Giving Compass’ Take:
· Writing for The Conversation, Peter J. Hotez talks about his experience developing vaccines as a pediatrician-scientist and why he is so concerned about the anti-vaccine movement thriving in the US.
· Hotez expresses concern about the increase in unvaccinated children in the American West. How can donors play a role in their communities?
As a pediatrician-scientist who develops new vaccines for neglected diseases, I spent most of my career in the Boston-Washington, D.C. corridor.
While working in the Northeast, I had heard a few things about the anti-vaccine movement. As both a vaccine scientist and a father of four, including a daughter diagnosed with autism and intellectual disabilities, I followed the emergence of doubt over vaccine safety in the general public. Ultimately, in scientific circles, any debate ended when an overwhelming body of scientific evidence demonstrated there was no association between vaccines and autism.
But then, in 2011, I relocated to Houston’s Texas Medical Center. I soon learned that, unlike in the Northeast, where the anti-vaccine movement so far seems restricted to small groups, the Texas anti-vaccine movement is aggressive, well-organized and politically engaged.
There are now at least 57,000 Texas schoolchildren being exempted from their vaccines for nonmedical reasons, about a 20-fold rise since 2003. I say “at least” because there is no data on the more than 300,000 homeschooled kids.
I’m worried these children, who are mostly concentrated either in the Austin area and towns and cities in north Texas, including Plano and Forth Worth, are at high risk of acquiring serious or even deadly childhood infections such as measles or whooping cough. Texas also ranks near the bottom in terms of adolescent girls getting their HPV vaccine to prevent cervical cancer – only four states had lower vaccination rates.
Read the full article about the anti-vaccine movement by Peter J. Hotez at The Conversation.
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