Posted on September 9, 2020
“The true miracle of modern medicine is vaccines, which can prevent humans from acquiring the disease at all. That is why today in all 50 states and the District of Columbia schoolchildren are required to take vaccinations for diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, measles, rubella, and chicken pox before entering school. The vaccination will protect the child from getting the disease, which in turn prevents the child from infecting someone else – a pattern that has caused these diseases eventually to disappear.” — Senator Lamar Alexander
WASHINGTON, September 9, 2020 — Senate health committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today said “an FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine is the way to stop more deaths, while the unpleasant alternative is to let the epidemic run its course until everyone is either killed or recovered,” during this morning’s committee hearing on the role of vaccines in preventing infectious disease outbreaks and protecting public health.
“What is new about dealing with epidemics is modern medicine, including the ability to diagnose the disease and then to create treatments to make it easier to recover,” Alexander continued. “But the true miracle of modern medicine is vaccines, which can prevent humans from acquiring the disease at all.”
“That is why today in all 50 states and the District of Columbia schoolchildren are required to take vaccinations for diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, measles, rubella, and chicken pox before entering school. The vaccination will protect the child from getting the disease, which in turn prevents the child from infecting someone else – a pattern that has caused these diseases eventually to disappear,” Alexander said.
The purpose of today’s Senate health committee hearing—“Vaccines: Saving Lives, Ensuring Confidence, and Protecting Public Health”—is to explore the remarkable progression science is making toward a COVID-19 vaccine, to remind parents to have their children get their childhood vaccinations, and encourage as many Americans as possible to get the flu vaccine this fall.
“Some people incorrectly believe ‘warp speed’ means cutting corners,” Alexander continued. “But it refers to the extraordinary investment in research, development, and manufacturing scale-up for a COVID-19 vaccine. Perhaps most significantly, the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority has taken the unprecedented step to help speed up manufacturing for hundreds of millions of doses of vaccines early in the process by buying these doses in advance so they can be ready to distribute as soon as the new vaccines are approved by the FDA.”
Alexander noted that despite the speed with which scientists are developing a COVID-19 vaccine, Dr. Stephen Hahn, the Commissioner of the FDA, said the agency is not skimping on its review of safety and efficacy: “This is going to be a science, medicine, data decision. This is not going to be a political decision,” Dr. Hahn has said.
Alexander then addressed three questions that Americans have about vaccines: 1. Are they safe; 2. Are they effective; and 3. Is the doctor’s office safe during the COVID-19 pandemic?
1. “Vaccines are reviewed and approved by the FDA. FDA can either license a vaccine or authorize a vaccine for use during a public health emergency—and the FDA’s stringent approval process is the gold standard for the rest of the world,” Alexander said. “The vaccines that are routinely given to children are specifically recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, an outside group of experts that looks at all available scientific information about each vaccine. Medical associations like the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians work with ACIP to develop these recommendations.”
2. “Polio was one of the most dreaded childhood diseases of the 20th century,” Alexander continued. “Following introduction of [polio] vaccines, the number of polio cases fell rapidly to less than 100 in the 1960s and fewer than 10 in the 1970s according to the CDC. Thanks to a successful vaccination program, the United States has been polio-free since 1979.”
3. “The pandemic has made some parents leery of the doctors’ office,” Alexander concluded. “For parents who are worried about taking their children to the doctor during the pandemic, AAP says pediatricians are working to ensure their offices are as safe as possible for children to visit. According to the AAP’s Dr. Sean O’Leary, ‘Medical offices are among the safest places you can be right now given the really extensive measures they’ve taken to prevent spread of COVID-19 both to themselves and their patients. Parents shouldn’t be afraid to go to their doctor.’”
Read Chairman Alexander’s full prepared opening statement here.