One Thing Congress Agrees On: Vaccines Work

They said lawmakers should support the use of vaccines

From left, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., chairman Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., at a HELP hearing. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A bipartisan group of lawmakers are stressing the need to highlight benefits of vaccines amid reports of local outbreaks of infectious diseases.

“The science is clear: FDA-licensed vaccines are proven to be safe and effective, and save the lives both of those who receive them and vulnerable individuals around them,” the lawmakers wrote in a Tuesday letter sent to their colleagues. “As Members of Congress, we have a critical role to play in supporting the availability and use of vaccines to protect Americans from deadly diseases.”

The leaders of each chamber’s health committees authored the letter, including Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and ranking member Patty Murray, D-Wash. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., and ranking member Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., and Health Subcommittee Chairman Michael Burgess, R-Texas, and ranking member Gene Green, D-Texas, also wrote the letter.

The letter comes amid what the lawmakers described as "increasing trends around the country that have led to lower vaccination rates in some communities.”

The debate over vaccines seeped into last year’s presidential campaign with President Donald Trump linking vaccine to autism in children, a theory that has been widely debunked.

Trump appeared to bring up the connection again at a Feb. 14 education meeting. 

“What’s going on with autism, when you look at the tremendous increases, it’s really — it’s such an incredible — is it really a horrible thing to watch the tremendous amount of increase. Do you have any idea?” Trump asked a special education principal. 

The principal replied with a statistic of the rate of autism diagnosis, and Trump replied, “Just amazing. Well, maybe we can do something.”

The Washington Post fact checker gave Trump’s claim that there has been an increase in autism "three Pinnocchios,” signaling it was not true. 

But the exchange was reminiscent of Trump’s earlier claims, and a reminder that he reportedly would ask Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a proponent of the theory that vaccines cause autism, to chair a vaccine commission. 

But the people in charge of health policy on Capitol Hill are presenting a united front on the benefits of vaccines.

The lawmakers came together, writing in no uncertain terms, “Vaccines save lives.“ 

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