The Trump administration has prohibited the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from using the phrases, “science-based” and “evidence-based,” from its lexicon, a decision that can hardly help the agency carry out its mission to protect America from health, safety and security threats, both foreign and domestic. The CDC needs to ignore the ill-advised, politically-motivated instruction and continue its critical messaging to the public.
It’s daunting enough as it is to cut through the flood of information available to people today — a good deal of which can be inaccurate, unverifiable or intentionally false. So, to get its message heard, the CDC can use help from academics to reach over political and ideological divides to do just that. To advance critical vaccination programs, for example, the public needs access to the objective, evidence-based science that supports them.
Take the case of measles: Measles was eliminated in 2000 but outbreaks are anticipated as more parents refuse or delay vaccinations due to personal beliefs or the misguided idea that the disease no longer poses a threat. That threat, by the way, is real: If vaccination rates drop to 88 percent — below the 90 to 95 percent needed to achieve herd immunity — a total of 150 children may well contract measles each year, putting them at risk for pneumonia, hearing loss, and brain damage and costing government health programs an estimated 2 million dollars.
The MMR vaccine — to prevent measles, mumps and rubella — is safe and about 97 percent effective. Even so, the rate of parents opting out of the vaccination program has been increasing. In New Jersey, that number grew from 1,641 in the 2005-06 academic year to 8,977 in the 2013-14 year. (These are the most recent figures available).
New Jersey lawmakers have tried to make religious exemption rules to vaccination stricter, but any laws changing exemption requirements have failed to pass. Misinformation on the Internet, fueled by none other than the sitting president and unverified studies on vaccines cause some people to believe that vaccines do more harm than good.
The rise in parents choosing not to vaccinate their children has caused the American Medical Association grave concern, with many experts decrying the rise of so-called “exemptions of convenience.” In some areas, nearly one out of five children have not received their recommended vaccines. The consequences are serious not only for those unprotected children, but for the rest of society as well. As more and more parents “free ride” off of the community’s dwindling immunity, outbreaks of diseases that were thought to have been conquered have already occurred.
It’s not just vaccinating against childhood diseases, however. Flu presents another challenge significant enough to have Dr. Brian Strom, the chancellor of Rutgers University’s Biomedical and Health Sciences, issue this statement recently:
“You may have heard…