Parents continually struggle to sort out the avalanche of information about vaccine safety. It has been estimated that for every reputable scientific vaccine Web site, there are three from non-reputable sources. Ever since the now debunked Wakefield study linked the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and autism, families have been fearful about vaccines, and public figures, like Jenny McCarthy, who speak about the evils of childhood vaccines receive much publicity on TV and in news reports. Although many families will ask for their healthcare provider’s advice about the safety of a particular vaccine, information about thimerosal or the timing and number of vaccines recommended, there are many who listen to friends and family members, or read articles that cause them to question vaccine safety.
Although there have been myriad scientific articles refuting a link between vaccines and autism or other adverse reactions, some families continue to believe that vaccines are unsafe. When court cases are settled in favor of injured children, families think that this means that the vaccines have, in fact, caused an injury, autism or some other chronic condition. When Lancet retracted the Wakefield study and denounced the claims made in the article and the doctor who made them, families were interviewed to determine if this information made them feel better about vaccine safety. Vaccine-hesitant families continued to hold onto their beliefs and found other information to counter vaccine-safety claims.
The National Vaccine Injury Act has helped protect against unfounded claims of vaccine-caused injury. Prior to the implementation of this act, vaccine manufacturers often discontinued vaccine production and curtailed new vaccine research because of liability costs. Additionally, the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, a national tracking mechanism, is an accurate way to identify problems with a particular vaccine and an instrumental tool for ensuring that the vaccines in use are safe.