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Amid Measles Outbreak, Physicians Groups Urge Vaccination

By / Feb 11, 2015 (iStock/Thinkstock)

To prevent the spread of measles and other diseases, the American College of Physicians and American College of Emergency Physicians urged parents to keep their children up to date on vaccines.

While the debate rages on about the benefits and risks of having one’s children vaccinated, the recent measles outbreak has led two physician associations to speak up on the issue.

As of February 6, there were 121 confirmed measles cases in 17 states and Washington, DC, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That total is on pace to surpass the 644 cases in 2014, the largest number since the disease was declared eliminated in the U.S. in 2000. The agency said that the vast majority of this year’s cases began at the Disneyland theme parks in Southern California. CDC said outbreaks of the disease occur when it reaches a community in the U.S. where groups of people are unvaccinated.

Citing public health concerns, the American College of Physicians and the American College of Emergency Physicians last week released separate statements urging vaccination.

“The scientific evidence clearly supports the benefit of the MMR [measles, mumps, rubella] vaccine and the lack of any association with autism,” ACP President David A. Fleming said in the association’s statement. “Physicians have a duty to provide the best care for their patients, as well as to protect the public health. At the same time, the profession has a duty to advocate based on accurate scientific data. Patient/parent autonomy is not absolute when it has the potential to compromise both individual and public health. Thus, we urge all Americans to embrace the sound preventive medicine practice of both routine pediatric and adult immunizations.”

ACEP said the country’s emergency rooms  are on the lookout for measles symptoms.

“ACEP has notified all of its members to be on alert to identify measles cases,” said Michael Gerardi, MD, FACEP, president of ACEP.  “As is typical in the winter, we see many patients with fevers–some have flu and this year, some will have measles.  We are equipped to identify, isolate and treat measles patients and provide valuable information to the relevant health agencies.”

ACEP also emphasized the importance of immunizations. “Vaccinations are essential to decreasing the risks of serious diseases and infections, like the measles,” said Gerardi. “These vaccines not only help keep children safer and healthier, but they also help stop the spread of deadly, preventable diseases.”

Not all medical groups share that view. The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons said it opposes mandatory vaccination.

“We should ask why some parents reject MMR (measles-mumps-rubella vaccine),” AAPS executive director Jane M. Orient said in a statement. One reason is moral, the other is concern that vaccines may cause autism, she said. “Many factors may well contribute [to autism], but it is not unreasonable to suspect that MMR is one of them.”

The American Medical Association’s Code of Medical Ethics contains an “Informed Consent” clause that supports parents’ rights to refuse vaccination. But AMA supports CDC’s policy on vaccinations and vaccine recommendations, saying in an AMA Wire blog post that “all reputable scientific studies have found no relationship between the vaccine and autism.”

“Measles is so contagious that if one person has the disease, most people who are close to that person and who are not immune will also become infected,” AMA stated in the post. “While any serious injury or death caused by vaccines is one too many, the benefits of vaccination greatly outweigh the risk, and many more injuries and deaths would occur without vaccines.”

Rob Stott

Rob Stott is a contributing editor for Associations Now. More »

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