Immunizations have saved millions of people from terrible illnesses, suffering and even death. Assuring our children are protected from vaccine-preventable diseases is at the core of our work at the Effingham County Health Department, and a critical step toward protecting the public’s health.
This is why I am very concerned about the damaging myths and misconceptions about vaccine safety that may be perpetuated on the debut episode of ABC’s new legal drama, “Eli Stone,” that aired Jan. 31.
In this episode, the lawyer Eli Stone sues a vaccine manufacturer on behalf of the mother of an autistic child, claiming a vaccine preservative caused the autism. Although this is a work of fiction, it’s important to acknowledge that the information presented is not based in truth. Numerous studies have investigated any possible link between the preservative thimerosal and autism, and scientific data overwhelmingly confirms that no connection exists between vaccines and autism. In fact, since the preservative was largely removed from childhood vaccines in 2001, autism rates have not declined.
Many reputable organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, asked ABC to pull the episode, concerned the broadcast of this show may lead some parents to refuse vaccinations for their children. This recently occurred in Britain, when a decline in the percentage of children receiving the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine resulted in an outbreak. Many children were hospitalized and some died.
Here is the simple truth: vaccines save lives every day. If any parent has questions or concerns about immunizations, we urge them to talk with their child’s pediatrician or health care provider, call the Effingham County Health Department at 754-6484 or visit www.cdc.gov for more information about vaccine safety.
Diane Z. Weems MD
Chief Medical Officer
Coastal Health District