03.05.19

Chairman Alexander: The Science Is Sound, Vaccines Save Lives

Says there is a lot of misleading and incorrect information about vaccines that circulates online

 “Vaccines are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and meet the FDA’s gold standard of safety. There is nothing secret about any of this science.  It is important for those who have questions about vaccines, especially parents, to speak with a reputable health care provider. As with many topics, just because you found it on the internet doesn’t make it true.”—Sen. Lamar Alexander

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 5, 2019– Senate health committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today said, “The science is sound: Vaccines save lives – the lives of those who receive vaccines and the lives of those who are too young or vulnerable to be immunized.”

“We know that some Americans are hesitant about vaccines, so today I want to stress the importance of vaccines: Not only has the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found them to be safe, but vaccines also save lives,” Alexander said. “Vaccines have been so successful that, until recently, Americans have lived without fear of getting measles, polio, or rubella. We have made significant strides in improving vaccination rates. In 2009, about 44 percent of Americans had received vaccines for seven preventable diseases: Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis, Polio, Measles, Mumps, and Rubella, Haempophilus, influenza Type b, Hepatitis B, Chickenpox, and Pneumococcal, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. … Today, over 70 percent of Americans are vaccinated against all seven of these diseases. Vaccines protect not only those who have been vaccinated, but the larger community.”

“There is a lot of misleading and incorrect information about vaccines that circulates online, including through social media,” Alexander continued. “Here is what I want parents in Tennessee, in Washington, in Texas, everywhere in our country to know: Vaccines are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and meet the FDA’s gold standard of safety. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices makes recommendations on the use of vaccines in the United States and annual child and adult vaccine schedules. There is nothing secret about any of this science. Countless studies show that vaccines are safe. It is important for those who have questions about vaccines, especially parents, to speak with a reputable health care provider. As with many topics, just because you found it on the internet doesn’t make it true.”

Alexander also told the story of the Senate Majority Leader’s own personal experience contracting polio before vaccines were available: “It was not that long ago that, as a boy, I remember the terror in the hearts of parents that their children might contract polio and my classmates in iron lungs.  The Majority Leader, Senator McConnell, contracted polio when he was young. His mother took him to Warm Springs, because that is where President Roosevelt received treatment for polio. Fortunately, because of her dedication, Leader McConnell is able to walk today, but thousands of others were not as lucky. Following the introduction of a vaccine in 1955, polio was eliminated in the United States in 1979, and since then, from every country in the world except for three. Polio is just one of the diseases we have eradicated in the United States thanks to vaccines.”

 Alexander made his remarks today at a hearing on vaccine-preventable diseases, ongoing outbreaks that pose a significant risk to public health, and the importance of immunizations. Dr. Jonathan McCullers, Professor and Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center and Pediatrician-in-Chief at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, testified at the hearing. Last month, Senate health committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) sent a bipartisan letter with Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash) to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Health and Human Services (HHS) Assistant Secretary for Health asking about efforts to promote vaccination and vaccine confidence as multiple states face outbreaks of measles in communities with low vaccination rates.

The Senate health committee held a hearing on the re-emergence of vaccine-preventable diseases on February 10, 2015.

You can read Alexander’s full prepared remarks here.

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