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Statement attributable to AOA President Thomas Ely, DO, and AOA CEO Kevin Klauer, DO, EJD:
CHICAGO—December 23, 2020—In a landmark effort that united the medical field, research community, pharmaceutical industry and government, a series of vaccines have been developed and approved by the FDA that will help prevent the further spread of COVID-19, reducing disease and death in our communities.
The American Osteopathic Association (AOA) without reservation encourages the use of these vaccines, and we remain ready to help administer and to educate the public about them. Many of the nation’s 151,000 osteopathic physicians and medical students are on the front lines of the COVID-19 response. We stand with them in their unwavering commitment and dedication to providing patients with evidence-based, high-quality patient care as well as accurate information about the efficacy and safety of these vaccines.
Vaccines are one of the greatest advances of modern medicine and enjoy a long and proven history of safety. All medications, including vaccinations, may have associated side-effects and/or complications. However, those associated with vaccines, fortunately, are uncommon and the vast majority are non-life-threatening and not serious.
The propagation of misinformation and exaggeration of unfounded concerns about vaccine safety in general, results in fear and poses a risk to individuals. It promotes non-vaccination, threatening personal and public health. These unfounded claims result from nothing more than associations of events, without a cause-and-effect relationship. In other words, just because it rains after you receive a vaccination, it does not mean that vaccinations cause changes in the weather.
Similarly, people who are vaccinated will have the same general medical conditions as those who are not. Thus, when someone develops a medical condition, such as autism, it is unconscionable to claim the vaccine was the cause. Extensive scientific evidence has irrefutably confirmed the safety and benefits of vaccination and has definitively debunked these myths.
The roots of this controversy date back to 1998, when Wakefield, et al. published an article in The Lancet, which claimed a link between the well-known MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) childhood vaccine and autism and colitis. This published study was fraught with inaccuracies, scientific misconduct, and falsification of results. Although the article was ultimately retracted in 2010, the damage had been done. MMR immunization rates reduced, which resulted in unnecessary infections, permanent complications and even deaths.
The anti-vaccine movement’s roots reside in this unethical research. Yet, misinformation is spread, and fear is enlisted to support the unsubstantiated claims that vaccines are not safe. Voices within this community often speak with authority about topics for which they have received no formal training and have no credibility or standing within the medical community.
We have already witnessed numerous inaccurate and illogical claims related to the COVID-19 vaccines and to the pandemic at large. Misinformation must be rejected, especially when it comes from those within the healthcare community, appearing to speak on behalf of the mainstream medical community. Sadly, there are physicians who are misleading the public in their opposition to vaccines. This will have consequences for our nation’s public health if you allow it.
As the healthcare community works to vaccinate frontline clinicians, there will be a limited number of reported adverse reactions, as there are with all vaccines. This is to be expected, but not feared. Particularly in the context of COVID-19, known to be responsible for nearly 80 million infections and over 1.7 million deaths worldwide, the risk-benefit analysis heavily favors vaccination. We encourage you to speak with your physician about any concerns you may have.
Unequivocally, the AOA supports routine and emergent immunizations. The development and distribution of vaccines has saved countless lives during the last century and mass vaccination will be one of the most effective tools to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Vaccination is a proven treatment that protects from illness, while also reducing the spread of disease to others.
Widespread adoption of COVID-19 vaccines will help this country emerge from this pandemic and public health crisis. The AOA encourages all members of the healthcare community and the public to seek credible resources, including guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Director of Media Relations, American Osteopathic Association
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