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April 29, 2019
Contact: HHS Press Office
[email protected]

HHS Officials Highlight Safety and Effectiveness of Vaccines and National Infant Immunization Week

Statement from HHS Secretary Alex Azar

“This week is National Infant Immunization Week, which is an opportunity to celebrate lifesaving vaccines that protect our children.

“Unfortunately, because we are seeing significant outbreaks of measles across the country, it is also a more important opportunity than ever to remind Americans: Vaccinations are safe and have been proven time and again to be effective. I can personally testify to how important they are: As a parent, I ensured that all my kids were vaccinated according to the childhood schedule, and I recently received a recommended vaccine to prepare for some international travel.

“We have come a long way in fighting infectious diseases in America, but we risk backsliding and seeing our families, neighbors, and communities needlessly suffer from preventable diseases. This National Infant Immunization Week, all Americans should check to make sure that they and their loved ones are up to date with the CDC's recommended vaccine schedule, which provides guidelines for Americans of all ages and with specific health conditions. Especially if you have an infant, talk to your doctor about what vaccines are recommended. It’s one of the easiest ways to keep you, your family, and your community healthy.”

Statement from CDC Director Robert Redfield

“As CDC Director and as a physician, I have and continue to wholeheartedly advocate for infant immunization.  More importantly, as a father and grandfather I have ensured all of my children and grandchildren are vaccinated on the recommended schedule. Vaccines are safe. Vaccines do not cause autism. Vaccine-preventable diseases are dangerous.

“More than 94% of parents vaccinate their children to protect them from the harmful effects of measles and other vaccine- preventable diseases. CDC is working to reach the small percentage of vaccine-hesitant individuals so they too understand the importance of vaccines. It is imperative that we correct misinformation and reassure fearful parents so they protect their children from illnesses with long-lasting health impacts.  Roughly 1.3 percent, or 100,000 children, in this country under the age of two have not been vaccinated making them vulnerable to the current measles outbreak.

“I call upon healthcare providers to encourage parents, and expectant parents, to vaccinate their children for their own protection and to avoid the spread of vaccine-preventable diseases within their families and communities.  We must join together as a Nation to once again eliminate measles and prevent future disease outbreaks.”

Statement from FDA Acting Commissioner Ned Sharpless

“As we head into National Infant Immunization week, I want to take the opportunity to underscore the public health importance of immunizations. One of my priorities at FDA is to continue to support the agency’s efforts to reinforce the rigorous and robust process we use to ensure the safety and effectiveness of vaccines that prevent infectious diseases like influenza and measles.

"I’m horrified by the current outbreaks of measles – a disease we thought we had eliminated in the United States in 2000. With a vaccine that is highly effective, this life-threatening infection is now making a tragic comeback, in part because of vaccine avoidance. And, unfortunately, measles is not the only disease that is threatening to make a resurgence. The best way to prevent such diseases is to vaccinate against them. I want to reassure the American public that these vaccines have been determined to be safe and effective and dispel the continued misconception that they are associated with the development of autism. We remain dedicated to continuing our important work alongside our federal, state, and local partners to monitor the safety and effectiveness of our current vaccines, encourage vaccinations against preventable diseases, and support the development of novel vaccines to address emerging threats to public health.”

Statement from Assistant Secretary of Health Brett Giroir

“As a pediatric critical care physician who has treated critically ill children suffering from vaccine preventable diseases, I know first-hand the devastation to the child – and to the family and community – of a death or severe brain damage that could have been avoided by a simple vaccination.  The cornerstone of public health, vaccination, makes these dreaded diseases preventable. I want you to know that vaccines are highly effective and safe, with most serious side effects being exceptionally rare – and much less serious than contracting the actual disease.

“The U.S. government is committed to protecting the health, safety and security of the American public. We must continue to put science into action wherever and whenever we have the tools to confront and eliminate diseases. This includes increasing vaccination rates for both routine immunizations and seasonal influenza, continuing federally supported vaccination programs, and educating parents, grandparents, patients and healthcare providers on the importance, safety, and effectiveness of vaccines.”

Statement from Surgeon General Jerome Adams

“Vaccinations save lives, protect our children, and are one of the greatest public health achievements in U.S. history. Most parents choose to protect their children with these safe, proven vaccines. However, because some parents delayed or refused vaccination for their children, we are now seeing a large, very concerning, outbreak of measles.

“Young children are at increased risk for infections because their immune systems have not yet matured. Vaccinating your baby according to the recommended immunization schedule provides the best protection against 14 serious childhood illnesses—including measles and whooping cough—before your child is 2 years old.

“As a parent, I have publicly talked about my family’s decision to protect my three children by getting them vaccinated. Unfortunately, there is inaccurate information circulating about vaccines, so let’s make sure we separate the facts from the myths. If you have any concerns or questions, talk to your child’s health care provider.”

Statement from NIAID Director Anthony Fauci

“Vaccines are essential for protecting children against infectious diseases such as measles, mumps, rubella and whooping cough.  Many of these diseases are largely forgotten in our country.  Before vaccines became available, however, these diseases exacted a huge toll.  For example, before the measles vaccine was licensed in 1963, the virus infected at least 2 million Americans a year, causing 500 deaths and 48,000 hospitalizations. 

“It may be upsetting for parents to see their babies or young children receive several vaccinations during a medical visit. However, these shots are necessary for protection from multiple dangerous—and sometimes deadly—diseases. Vaccinations typically cause only mild side effects, such as redness or swelling at the injection site; serious side effects are very rare. The public health benefits of vaccination far outweigh the possible side effects.

“When children are vaccinated, their immune systems develop infection-fighting antibodies to protect them from contracting the targeted disease if they are exposed to it later in life. The full course of recommended childhood vaccinations, largely completed for most children by age 6, not only protects the vaccinated child but also contributes to a larger umbrella of protection known as “herd immunity.” By doing so, it helps prevent the spread of disease to those who cannot be vaccinated, including newborns who are too young to be vaccinated, and people with compromised immune systems, who cannot effectively develop antibodies to fend off disease.

“Many diseases against which children in the United States are immunized are rare in this country because of mass vaccination programs. However, these diseases are still found in other parts of the world and can be reintroduced into the United States by travelers, and then spread within our communities among people who have not been vaccinated. The current resurgence of measles, a highly contagious and potentially deadly disease that was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000, is a painful reminder of the need for vaccination.   

“Parents and caregivers, please vaccinate your children to protect them, as well as friends, family, and community members who cannot be vaccinated.”  

Note: All HHS press releases, fact sheets and other news materials are available at https://www.hhs.gov/news.
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Last revised: April 29, 2019

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