Vaccine-Preventable Diseases

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‘Anti-vaxxers’: A menace to public health

‘Anti-vaxxers’: A menace to public health
Infectious Disease News, February 2017
Marjorie P. Pollack, MD; Donald Kaye, MD, MACP

Vaccines have been a wonderful addition to the medical armamentarium and have made major inroads in reducing morbidity and mortality due to infectious diseases. They have been the mainstay of effective public health prevention activities. That said, no vaccine is perfect, both in terms of vaccine efficacy and safety; no vaccine has demonstrated 100% efficacy, and there are certainly negative effects experienced by some vaccine recipients with all vaccines. The latter observation — negative effects — has led to a movement of parents refusing to vaccinate their children based on perceived risks of the vaccines along with a lack of sufficient perceived benefit. This movement is particularly strong in certain communities in the Western United States.

From the public health perspective (and that of the clinical infectious disease world and pediatric practices), the anti-vaccination movement (aka “the anti-vaxxers” or, to be more politically correct, “vaccine hesitators”) is a key deterrent to the control and elimination of vaccine-preventable diseases. In fact, the movement has been responsible for unacceptable morbidity and mortality worldwide.

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