People should ignore anti-vaccination fliers – alleged to have come from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – that have shown up in children’s products at big box stores including Walmart and Target in southern Maine, state public health officials said Monday.

“Misleading fliers such as these are concerning – especially when that information pertains to something as important to public health as vaccines,” said Dr. Bruce Bates, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. “I encourage anyone who comes across one of these fliers to disregard it.”

The fliers were not issued or endorsed by the Maine CDC or federal CDC, officials said.

“They have been popping up at big box stores, like Walmart and Target, and have been placed on/inside children’s products,” said Emily Spencer, a spokeswoman for Maine CDC. It’s unknown how many fliers have circulated, but Spencer said the department has been notified periodically about the fliers as they are found.

The fliers appeared in the wake of a measles outbreak in the Pacific Northwest and consideration of a bill in the Maine Legislature that would end non-medical exemptions from childhood vaccinations. If approved, Maine would be the fourth state – following California, Mississippi and West Virginia – to ban all non-medical exemptions that allow parents to forgo school-required vaccines for their children.

Maine has one of the worst vaccination rates for children entering kindergarten in the nation, and the country’s highest rate of pertussis, a vaccine-preventable disease also known as whooping cough.

The fliers list several dozen “known side effects” of vaccinations, without listing any specific vaccine. The list is on pink paper with a dark yellow border, and says the source is “CDC.org” and it is a “package insert.”

“In the United States, vaccines are thoroughly tested and then continuously monitored to ensure ongoing safety. Immunizing yourself and your children will help protect you, them, and your community from contracting vaccine-preventable diseases,” the Maine CDC said in a statement.

In late January, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency after at least 44 people in Washington and Oregon fell ill with the very contagious measles virus, which was eradicated in the U.S. in 2000 as a result of immunization.

In Maine, current state law permits parents to skip vaccines for their children by signing a form opting out on philosophic and religious grounds. In the 2017-18 school year, 5 percent of Maine children entering kindergarten – about 600 children statewide – had non-medical exemptions for immunizations, state statistics show.

Thirty-one public elementary schools in Maine were reporting 15 percent or higher rates of unvaccinated kindergarten students, putting those schools and their surrounding communities at greater risk for the return of preventable diseases such as measles, chickenpox and pertussis.

In 2017, Maine had one case of measles, in a young adult who was not vaccinated.

State health officials said accurate information regarding vaccine side effects, which includes statistics on frequency of specific side effects associated with specific vaccines, is available at www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vac-gen/side-effects.htm, the federal CDC website.

 


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