Anti-vaccine sentiment causing deaths, subjecting women to cervical cancer, expert says

03 December 2018

Eric Sagonowsky / FiercePharma

In recent years, the anti-vaccine movement has gained steam and attracted a growing number of headlines. Now, a vaccine expert says the movement is starting to result in its first deaths. 

Peter Hotez, who wrote a book about his daughter’s autism and who has been working to fight vaccine misinformation for years, singled out three diseases as particularly worrisome amid the growing anti-vaccine movement. In an interview with Hill.TV, Hotez said influenza, measles and cervical cancers are worsening in the U.S. because some are hesitant to be vaccinated. 

“The last flu season, in January and February of 2018, we had almost 200 children die of influenza,” he told the publication. “And more than 80% of those kids were not vaccinated despite recommendations. So, for the first time now we are seeing deaths because of this anti-vaccine movement.” 

As for measles, Hotez told Hill.TV it’s “often the first” outbreak seen in areas experiencing strong anti-vaccine sentiment. He cited a new outbreak in New Jersey and New York as evidence. Lastly, on cervical cancer, Hotez said many parents are deciding against HPV vaccination for their children due to safety concerns. 

“It’s so sad we’re subjecting a generation of girls and women to cervical cancer for totally phony reasons,” he said. 

Hotez has been a prominent voice against vaccine misinformation and last year said he was worried about about President Donald Trump’s rumored plan for a vaccine safety commission. That commission hasn’t come to fruition, but Hotez is still active in efforts to encourage vaccination and fight misinformation. He recently released a book discussing the issue and his own personal story. 

The expert serves as dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine and previously was a science envoy for the U.S. Department of State.

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