Few people were pleased and many were stunned and just a bit nauseated to learn last month that President Trump had tapped the notorious false expert and anti-vaccine activist, Robert Kennedy, Jr., to chair a White House commission on “vaccination safety and scientific integrity.” While allowing Kennedy to serve in this position is akin to letting the fox guard the henhouse, it should be noted that the President himself has revealed his own dangerously misinformed notions about vaccines many times before and again now, after his election. It should also be noted that the Administration later denied that such a commission would be formed or that Kennedy would lead it. So which is it? What’s true here? You decide.

But one thing you don’t have to decide on is whether parents should avoid, split up, or otherwise refuse vaccines for their children. With real, not “alternative” facts on their side, the American Academy of Pediatrics and 350 other American health and medical organizations sent a letter to the President this week imploring him to embrace the science which overwhelmingly supports the safety and efficacy of vaccines:

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.

 

The numbers highlighting the success of immunizations and vaccine programs don’t lie:

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.1 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.

 

While the letter is just over one page long, the document in full is 28 pages because these organizations, which work to protect and enhance the public’s health, felt the President should have easy access to the scientific consensus that vaccines, given completely and on time, are safe. It  should surprise no one that science, fact-based evidence, and common sense have made vaccines the standard of modern medical care:

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.

 

Then, before the document hits the bottom of some important person’s trash can, the letter ends:

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.

 

We live in interesting times. Dangerous times. If the last few weeks are any indication, it’s going to be a wild and bumpy ride. It’s advisable that parents brace themselves and do all they can to protect their children. That includes immunizing them without delay against all the dreadful and deadly infections which caused so much suffering and heartbreak in times gone by but today can be easily prevented with simple, well-studied, globally utilized vaccines. Take it from the real experts who are your pediatricians and not the false experts named Robert Kennedy, Jr. and Donald Trump.

 

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