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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Columbia: Opinion Piece by Dean Linda Fried On the Urgent Public Health Crisis That Needs Our Attention Now

An opinion piece by Columbia University Mailman School Dean Linda P. Fried was recently published in the New York Daily News, calling on policymakers to pass crucial legislation that is before the New York State Senate and Assembly before the session ends this month – an important step towards protecting vulnerable children across the country from the current measles outbreak.

The overwhelming majority of the 1,022 measles cases reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 28 states since last September have occurred in New York State, where the outbreak is largely linked to parents who have chosen not to vaccinate their children against the disease.  We should not take this outbreak lightly or believe there is an easy medical fix.

In our state, more than 50 patients, mostly children, have been hospitalized, with some landing in intensive care units. In some cases, measles can be fatal for infants, pregnant women, and persons with otherwise weak immune systems.

There is an overwhelming body of evidence that vaccines, including the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine (MMR), are safe and effective. Unfortunately, many parents have been led to believe otherwise by anti-vaccine campaigners who have spread misinformation about vaccines through social media, handbooks, and hotlines.

The only way to stop the outbreak is to make sure more children are vaccinated against measles. In New York, policymakers must pass critical legislation to eliminate non-medical exemptions from childhood vaccination requirements, including requirements for MMR. Vaccine exemptions should only be permitted when a healthcare practitioner determines that the vaccine would be medically inappropriate for the patient. The current overuse of non-medical exceptions is jeopardizing public health.

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