To watch the Senator’s questioning, click here.
WASHINGTON – Senator Maggie Hassan today joined Senators from both parties in highlighting the important role that vaccinations and immunization play in public health during a Health, Education, Labor and Pension (HELP) Committee hearing.
Senator Hassan kicked off her questioning by discussing how her grandfather, a pediatrician who began his practice in the 1920s, would describe the terrifying accounts of lockjaw from tetanus that he witnessed during his career and marvel at the advances in medicine that produced lifesaving vaccinations that rid the country of these types of disease.
Senator Hassan added, “I think it is incumbent upon all of us to remember these stories because a number of [the witnesses] made the point that without this experience of what these diseases actually do and mean we have gotten less vigilant as a society about the importance of this and the importance of vaccinations.”
Senator Hassan then questioned Dr. Saad Omer, a Professor of Epidemiology & Pediatrics at Emory University, about the importance of vaccinating pregnant women amid surging infant and maternal mortality rates in the United States.
“We know that these populations face a greater risk of complications due to the flu, including premature birth delivery, hospitalization, or – in severe cases – death,” Senator Hassan said. “But, astonishingly, only about half of women receive the flu vaccine during pregnancy. With infant mortality rates reaching startling numbers in the United States in recent years, it’s absolutely critical that we take these basic steps to help protect women and babies during pregnancy and childbirth. Dr. Omer, what do you think is the leading cause for the low number of vaccinated pregnant women? And what can we do moving forward to help improve these numbers, and keep mothers and babies safe?"
Dr. Omer stressed the importance of having meaningful conversations with expectant mothers who are not outright opposed to vaccinations – but simply need a nudge – and focus on creating evidence-based strategies to persuade these women to receive these potentially lifesaving vaccinations.
Senator Hassan also questioned Dr. Jonathan McCullers, a professor and Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at University of Tennessee Health Science Center, about how to implement best practices to ensure that parents are educated about the importance of vaccines.
“It’s interesting,” Dr. McCullers said. “Ten years ago there was one common reason and that was the fear of autism and these bad things, right now there’s really a polyglot of reasons. They have all sorts of different minor concerns that come up. So the most important thing for a pediatrician to do, or family practitioner or an OB, is listen, understand, respect what those concerns are because they are different for every person. And then really individualize how you’re going to approach that and what education you’re going to give.”
The United States is currently among the developed countries seeing an alarming increase in infectious diseases, including measles cases which have seen a 559 percent increase in the U.S. from 2017 to 2018. New Hampshire recently confirmed a measles case in a tourist who traveled by bus from Boston, MA to Manchester with the infection.