Vaccination of our children and population is one, if not the most important life-saving public health interventions of the past century. Through vaccination, we have virtually eradicated many diseases like smallpox and polio. What would happen if we stopped vaccinating our children? These diseases would return.
As an example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently confirmed 764 cases of measles in 2019 - the highest it's been in 25 years. Why? In part, because parents are being swayed by misinformation and are choosing not to vaccinate. While many parents and other advocates argue for right of choice around vaccination, it is important to realize the risk these unvaccinated children play in their communities as they transmit these communicable diseases to others.
Just last week a story aired on a local television news broadcast covering the anti-vaccination movement in the regional area. A WVU faculty physician appeared in that story supporting the anti-vaccine movement.
It is important to clarify that West Virginia University is strongly committed to the ideals of free thought and speech, and our governing principle is to resolve differences through open discussion, thoughtful debate and rigorous scientific inquiry.
I also want you to know that West Virginia University and its Health Sciences schools support evidence-based vaccination of children and adults as supported by every governing health body of children and of our population. This coalition includes more than 60 organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the Infectious Diseases Society of America, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and the American College of Physicians. Vaccinations may be the single most important health intervention we perform for our patients, their families and our community to save lives and eradicate communicable diseases.
We strongly endorse the latest recommendations from the CDC on adult and pediatric immunizations. We believe these evidence-based recommendations provide the best practices for maintaining and improving the health of our population. We advocate to our patients, and teach our students, to follow the immunization schedules recommended by the CDC.
Controlling preventable illnesses through immunization is one area of public health in which West Virginia is a national model for success. Other states are using West Virginia's experience and immunization laws as a model to better protect the safety of their people.
On the question of the safety and efficacy of vaccines, WVU relies upon the evidence generated over the millions of vaccines given yearly and by experts in the fields of infectious diseases, pediatrics and other medical specialties, on our campus and elsewhere, who have studied vaccinations and their effect on people. Their recommendations have shaped our teaching and policies and will continue to do so.
We’ve created two brochures that provide evidence-based facts about vaccinations and answer common questions (links below). I encourage you to circulate these with your faculty, staff, students and patients.
Clay Marsh, M.D.
Vice President and Executive Dean
WVU Health Sciences