A Response to Your Petition on Vaccines
The evidence about vaccines' safety and benefits is both strong and consistent -- but don't just take our word for it. We reached out to the U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy -- the Nation's Doctor -- who wanted to respond to you personally on this issue.
Here's what he had to say:
We all want our children to be safe and healthy, and nothing is more important than that -- and the United States currently has the safest, most effective vaccine supply in its history.
When it comes to laws regarding vaccines, there are two important things to keep in mind.
First, states and localities determine these kinds of vaccine requirements and exemption policies.
Right now, all states require children to be vaccinated against certain communicable diseases as a condition of school attendance, and there are some employers, such as health care facilities and day cares, that require vaccination to protect their employees as well as their customers (for example, hospitalized patients, people living in long-term health care facilities, and infants attending day care).
Second, the science is quite clear that vaccines are vital to our fight to quell and eventually eliminate highly contagious diseases. Vaccines undergo rigorous scientific study and testing for both safety and efficacy before they are approved for use. Following licensure and use among the U.S. population, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration continue to monitor vaccine safety and effectiveness.
Over the years, billions of people have received vaccines, which have, in turn, saved hundreds of millions of lives in the United States and around the world. For example, prior to the development of the measles vaccine, many children died in the United States as a result of measles and many more were hospitalized each year. After the introduction of the measles vaccine, the number of infections and deaths dropped precipitously.
While the vast majority of people in the United States get vaccinated, there are some communities where vaccination rates are low, and this can increase the risk for vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks. If we continue to see growing pockets of people who are not vaccinated, measles and other contagious diseases will regain a foothold in our country and spread.
Many of the most contagious illnesses can be prevented thanks to vaccines -- and as a result, one of the most important things people can do to protect themselves and their children is to get vaccinated.
It's also important to note that not vaccinating your children doesn't just affect your own kids. It affects your neighbors, your children's classmates, family members -- your community. Some people cannot get immunized for medical reasons (for example, due to an allergic reaction or compromised immune system), a small percentage of people won't develop immunity even though they receive a vaccine, and babies are too young for certain vaccines. These children and adults rely on the rest of us to be vaccinated in order to protect them from exposure to life-threatening illnesses. The recent death due to measles of a Washington state woman with a suppressed immune system illustrates the importance of immunizing as many people as possible to provide a high level of community protection against measles.
We encourage all parents to talk to their doctor or health care professional about vaccinating their children. There are cases in which some specific children will have a medical reason to delay or not get certain vaccines, and your doctor will be able to help guide you in these matters.
We all have a role to play. Vaccinations are one of the great triumphs of science and public policy, and we should make their benefits available to everyone.
As the Surgeon General makes clear, "Vaccines are safe and effective ways to prevent disease and death. They are necessary. They save lives."
And as the President himself said earlier this year, "There is every reason to get vaccinated, but there aren't reasons to not."
If you're concerned about your health, the science is clear: Vaccinate yourself and your children.
For more information about vaccination, please visit www.vaccines.gov.
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