As news swirled this month that CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald would resign as the nation’s top vaccine and epidemiology official amid mounting controversies related to vaccine safety, physician nurse and mother Erin O’Toole joined Washington Post-owned Newsweek in an editorial detailing the dangers of anti-vaccine groups and resulting health concerns. She also condemned Fitzgerald’s disgraceful silence and leadership on the issue, saying, “The matter is serious — serious enough to justify her stepping down.”
Newsweek suggested that Fitzgerald’s resignation will do little to control the “injury and damage” caused by anti-vaccine groups. In reality, Fitzgerald’s resignation, along with the forced steps taken by the CDC to rein in unscientific and false information from the anti-vaccine movement, has made a watershed moment in the safety of vaccinations. The CDC, acting responsibly and swiftly, is taking action to ensure that accurate vaccine information is given to parents. But O’Toole did not stop there in her editorial. Instead, she reminded the CDC that it is also responsible for defending against reports of serious side effects and disease after vaccination.
Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University, tweeted on Nov. 21 that if the CDC has any concerns about a vaccine for pneumonia or measles, Fitzgerald’s decision to step down ought to be a benchmark for other leaders. He pointed out that if management suffers from this level of dissension within the agency, this evidence ought to motivate them to “to resign in the interests of the public.”
Anti-vaccine groups, to their credit, do not hesitate to play politics, as the recent anti-CDC letter sent to national news outlets attests.
Newsweek rightly took the opportunity to point out, however, that the anti-vaccine movement does not speak for the vast majority of Americans.
Time will tell whether Fitzgerald’s successor will uphold the CDC’s duty to protect the health of our nation.
Taylor Aylsworth, M.D., is a physician and the assistant editor in chief of Newsweek.