Press Room

Health Officials Alarmed by Declining U.S. Vaccination Rates, Country Could Face Scenario Like Europe's Measles Outbreak

ARLINGTON, VA (Oct. 25, 2018)—The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) is concerned about the latest skepticism and resistance originating from the anti-vaccination movement, especially as we enter another deadly flu season. Health officials are alarmed that this pushback may put our country at risk for significant infectious disease outbreaks and their related health consequences, including death, because of declining vaccination rates.

“Vaccines prevent diseases,” says Nicole Alexander-Scott, ASTHO president and director of the Rhode Island Department of Health. “It is absolutely paramount that public health and healthcare professionals across the nation join together to share the facts about the safety and efficacy of vaccines. The health concerns that parents have over the risks of vaccination need to be addressed with compassion and with care, but also with facts so that informed decisions can be made, and so that people can protect themselves and their loved ones from dangerous, vaccine-preventable diseases.”

Last year’s flu season was one of the deadliest in years, with a record-breaking estimated 960,000 hospitalizations and nearly 80,000 deaths in the United States. “It is unconscionable to see a child or adult suffer from any vaccine-preventable disease because an individual decides against immunization based on bad information and unsupported claims,” says Michael Fraser, CEO of ASTHO. “Parents with vaccination concerns should consult a healthcare provider, as they have spent years in training to understand the science behind vaccines and have seen countless studies proving they are safe.”

There are some risks associated with vaccines, but they are not what the anti-vaccination movement claims. “The false science being spread erodes trust in the public health system. Clearly, the anti-vaccination movement is taking advantage of the current climate of government distrust and the trend toward believing political statements over scientific ones to question vaccine safety. At a time when investments in public health resources have been declining, recent reports from CDC about declining vaccination rates in the United States and a widespread measles outbreak in Europe should be of great concern to all Americans,” continues Fraser.

“What’s really unsafe here are the cuts to public health programs that support vaccine education and immunization nationwide,” says Claire Hannan, executive director of the Association of Immunization Managers. “Our members see the disease outbreaks. They see the devastating impact of decisions not to vaccinate. There is no question that their benefits exponentially outweigh any risks associated with their administration. Let’s get real: we didn’t make great advances in life expectancy and disease elimination without vaccines. It’s not even a question.”


ASTHO is the national nonprofit organization representing the public health agencies of the United States, the U.S. territories and freely associated states, and the District of Columbia, as well as the more than 100,000 public health professionals these agencies employ. ASTHO members, the chief health officials of these jurisdictions, are dedicated to formulating and influencing sound public health policy and to ensuring excellence in public health practice.