Which Vaccines Are the Most Essential?

California continues to be a hotbed of anti-vaccine activity after a set of laws were passed in recent years to rein-in the unnecessary use of exemptions to vaccine requirements. This week, a group of anti-vaccine protesters met outside the home of the Governor of California to protest the implementation of these laws. As the rally continued, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, partner Governor Newsom, met with the protesters to talk to them.

The Los Angeles Times reports:

In a video taken Monday, Siebel Newsom is seen talking with the protesters about the vaccine laws signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom last year before she asks that they not post the video online.

“I think there needs to be more conversation around spreading out vaccines, around only giving children the vaccines that are most essential,” Siebel Newsom says in a portion of the short video posted on the Facebook page of one of the protesters.

Before that comment, Siebel Newsom said the head of the California Health and Human Services Agency, Dr. Mark Ghaly, who oversees the public health department tasked with implementing the new laws, is “talking to integrative and functional medicine doctors who understand this.” A spokesman for the governor said the laws signed by Newsom last year are the official position of the administration.

Unfortunately for Ms. Siebel Newsom, the video was posted even after she requested that the group not post the video so social media.

So which vaccines are “most essential” for children in California and the United States?

In the United States, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) is a committee tasked with giving recommendations on which vaccines should be given to which groups of children. Serving on that committee is a diverse group of scientists, policymakers and members of the public. They take the best evidence on the safety and efficacy of vaccines, the epidemiology of the diseases the vaccines are meant to prevent and the current levels of immunization in the different populations they’re observing. Then they make recommendations on vaccine practices. For the most part, federal, state and local public health authorities and health care providers follow these recommendations and place these vaccines on the recommended schedule.

Because of these discussions, there are vaccines that are currently licensed for use in the United States but are not routinely given to children:

As you can see, not all licensed vaccines are on the schedule to be given to children in the United States. This is because there are effective control measures that keep these diseases out of the country or — if they are introduced — they are contained quickly through different measures. There used to be a time when vaccines like the smallpox vaccine, typhoid fever vaccine or the BCG vaccine were used in the United States. But advances in public health and a decrease in the probability of outbreaks from them have removed them from the schedule.

The discussion which vaccines are necessary and when to give them is already happening at least twice a year by ACIP. State and local health officials also discuss the recommendations as they are the final arbiters on which vaccines to give. This is something that is widely denied by anti-vaccine groups and activists, but there is ample evidence like the transcripts of ACIP meetings and the Vaccine Information Statements from CDC that show the evidence for the need of the current vaccines being administered to children and adults in the United States.

Author: René F. Najera, DrPH

I am the editor of the History of Vaccines site, an online project by the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. All opinions expressed on these blog posts are not necessarily those of the College or any of my employers. Check out my professional profile on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/renenajera Feel free to follow me on Twitter: @EpiRen