e w s R e l e a s e
Release: April 4, 2000
Colleen Ryan, Porter Novelli 202/973-5800
Professionals Urge Parents, Policy-Makers
Not to Lose Sight of Immunization’s Successes
Disproving Link Between Vaccine and Autism
Submitted to April 6 Congressional Hearing
the U.S. prepares to commemorate National Infant
Immunization Week (April 16-22), health professionals are
urging parents and doctors to ensure that all children are
protected by immunizations. The scientific evidence shows
that immunizations are one of the most important things
parents can do to protect their children from serious
infectious diseases, according to the National
Network for Immunization Information (NNii).
to immunization, highly contagious illnesses such as measles
and pertussis (whooping cough), which used to be a common
part of childhood, are now relatively rare in this country.
Only a decade ago, the U.S. experienced a decline in the use
of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine which led to
a tragic resurgence of measles—resulting in more than
55,000 cases and 125 deaths, according to the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As a result of
redoubled immunization efforts, only 86 cases of measles
were reported in the U.S. last year.
the pertussis vaccine became available in the 1940s, the
disease was a major cause of childhood deaths in the U.S.,
with more than 200,000 cases reported annually. Today,
thanks to the vaccine, incidence has decreased by more than
98 percent, to an average of about 3,700 cases per year,
according to the CDC. Among non-immunized children around
the world, pertussis still remains a major threat—killing
an estimated 300,000 children worldwide annually.
it is true that no vaccine is 100 percent safe, overall,
immunization has an outstanding safety record. Vaccines are
extremely safe, and as a result of medical research and
ongoing review by experts in infectious disease, they are
getting safer and more effective all the time.
despite immunization’s success and safety record, stories
about real and perceived side effects of vaccines are
causing some parents and policy-makers to question the
country’s commitment to immunization. The House Government
Reform Committee held a hearing on April 6 to examine
increased rates of autism, including an unsubstantiated link
between autism and vaccines, such as the MMR vaccine.
Because autism is usually diagnosed in children when they
are 18 to 30 months old, shortly after children receive many
recommended immunizations, some parents may attribute the
emerging symptoms of autism to the administration of a
fact, the best evidence demonstrates that autism results
from complex genetic factors and therefore originates prior
to birth, not afterward.