At the beginning of the year, a major global controversy was settled when it turned out that a study published in The Lancet in 1998 linking the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine to autism in children turned out to be a whopper of a fraud.
But despite the exposure of the study’s author — and outbreaks of preventable diseases among children in the United States and Europe, thanks to parents who opted to have their kids vaccinated — it appears that sowing fear of childhood vaccines still appears to have some currency.
Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann decided to try and spend a bit of that currency in a debate last month when she criticized Texas Gov. Rick Perry for mandating the human papillomavirus vaccine for girls in his state, later claiming that a woman had approached her and said the vaccine caused her daughter to develop mental retardation. In contrast with the millions who bought Wakefield’s fraudulent research, Bachmann drew ridicule from voices on the left and the right. Merck, which makes Gardasil (human papillomavirus quadrivalent [types 6, 11, 16 and 18] vaccine, recombinant), responded by saying that the vaccine’s safety and efficacy were supported by clinical trials. Meanwhile, American Academy of Pediatrics president O. Marion Burton said Bachmann’s statement was “false” and had “absolutely no scientific validity.”
Meanwhile, vaccinations of children against a wide range of diseases have risen dramatically in recent years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “2010 National Immunization Survey,” of the 17,000 households that participated, immunizations of children born between 2007 and 2009 against measles, mumps, rubella, rotavirus, hepatitis A, pneumococcal disease and Haemophilus influenzae type B were at 90% or more. In addition, vaccinations against polio, chickenpox and hepatitis B remained at or above 90%.
Also, immunization rates did not differ between racial and ethnic groups for most vaccines, and thanks to recent increases in coverage among minority children, levels for most vaccines in other racial and ethnic groups were similar to or higher than those among white children, though large disparities between racial and ethnic groups have remained with other health services.
Some holes in vaccination rates have nevertheless persisted. According to research by the CDC, 115 people ages 18 years and younger died from influenza-related causes between September 2010 and August 2011. According to the research, information about influenza vaccination was available for 74 of those children ages 6 months and older; 17 (23%) received influenza vaccine in the appropriate number of doses at least 14 days before illness onset. The CDC recommends that everybody ages 6 months and older be vaccinated against the flu, a recommendation that has been in place since 2008.