WASHINGTON, DC— A bipartisan group of Senate and House health committee leaders today sent colleagues a letter to highlight the importance of immunizations, saying: “Vaccines save lives.”
“The introduction of vaccines was a turning point in our country’s public health history. Vaccines led to the elimination of certain diseases, including polio and measles, from the United States,” write Senate health committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.), and Health Subcommittee Chairman Michael Burgess (R-Texas) and Ranking Member Gene Green (D-Texas).
“According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), before introduction of the polio vaccine in the United States, polio caused more than 16,000 cases of paralysis and nearly 2,000 deaths each year, on average. Similarly, before the introduction of the measles vaccine in 1963, almost all children got measles by the age of 15, with up to 4 million Americans infected each year, according to the CDC. Measles is a highly contagious, airborne virus that can cause serious respiratory illness and life-threatening complications in children, such as pneumonia, ear infections, and even lifelong brain damage or deafness. In 2000, as a result of a vaccine, the CDC declared measles to be eliminated in the United States,” they wrote in the letter to each of their Senate and House colleagues.
The letter concludes: “Vaccines are our first line of defense against infectious diseases, many of which have no treatment or can be life-threatening. As medical research continues to advance, and scientists discover new medical breakthroughs and cutting-edge ways to treat disease and save lives, it is critical to recognize the importance of protecting public health against vaccine-preventable diseases. 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. As Members of Congress, we have a critical role to play in supporting the availability and use of vaccines to protect Americans from deadly diseases.”
Read the full letter here.