This article about the June 2020 ACIP meeting was written by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA), who is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines, medical issues, social policy, and the law.
Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination. Additionally, Reiss is also a member of the Parent Advisory Board of Voices for Vaccines, a parent-led organization that supports and advocates for on-time vaccination and the reduction of vaccine-preventable disease.
During June 2020, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) held its second annual meeting for the year. Because we are in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, and traveling is challenging for many – including, I suspect, for several of the Committee members, not all of which live near Georgia – the meeting, like most conferences this year (those which were not canceled) was held virtually. The CDC still provided an opportunity for oral comment, though there were some logistical challenges with their new system.
The June 2020 ACIP meeting discussed meningococcal vaccines, influenza vaccines, and then had the opportunity for public comment. The entire afternoon was devoted to COVID-19 and COVID-19 vaccines.
As with previous meetings, ACIP is a geek’s dream meeting and everyone else’s – except the experts, and I suspect – hope – most experts are geeks – boredom feast. I learned a lot.
One of the most important lessons is that the committee takes vaccine safety very, very seriously. The other is that decisions on vaccines – like most policy decisions – are always made on incomplete knowledge. We never know everything. That is where expert judgment comes in. Incomplete knowledge does not mean there is not enough knowledge to assess benefits/risks, though any such assessment should be reassessed when new knowledge comes in.
Finally, it’s important to remember – and something the anti-vaccine observers of these meetings seem unaware of, but that doctors treating patients likely are not – that a decision not to use a vaccine is a decision with costs and risks – the costs and risks of the disease the vaccine prevents.
The choice is never between no risk and the vaccine because we don’t have vaccines unless a disease causes substantial mortality and morbidity. The choice is always whether, given the information, an informed decision can be made and which risks that information suggests are higher – those of the vaccine or those of not vaccinating.
Finally, my notes are over 14 pages of text for the June 2020 ACIP meeting, and that’s because my computer crashed at the end and I lost my last two pages of notes, which is really frustrating – and I have 153 screenshots of slides (yes, I am surprised too). I really want this post to be shorter. So I’m going to try and be very brief, and I’m happy to share my full notes, just email me at email@example.com. Continue reading “June 2020 ACIP meeting – meningococcal, influenza, COVID-19 vaccines”