Here's a fun game: See how many false and/or misleading statements you can find in the letter I received from Senator Dianne Feinstein this morning. I honestly don't think I've seen so much ignorance on vaccines - not to mention basic civil rights - packed into such a small space.
I wonder whether her mischaracterization of the Wakefield study is "deliberate."
On the plus side though, she appreciates knowing of my concerns, and will "be sure to keep (my) thoughts in mind as Congress considers legislation regarding vaccination." That's got to be worth something, right?
Here's the letter.
Dear Ms. Shaffer:
Thank you for your letter regarding vaccination. I appreciate hearing from you, and I welcome the opportunity to respond.
I understand that you believe that parents who do not wish to vaccinate their children should be able to obtain an exemption from school requirements that all children be immunized against diseases like measles, mumps, rubella, and polio. As a mother and a grandmother, I appreciate the concern of parents who seek to make the safest decisions for their children, but personal beliefs about vaccines should not supersede public safety and the need to protect against these serious and potentially deadly diseases.
Scientific studies have conclusively and repeatedly found that vaccines are safe for the overwhelming majority of children. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), severe allergic reactions occur in less than 1 in one million doses of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine. Other severe problems such as deafness, long-term seizures, and brain damage have occurred so infrequently that the CDC has been unable to determine that they are caused by vaccines.
Before vaccination became widespread in the United States, tens of thousands of children were seriously disabled or died each year as a result of diseases such as smallpox, measles and polio. These diseases are highly contagious and dangerous. For example, according to the CDC, 28 percent of children younger than the age of 5 who contracted measles in the United States between 2001 and 2013 had to be hospitalized. Measles can cause pneumonia, lifelong brain damage, deafness, and death.
Measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases can also be devastating to unimmunized children, such as infants who are too young to be immunized and children who are medically unable to be vaccinated because of cancer treatment or a weakened immune system.
I recently joined Senator Barbara Boxer in sending a letter to California Health and Human Services Secretary Diana Dooley asking that she reconsider California's policy on vaccine exemptions. In addition, Senator Boxer and I have introduced legislation that would require all children in federally-funded Head Start programs to be fully vaccinated.
I understand that many parents are also concerned that vaccines may cause autism. This claim was published in 1998, in an article in the Lancet, a British medical journal. The researcher who authored the article was later found to have deliberately falsified data to produce a fraudulent link, after receiving compensation from lawyers representing clients engaged in lawsuits against vaccine manufacturers. After an investigation, the article was fully retracted, and the researcher's medical license was revoked. Subsequent research on vaccines has repeatedly shown there to be no link with autism. Most recently, a review of 67 studies on vaccine side effects published in Pediatrics, a peer-reviewed journal published by the American Academy of Pediatricians, concluded "there is strong evidence that MMR vaccine is not associated with autism."
While we may disagree on this issue, please know that I appreciate knowing of your concerns, and I will be sure to keep your thoughts in mind as Congress considers legislation regarding vaccination. We share the goal of making the best decisions for the health and safety of American children, and I value your sincere concern on this matter.
Once again, thank you for writing. Should you have any further comments or questions, please do not hesitate to contact my Washington, D.C., office at (202) 224-3841. Best regards.
United States Senator
Further information about my position on issues of concern to California and the nation are available at my website, feinstein.senate.gov. And please visit my YouTube, Facebook and Twitter for more ways to communicate with me.