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Posted By: Daniel Thibodeau, MHP, PA-C
April 26, 2019
The modern world was turned upside down in 1997 when researcher Andrew Wakefield suggested there was a direct correlation between the MMR (measles/mumps/rubella) vaccine and autism. Despite the researchers who were vociferous in their responses against Dr Wakefield and in defending their research, Dr Wakefield created a controversy regarding the vaccination of children. Since then, a widespread need to educate patients and parents about the usefulness of vaccines has taken place. In recent months, an outbreak of measles has occurred due to the lack of vaccinations and awareness of the disease. As of the writing of this article, 215 cases of measles have been confirmed in the state of New York alone, particularly in the lower Hudson Valley and parts of New York City, and a total of 555 cases have been confirmed nationwide. This is a consequence of the fear surrounding vaccines and the need to immunize citizens. There are detractors to this idea, and many cite issues and myths such as autism, high costs, high levels of poison within the vaccines, and even that they are not essential. The recent outbreak of measles will bring about a national discussion on the impact of such a disease that can spread rapidly throughout densely populated areas.
Vaccines do work, and they prevent outbreaks from happening. An info-gram created by Leon Farrant clearly presents the impact of how annual outbreaks could happen and how vaccines have prevented thousands of illnesses and deaths since they were implemented. This emphasis on getting people vaccinated shows how important it is to reduce the transmission rates of these harmful diseases. In addition, the controversy surrounding Dr Wakefield’s assertions more than 20 years ago are being refuted by the research and medical communities, and in some cases, are called out for potential ethics violations for his research and publications. While this issue seems to have no end, it has caused considerable harm and doubt among parents who may not be well informed about the value of immunizations. Physician assistants and nurse practitioners should educate patients and parents about the ramifications of not providing immunizations to children at the scheduled regimen. While everyone has the liberty to make their own choices, this is a public health concern for others. As practitioners, we must act appropriately and do our best by our patient population.
Vaccine infographic by Leon Farrant
- Avail Clinical Research. 5 popular vaccine myths debunked. www.availclinical.com/news/5-popular-vaccine-myths-debunked/. Accessed April 24, 2019.
- Evan D, Morris JS, Gonzalez AL. Data misuse and manipulation: teaching new scientists that fudging the data is bad. Ethics in Biology, Engineering and Medicine: An International Journal. 2015;6:1-16.
- Herper M. How vaccines have changed our world in one graphic. www.forbes.com/sites/matthewherper/2013/02/19/a-graphic-that-drives-home-how-vaccines-have-changed-our-world/#680370063302. Accessed April 24, 2019.
- New York State Department of Health. Measles. www.health.ny.gov/publications/2170/. Accessed April 24, 2019.
- Paules CI, Marsten HD, Fauci A. Measles in 2019 — going backward. www.nejm.org/doi/10.1056/NEJMp1905099. Accessed April 24, 2019.
- Wakefield AJ. Autism, inflammatory bowel disease, and MMR vaccine. Lancet. 1998;351:1356.