Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in Seattle that vaccines do not cause autism and that everyone should embrace vaccinations.

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Measles would not be a problem if the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) voice carried the weight of people sounding off about vaccinations on Facebook.

That was the lament of Robert Redfield, director of the CDC, when asked about the measles outbreak in Washington. Redfield, a virologist, was in Seattle on Wednesday for a tour of the STD Clinic at Harborview Medical Center.

Redfield stressed that the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine does not cause autism or contain toxic chemicals, pushing back against the claims of those who refuse to have their children inoculated.

“We need to change the hearts and minds of people in this country to not leave science on the shelf,” Redfield said.

There were 159 confirmed cases of measles in 10 states from the start of the year through Feb. 21, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said Wednesday during a hearing before the House Energy and Commerce oversight committee in Washington, D.C. Washington state’s recent outbreak heavily contributed to that total.

As of Tuesday, there were 66 confirmed cases of measles in Washington state, only one of which was located outside of Clark County, according to the state Department of Health. Forty-seven of the Clark County cases were in children ranging in age from 1- to 10-years-old and 57 of the 65 were unimmunized, according to the county’s public-health department.

Messonnier was one of two federal health officials working on the outbreak who testified before a congressional panel Wednesday to make the case for the MMR vaccine as a safe way to avoid disease.

“I consider it really an irony that you have one of the most contagious viruses known to man juxtaposed against one of the most effective vaccines that we have and yet we don’t do, and have not done, what could be done, namely completely eliminate and eradicate this virus,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the committee.

Some vaccine critics who are apprehensive about having their children immunized still see the possible adverse effects from the MMR vaccine as outweighing the impacts of a disease that was eradicated in the United States in 2000, as evidenced by the debate currently ongoing in the state Legislature over eliminating the philosophical exemption for immunization.

Until communities with concentrations of people not vaccinated do get vaccinated there will be more outbreaks like what happened in Clark County, Redfield said.

“I believe in God,” he said. “I think science is a gift from God and we ought to be using them.”