February 23, 2017

Congressional leaders push back against vaccine skeptics

Daily Briefing

    Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress have signed a "dear colleague" letter to members of Congress expressing support for vaccines.

    Conversations on vaccine safety and efficiency have resurfaced since January when President Trump took a meeting with Robert Kennedy, a proponent of the discredited theory that vaccines are linked with autism. Trump previously had supported the theory: In a 2015 Republican presidential primary debate, Trump said he knew of "many instances" in which infants received vaccines and then developed autism.

    Letter details

    In the letter, congressional leaders cited "increasing trends" in the United States that have resulted in decreased vaccination rates and an increase in infectious disease outbreaks.

    The lawmakers stressed the "importance of immunizations, which protect Americans, especially infants and children, against outbreaks of serious and deadly infectious diseases." They continued, "The science is clear: FDA-licensed vaccines are proven to be safe and effective, and save the lives both of those who receive them and vulnerable individuals around them."

    In the letter, the lawmakers stated that "members of Congress ... have a critical role to play in supporting the availability and use of vaccines to protect Americans from deadly diseases." They urged lawmakers to "consider the sound scientific information available, the public health challenges of disease outbreaks, and the successful examples of infectious disease prevention," adding, "Simply put, vaccines save lives."

    How vaccine supporters are fighting back against false claims

    The letter was signed by:

    • House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Greg Walden (R-Ore.);
    • House Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Frank Pallone (D-N.J.);
    • House Energy and Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Health Chair Michael Burgess (R-Texas);
    • House Energy and Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Health Ranking Member Gene Green (D-Texas);
    • Senate Health, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chair Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.); and
    • Senate HELP Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) (Hellmann, The Hill, 2/21; Owens, Axios, 2/21; Bowman, CQ News, 2/21 [subscription required]; Alexander et al., Letter to colleagues, 2/21).

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