To address growing concerns about the long-term health risks associated with the “anti-vaxxer” movement, the American Medical Association is asking social media and tech companies to step in and prevent messaging that may encourage parents not to vaccinate their children.
The American Medical Association (AMA) issued a letter this week to six top social media and technology companies, calling on them to ensure the information presented on social media about vaccinations is based on scientifically sound information.
The letter was issued to the CEOs of Amazon, Facebook, Google, Pinterest, Twitter, and YouTube, urging the companies to ensure users have access to accurate information regarding vaccines, indicating that the spread of misinformation regarding the safety of vaccines endangers the lives of all Americans.
Vaccine-preventable diseases, such as measles, are reemerging in the U.S. at an alarming rate, following concerns raised by some parents in recent years about the safety of vaccines, which has left a growing number of children not vaccinated about disease that have not been a health issue in the U.S. for decades.
Although measles was eradicated in the U.S. in 2000, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced this week that there have been at least 228 cases identified between January 1 and March 7, 2019. The problems appear to be linked to unvaccinated travelers go to other countries with unvaccinated populations and become infected, then bringing the disease back to the U.S.
The rise of the “anti-vaxxer” movement has been fueled by erroneous information that suggests the measles vaccine causes autism, leading to many children missing necessary vaccines. Evidence indicates vaccines are safe and do not cause autism. Additionally, critics of anti-vaxxers note that measles can kill, autism does not.
The recent AMA letter calls on the tech companies to ensure social media is a leading source of accurate information for American people, not a misleading one. Americans are turning to social media more for news coverage and the AMA thinks it should be a way consumers can make informed decisions and protect their families.
Recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration threatened to take action to reduce the risk of measles to the public. The FDA warned that too many states allow excessive vaccination exemptions and that must be curtailed to protect the health of the larger population.
When immunization rates are high, above 93%, others who aren’t vaccinated are protected through “herd immunity” and it results in fewer exposures to the disease. However, recently vaccination rates among young children have dipped below 70%.
When diseases are effectively eradicated, many people fail to understand the disease can return if vaccinations are not maintained. Reductions in vaccination coverage threaten to reverse years of progress focused on preventing diseases, the AMA warns.
“The overwhelming scientific evidence shows that vaccines are among the most effective and safest interventions to both prevent individual illness and protect public health,” wrote Dr. James L. Madara, CEO, Executive Vice President of the American Medical Association.