by Silviu “Silview” Costinescu
On May 9, 2016, in Atlanta, Georgia, the National Meningitis Association (www.nmaus.org) hosted a panel discussion, “Achieving Childhood Vaccine Success in the U.S.,” before its “Give Kids a Shot” Gala. The panel addressed a range of issues including parents who opt out of childhood vaccine requirements, physicians who stray from the recommended vaccine schedule, and the role of the media in creating or removing barriers to vaccination.
The panelists were (from left to right):
- Paul Lee, M.D., Director of the International Adoption Program and Pediatric Travel Center at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, New York (moderator).
- Carol J. Baker, M.D., Professor of Pediatrics, Molecular Virology and Microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas.
- Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, PhD., Professor of Law, University of California, Berkeley’s Hastings College of Law. Reiss favors legal liabilities for parents who opt for non-vaccination, and is noted for her support of California Senate Bill 277, which reduced exemptions to vaccination requirements for enrollment in California schools and daycare centers.
- Arthur Caplan, PhD., Professor of Medical Ethics at NYU Langone Medical Center.
- William Schaffner, M.D., Professor of Preventive Medicine and Infectious Diseases, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.
- Alison Singer, President of Autism Science Foundation.
- Paul Offit, M.D., Director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
At the 53:58 mark, Dr. Baker says:
“The fight, the battle is being fought — one family, one physician, one health center. That’s why we’re doing as well as we are.
We’re talking about the minority [of vaccine refusers], and strategies against the minority. So I have the solution: Every study published in the last five years, you look at vaccine refusers, I’m not talking about people we can talk them into coming to terms, but refusers. (54:28 mark) Let’s just get rid of all the whites in the United States, because Houston is the most diverse city in the entire United States. There are seven Asian languages spoken in that city. I’ve been in the [racial] minority for more than 20 years in the city of Houston. The majority of them are what we all ‘Hispanics’ — it’s not a race or an ethnicity, it’s a political designation. A lot of them are from Central or South America, Mexico. Guess who wants to get vaccinated the most in Houston? Immigrants! It is the ‘well educated’ — in terms of pieces of paper and the paper on the wall — [who are the vaccine refusers], people that have been here for a long time, and it’s very unfortunate and.
But I think we need not lose the big picture. The big picture is there are physicians out there — family practitioners, pediatricians, internists — talking one on one with either the older child — I don’t know when a child stops being a child. For me, I was 30, I wrote my mother and said ‘Hey, I’m a grown-up’. They’d already given me an M.D. degree by then, so it’s a good thing I was grown up.
I think that we need to do things as an articulate media-trained group to encourage that conversation, and encourage our health care system to value what vaccines do. Give people enough time to talk to individual families. Most hesitant people, it’s absolutely right, someone said it earlier, some families are having ‘pre-natal visits’. That’s the time to talk about vaccines. This war is fought one on one, with individual families. We need to support those policies that give health care providers, nurses, I mean nurses are really really important, they’re the ones who are probably giving the shots, and if they’re not on board with accepting vaccines, then do you think they’re gonna be supportive of you recommending a vaccine? You have to have your whole [health care] practice situation on board.”