How would you feel if your family physician refused to treat your child?
Right now, this is happening in the US. Physicians are refusing to see families that do not vaccinate their children. Doctors are acting in the spirit of public health – protecting the rest of the children in their practice from the potential transmission of vaccine preventable disease in their waiting areas and exam rooms.
This is just one battle of many being waged in “The Vaccine War.”
Vaccines are hailed as one of the greatest public health achievements of the last century – preventing, and practically eradicating, deadly diseases like diptheria and polio and contributing substantially to a longer, healthier life span. Despite the time, money, and research that goes into ensuring that vaccines are safe and effective – there are some parents hesitant to vaccinate and others that are refusing to vaccinate their children all together. When vaccine coverage drops below a certain percentage in the population we become vulnerable to outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases. Are we inviting these deadly diseases to return to our “safe” communities?
“Out of sight, out of mind,” right? Sure, it is easier to weigh the potential rare adverse effect of a vaccine as greater than that of the disease itself – if you, as a parent, have never seen the disease. In fact, most physicians currently graduating from medical school have not and likely will not see diseases like polio in their practice, that is, unless enough parents decline vaccination for their children.
The players in this war are the anti-vaccine movement and the pro-vaccine camp. The pro-vaccine camp, until recently, relied solely on scientific research as evidence to encourage parents to vaccinate their children, but now it is incorporating celebrities, personal stories, and social media campaigns to fight “fire with fire.”
In fact, last week (April 21 – 28, 2012) was National Infant Immunization Week, an effort by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to bring awareness to the importance of infant immunization with pro-vaccine advocacy tools.
So, what can you do? Public health professionals, concerned parents and citizens, can contribute to the Vaccine War by doing the following:
- Acknowledge and validate concerns about vaccines
- Rapidly refute misinformation
- Provide good information about immunization
-Ashley Williamson, Guest Blogger, UCBerkeley SPH Class of 2012
To Learn more about vaccines and the “vaccine war”: