The National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP) strongly opposes the anti-vaccination views presented in the film “Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe.” NAPNAP agrees with other healthcare providers and scientists that the film presents discredited, alarmist and potentially harmful information as fact. The film accuses the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of manipulating and destroying data used in an important study on the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, particularly associating the vaccine with autism.
“The claim that the MMR vaccine causes autism has been repeatedly proven false,” said NAPNAP President Laura Searcy MN, APRN, PPCNP-BC. “Despite an abundance of evidence that there is no correlation between the vaccine and autism, the story noted in the movie has unfortunately made a lasting impact. It is the responsibility of pediatric-focused advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) and colleagues to speak out against false information and educate patient families about vaccine safety and efficacy to prevent unnecessary and potentially fatal outbreaks.”
The film is written and directed by Andrew Wakefield, the discredited lead author of a 1998 paper published in The Lancet in which ostensibly 12 patients showed symptoms similar to autism shortly after receiving the MMR vaccine. Investigations by other researchers, the Sunday Times newspaper, British General Medical Council and The Lancet all variously found that Wakefield was guilty of serious ethical violations in both research conduct and medical practice on disabled children. He allegedly had plans for a commercial business venture that would profit from new medical tests and “litigation driven testing” that would be driven by concerned parents. Many of the article’s co-authors withdrew their names from the fraudulent paper, and in 2010 The Lancet officially retracted it, stating that the paper was “utterly false.” Wakefield’s U.K. medical license was revoked by Britain’s General Medical Council in 2010, and a British Administrative Court upheld the decision in 2015.
A 2004 scientific review by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) concluded that "the evidence favors rejection of a causal relationship between thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism." A 2011 IOM report on common childhood vaccines found the vaccines to be very safe. NAPNAP agrees with the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) and other providers that the science does not show a link between thimerosal in vaccines and autism.
“Not vaccinating children is dangerous for both an individual child and other children and their families,” said Searcy. “While cases of these diseases have dropped significantly during the last half century of vaccine usage, no medicine is 100 percent effective. Unvaccinated children can expose others to these diseases. One unvaccinated child can cause a significant outbreak like we saw in Disneyland in 2015.” An estimated 189 measles cases were reported by the CDC in 2015; 159 of those cases were linked to the Disneyland outbreak.
CDC data indicates that between 1967 and 2005, mumps, which can cause encephalitis, meningitis and sterility, decreased by 99 percent in the U.S. due to vaccines. MMR immunization has also led to a 99 percent eradication of measles in the U.S.; however, an estimated 20 million people around the world annually contract the disease with approximately 17 dying every hour. In our global society, it is critical that we continue to educate and vaccinate our children and their families to prevent these painful and potentially life-threatening diseases from afflicting U.S. citizens.
Given the evidence and resounding safety and efficacy data related to vaccines, NAPNAP reiterates its 2014 position statement on immunizations which supports “timely and complete immunization for all infants, children, adolescents and adults to maximize the health and well-being of all people.” While differing viewpoints are the hallmark of our society, using false or unreliable information on an important topic, such as childhood immunization, is negligent and detrimental to the population health of current and future generations of children and their families.