Doctors: Public Needs to Know Vaccines Are Safe

A new coalition of 22 major medical groups says public confidence in vaccine safety needs to be restored to avoid risks for deadly disease outbreaks.

Thursday's message comes from the Chicago-based American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and 20 more of the nation's most influential health-related groups.

Their concern stems from recent measles outbreaks in several U.S. cities. Last month, health officials said 131 children had gotten the measles so far this year — the highest number in more than a decade. Nearly half of the cases involved children whose parents rejected vaccination and many of the cases were traced to outbreaks overseas.

"The ongoing measles outbreaks in several states are testimony that those who forgo vaccinations are vulnerable to infection from imported disease, and can pose a significant health risk for their communities," said AMA board member Dr. Ardis Hoven, an infectious disease specialist.

Recent government data show that more than 77 percent of U.S. toddlers have gotten all their recommended shots. The doctor groups said that means about one-fourth of toddlers aren't getting the shots they need.

The alliance said public health officials need to counteract campaigns by advocacy groups who believe vaccines can cause autism, despite scientific evidence to the contrary.

"We do not want to become a nation of people who are vulnerable to diseases that are deadly or that can have serious complications, especially if those diseases can be prevented," Dr. Renee Jenkins, the American Academy of Pediatrics' president, said in a statement.

The alliance suggests several ways to boost confidence in vaccines, including urging the government to create a public information campaign, and calling for more vaccine research.