Dear Colleagues:

 

We are in the midst of an upsurge in measles in the US, thanks largely to the dedicated misinformation efforts of the anti-vaccine movement. I wonder if we could learn from the history of polio vaccination as we try to fight the rise in vaccine hesitancy in this country. A little local history from here in Cincinnati might help. On April 24, 1960, Albert Sabin participated in the initial rollout of the oral polio vaccine he had developed at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital on the first “Sabin Sunday.” He was surprised at the huge lines of parents bringing their children in for his vaccine, and by the end of the day more than 20,000 local children had received the vaccine. Vaccine uptake eventually became so universal that polio was eradicated from the Western hemisphere and from most of the world. What is different now? I think one major factor is that severe disease from measles does not seem real to most Americans, and very few have seen it affect themselves or their neighbors. In the case of polio, there was great fear of the crippling effects that could result from the infection, and this fear plus perhaps a healthy respect for science led to enthusiastic vaccine uptake. It seems that right now our communities could use a healthy dose of fear of the infectious diseases that our vaccines can now prevent, along with real education about vaccine safety to counteract misinformation from the anti-vaxxers. One of our key missions at PIDS is to promote vaccine uptake in order to save the lives of children, and as a society we stand firmly against non-medical vaccine exemptions. Let’s help think of ways to also educate our communities about the seriousness of vaccine-preventable diseases, as we seek always to build trust in the safety and efficacy of vaccines.

 

Peace,     

Dr. Paul Spearman

PIDS Board President