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To the Editors,
Vaccines are among the safest and most effective ways to prevent disease. Mass adoption of vaccines has been one of the primary drivers of increased life expectancy. Unfortunately, Ms. Liza Greve’s “Parental rights advocate addresses vaccine cartoon” (May 11, 2019) is a combination of false and dangerous misinformation not based in science.
There is a strong consensus in the medical community that vaccines are safe and that children and adults should be immunized according to the recommended CDC schedule. Parents who choose to delay or use an alternate vaccine schedule put their children and others at risk of contracting vaccine preventable diseases. As a physician, I prioritize the safety of patients — particularly infants too young to be immunized — the elderly and the immunocompromised.
Vaccines are one of the most thoroughly tested medical products available in the United States. Many new vaccines are tested against placebo controls, but it is highly unethical to do so when there are available vaccines that have been carefully studied and tested in controlled studies and clinical trials. No institutional review board — the research ethics committees that clear clinical trials — would ever approve of any study that would intentionally place the placebo group at risk of contracting a vaccine preventable disease.
Ms. Greve would have you believe that the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act protects pharmaceutical companies and doctors from being held accountable for injuries and deaths caused by vaccines. Far from it. The Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) may be the first remedy for individuals who believe they have been injured by a vaccine, but it is not the only available venue. If the vaccine court denies a claim, the case can be appealed, and if that fails, the plaintiff can take it to civil court. In addition, the burden of proof is so low that it does not require any proof that an injury was directly related to a vaccine.
Since 1988, more than 20,629 petitions have been filed with the NCIV program. During that time, 17,875 petitions have been adjudicated, with 6,551 (36.6 percent) of those determined compensable. In approximately 70 percent of all compensated cases, the vaccine was not determined to have caused the injury. Total compensation paid over the life of the program is approximately $4.1 billion. On average, for every 1 million doses of vaccine that are distributed, one individual is compensated.
Scientists ensure the safety of vaccines by conducting different types of studies conducted both before and after a vaccine is made available to the public. A list of vaccine safety publications is readily available on the CDC website. In addition, no published scientific evidence shows any benefit in separating the combination MMR vaccine into three individual shots.
We should not downplay or discount the fact that vaccines do come with risks, as do all medical procedures. However, years of research have shown that vaccines are safe and effective. Severe side effects are extremely rare, and the benefits of immunization far outweigh the risk.
Dr. Savannah Stumph, DO, FAAP