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The Accomplishments of Vaccinations Today

Aired September 3, 2001 - 11:23   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
COLLEEN MCEDWARDS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, many children are already back in school. School bells ring for just about everybody else tomorrow. But, before your child heads off to class, you need to make sure that his or her vaccinations are up to date, that's for sure.

For more on this, let's talk to Dr. Louis Sullivan, president of the Morehouse School of Medicine. He served as Secretary of Health and Human Services in the first Bush administration.

Dr. Sullivan, thanks for being here.

DR. LOUIS SULLIVAN, FORMER HHS SECRETARY: Good morning, Colleen, how are you?

MCEDWARDS: I'm well, thank you. We've actually got a list of some of the key vaccinations. I'm wondering if we can right to that, and start out by having you sort of walk-through us. Parents may want to grab a pen and paper to just make note of this. Some of the most important vaccinations that kids have got to get.

Let's start with DPT. Tell us about that.

SULLIVAN: Yes. DPT is a vaccine that protects against diphtheria, whooping cough and tetanus, or lock jaw. This is a very important vaccine because this is really one of the success stories of our public health service.

At the beginning of the 20th century, many children were ill or even died from these diseases. But with the introduction of vaccines first in the 20s, and 30s, and 40s, these diseases have been largely -- almost eliminated, with more than 95 percent reduction in the incidents of infections from these disorders. This is a great example of the advances of public health that we enjoy in America, and indeed in other developed countries around the world.

MCEDWARDS: Well, and dido, as you say for our next example, which is Polio. I imagine a lot of parents think, well there is no Polio in the United States. Maybe I don't have to vaccinate.

SULLIVAN: No, that's a mistake, because Polio still exists around the world. And because we are increasingly interdependent with other nations, with national travel occurring within 24 hours, you could have anyone from anyone in the world come to the United States. Should they be incubating the Polio virus, they could pass that on to children who are not immunized here.

I can tell you that as a medical student in the mid-50s, I took care of cases of Paralytic Polio and saw those who survived this condition often maimed because of paralysis or weakness. Really, this is a great example, again, of the introduction of vaccines, which has resulted in the virtual elimination of Polio from the United States. But it still exists around the world. Hopefully we will eliminate it from around the world, but until that happens, this vaccine is very important for parents to see that their children receive.

MCEDWARDS: All right. And then the last three we have to highlight here: Influenza B, or meningitis; MMR, measles, mumps, rubella; and hepatitis. Why are those so important as kids go back to school?

SULLIVAN: Well, let me give you an example, because, again, the vaccination story is a tremendous success story from public health service and from biomedical research. Prior to the introduction of measles vaccines for example, we had millions of children in America who would have this virus every year. Among those children who were infected, many of them -- a significant number, I should say, really had serious illness and died. But with the introduction of this vaccine, we had less than 100 cases of measles in the United States in the year 2000.

This is one of those instances where the incidents of infection has been reduced by more than 99 percent. The danger from measles is that you may develop a lung infection or even a spinal cord or brain infection, which could result in severe consequences and even death.

MCEDWARDS: Now, Dr. Sullivan...

SULLIVAN: But here...

MCEDWARDS: Sorry to interrupt. I want to address the issue of people's concerns before we run out of time. Because, a lot of parents are worried about side effects from vaccinations. There's been talk about whether or not vaccination are linked somehow to autism.

Can you tell us what the latest research is on that?

SULLIVAN: Yes. The Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences appointed a committee in the fall of 2000 to look at the question of autism. They issued a report in April of this year. This committee included internists, pediatricians, biomedical researchers, epidemiologists, many public health officials. They found no evidence whatsoever of autism being related to vaccination.

Rather the evidence of autism is a genetically-related condition. There is no evidence whatsoever of autism being a consequence of vaccination.

Vaccination represents one of the best investment in the health of our children, and the productivity of our country.

MCEDWARDS: Dr. Louis Sullivan, thank you so much for this information today. Appreciate it.

SULLIVAN: Thank you.

MCEDWARDS: All right. Dr. Louis Sullivan.

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