Dr. Peter Hotez, a distinguished pediatrician-scientist who works in Texas, where he develops vaccines for poverty-related neglected diseases and neglected tropical diseases, a Professor of Pediatrics and Molecular Virology & Microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine where he is also Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine and the American Academy of Arts Sciences was verbally attacked by a member of the legislature when he warned about the importance of obtaining vaccinations to prevent measles and the dire consequences of failing to do so. The situation developed into problems involving the safety of Dr. Hotez and his family. Internet sites published threatening materials, letter writing campaigns were organized challenging his recommendations and accusing him of offering his opinions for self-serving reasons and for obtaining profits, all of which are untrue.
Statement by the Committee of Concerned Scientists of Support for Dr. Peter Hotez
The Committee of Concerned Scientists (CCS) issues this statement of support of Dr. Peter Hotez, who has been repeatedly attacked by organized antivaccine groups for advocating the use of the measles vaccine. These attacks threaten the safety of Dr. Hotez and his family, including his adult daughter with autism and intellectual disabilities. CCS hopes that, by issuing this statement, it can help avert further escalation of this situation.
Dr. Hotez is a distinguished pediatrician-scientist who works in Texas, where he develops vaccines for poverty-related neglected diseases and neglected tropical diseases. He is a Professor of Pediatrics and Molecular Virology & Microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine where he is also Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine. He is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine and the American Academy of Arts Sciences.
That Dr. Hotez has turned his attention to the need for universal measles vaccination is not surprising. As a result of vaccination, measles was eliminated from this nation in the year 2000. Gradually, as ever more people failed to get vaccinated or get their children vaccinated due to inaccurate information that was being disseminated by a variety of groups, the number of measles cases in America grew. In the first half of 2019, more than 1,000 cases of measles cases were recorded. The return of measles in America is not an accident – it has re-emerged because of declines in vaccine administration in several large urban areas, a consequence of organized, well-financed, and mostly unopposed anti-vaccine activities.
In 2016 Dr. Hotez first warned about the dangers of the antivaccine movement in America and the inevitability of measles returning in the absence of concerted public health efforts. In the Public Library of Science (PLOS) he wrote about the steep rise in the number of children in Texas not getting vaccinated because of parental fears that vaccines could cause autism1, and then warned about the national decline of anti-measles vaccination in The New York Times2. As it happens, Dr. Hotez is the parent of an adult daughter with autism and intellectual disabilities; he and his family made this information public in order to be as credible as possible in the eyes of families with autistic children who oppose vaccination. He wrote a book, published by Johns Hopkins University Press, titled Vaccines Did Not Cause Rachel’s Autism, which details the evidence showing vaccines don’t cause autism, and how autism begins in early pregnancy due to the action of genes involved in early fetal brain formation3. Dr. Hotez then wrote again in PLOS about the hotspot areas where measles might erupt4. So far, measles has erupted in about one-half of the urban areas he and colleagues had identified5.
When Dr. Hotez opposed the antivaccine movement, correcting its inaccurate messages and warning of their public-health consequences, he often stood alone. In response, the leaders of the antivaccine movement aggressively targeted both Dr. Hotez and his family on internet sites, in social media posts and emails, and in letter-writing campaigns. They attempted to discredit him by alleging that he received funds for his neglected-disease vaccines. These accusations are simply untrue. As reported in The New York Times, Washington Post, and several Texas newspapers, he was attacked on social media by an elected State Representative in Texas6.
Such allegations are escalating to the point where they affect his well-being and the well-being of his family. Moreover, the attacks on Dr. Hotez are unacceptable attacks on science and constitute efforts to damage the work of scientists and of those who work to protect the health of the public. It is for these reasons that we issue this statement of support. We call upon all those who care about the public’s health, about the integrity of science, and about the necessity to protect the ability of scientists to work in the interests of humanity, to support Dr. Hotez in his important and selfless efforts to protect the lives of all of the public.
- Hotez PJ (2016) Texas and Its Measles Epidemics. PLoS Med 13(10): e1002153.
- Hotez PJ (2017) How the anti-vaxxers are winning. The New York Times, February 8.
- Hotez PJ (2018) Vaccines Did Not Cause Rachel’s Autism: My Journey as a Vaccine Scientist, Pediatrician, and Autism Dad, Johns Hopkins University Press.
- Olive JK, Hotez PJ, Damania A, Nolan MS (2018) The state of the antivaccine movement in the United States: A focused examination of nonmedical exemptions in states and counties. PLoS Med 15(6): e1002578.
- Chodosh S (2019) Scientists predicted the current measles outbreaks a year ago. Popular Science, February 5.
- Interlandi J (NY Times Editorial Staff) (2019). When defending vaccines gets ugly. The New York Times, June 2.