immunizations…the truth

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Falsehood flies, and truth comes limping after it, so that when men come to be undeceived,

it is too late; the jest is over, and the tale hath had its effect…Jonathan Swift

Walking back an interview is nearly impossible. The damage is done and the views expressed cannot easily explained away, even by the best public relations people. When the content of the interview potentially affects the health and welfare of millions, the messenger needs to be certain that the message is true. Sadly, there is an issue with the newly appointed head of the Milwaukee Health Department, Patricia McManus who put doubt into the safety of childhood immunizations by saying that “…the science is still out and families are going to have to make their own (decisions)” on the link between autism and some childhood vaccines. She walked back her comments during subsequent interviews, saying that she “is not going anywhere telling people not to get immunized.” But the damage is done.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of health, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family practice all recommend immunization to prevent childhood diseases and refer to dozens of studies that confirm the safety of immunizations, including specific studies that show no link between MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) immunization and autism.

McManus, who has a doctorate in public health, is quoted in the Milwaukee Journal: “you give people information, but you don’t just drill it in and…this is what you have to do. I just don’t tell people what they have to do because they’re going to make those decisions anyway.”

There is a difference between a doctor’s visit and a public health statement. When a doctor, patient and family have a discussion about the pros and cons of any diagnosis, test or treatment, hopefully there is consensus based on information that all parties bring to the table and questions are asked and answered. However, as the director of public health in a major US city, it is McManus’ job is to tell people what to do. We want clear messaging that is consistent, supported by available research.

  • Tobacco causes cancer, heart attack and stroke.
  • Drunk drivers are deadly
  • Immunizations prevent disease and suffering

Childhood immunizations work. Smallpox is extinct and no longer kills millions. Polio is almost eradicated due to aggressive worldwide immunization efforts sponsored by the UN, The Gates Foundation and Rotary International. Cervical cancer is able to be prevented. And yet, fear began when a study published years ago, was found to be inaccurate with faulty data collection. The message was that a relationship between immunization and autism might exist. That study was retracted and further major studies involving millions of children found that immunizations were safe.

Patricia McManus has done a disservice to the public health effort, not only in Milwaukee but nationwide. Those who have a predisposition to fear the medical establishment will seize upon her comments and continue to espouse them. Her comments cannot be erased, she cannot pretend that she did not say them. She and the Milwaukee Health Department need to step up and work to keep childhood immunization a priority and minimize the damage that she has caused.

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