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Responses to Media Stories

Response to The Los Angeles Times
[February 26, 2001]

Bob Berger
Editorial Page Editor
Los Angeles Times
202 W. 1st Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012-4105

Dear Mr. Berger:

Eric Hurwitz's recent commentary, "Parents Should Know Both the Benefits and Risks of Vaccinations" (January 30), asks whether vaccines pose a risk for our children, but answers this fair question with dangerously misleading information.

The author's claim that vaccines are not safe enough to require for all children is based on a patchwork of vague and circumstantial evidence. The evidence for vaccine safety, on the other hand, is clear. Vaccines are intended to be given to healthy children to prevent serious infectious diseases; therefore, they are held to the highest standards of safety. Each vaccine undergoes rigorous evaluations at virtually every stage of development - from laboratory studies in animals to extensive clinical research with the people for whom they are ultimately intended. The FDA approval process, which takes 10 to 15 years, is designed specifically to ensure that vaccines are evaluated for both safety and effectiveness. Moreover, vaccines are getting safer all the time thanks to advancements in medical research and ongoing review by doctors, researchers, statisticians, and public health officials.

Vaccines have nearly eliminated common childhood diseases such as polio, measles, and Hib meningitis that formerly caused hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries every year. Since not all countries employ widespread immunization, serious infectious diseases are only a plane ride away, meaning that increasing globalization heightens the risk of infection for U.S. children.

Although vaccines are not entirely risk-free - no medical product is - our children's chance of being harmed by vaccine-preventable diseases is far greater than their chance of being harmed by vaccines.

Bruce Gellin, MD, MPH
Executive Director
The National Network for Immunization Information

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