HHS Secretary Alex Azar said today that a measles outbreak had infected at least 704 people, the highest number recorded in 25 years, and praised President Donald Trump for urging U.S. parents to vaccinate their children after years of stating that vaccines cause autism.
Azar said Trump’s statements during the 2016 campaign linking vaccination to autism were based on a “debate about this issue but it’s been settled. The scientific community generated definitive information so we can reassure every parent there is no link.”
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“The president is very clear that children should get their shots, that parents should make sure they are up to date,” Azar told reporters on a call. “Most of us have never seen these devastating diseases and that’s how we want to keep it. They belong in the history books and not in our emergency rooms.”
Scientists immediately challenged the 1998 paper linking the measles, mumps and rubella, or MMR, vaccine to autism, and it was retracted by the journal that published it in 2010. But Trump repeated the claim during his campaign and met with its author, the British gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield.
The outbreak has led to the hospitalization of 66 people, most of them children.
Meanwhile, public health officials reported some progress in the measles fight as its traditional season in the Western Hemisphere comes to an end. An outbreak in Washington state ended after a total of 72 cases, said Nancy Messonnier, director of CDC’s immunization center, while cases in some Orthodox Jewish communities in Brooklyn and upstate New York continue.
“The longer they continue the greater the chance measles will get a foothold in the U.S.,” she said, noting it costs public health authorities an average of $32,000 per case to control measles’ spread.