue them. Kids who are vaccinated spread disease from shedding which can last from weeks to months. Vaccine coverage doesn’t last long either.

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