Yesterday, I attended the 10th Annual D.C. Immunization Conference hosted at Gallaudet University with my mentor, Maggie. The day consisted of several lectures on various topics related to immunization, including the 1991 Philadelphia Measles Outbreak, field experiences treating African healthcare workers who had been infected with Ebolavirus, the state of pediatric immunization levels in D.C., the HPV vaccine and related policy initiatives, and the importance of adult vaccines. I also had a delicious catered meal for lunch, which–if better than cafeteria food (would recommend the chicken poblano soup at the HHS Humphrey cafeteria, however)–is always a highlight of my day!
My take-home message for this post is timely. On June 30, Governor Jerry Brown of California signed SB 277 into law. Beginning on July 1, 2016, religious and personal belief exemptions to vaccination for school entry will be prohibited. California now joins Mississippi and West Virginia, who have permitted only medical exemptions for years. California’s legislative initiative was created directly in reaction to the measles outbreak beginning at Disneyland. Too few children had been vaccinated to support a protective net of immunity, and thus prevent a greater epidemic. The disease ultimately spread to 11 other states.
We must consider vaccination as not only an opportunity to advance public health but also a responsibility to ourselves, our family, and the greater community. Religious affiliations, support for anti-vaccination trends in popular culture, and the relative disappearance of many of the diseases for which children are routinely vaccinated all contribute to an increased number of filed exemptions to vaccination. However, the science of vaccines is supported by the sheer number of healthy lives unaffected by vaccine-preventable illnesses. Unfortunately, not everyone can be convinced of the health benefits of vaccination by this logic alone.
I aspire to focus the majority of my future career on ensuring the successful clinical outcomes of my individual patients. But physicians and other providers cannot neglect the importance of understanding and accessing methods of prevention, which include interventions such as vaccination and also lifestyle factors like diet, housing, etc. According to a statistic I obtained yesterday at the conference, social and economic factors contribute the most significantly at 40% to a population’s health. Clinical encounters influence population health only half as much at 20%. Education accounts for 30%, and physical environment 10%.
While I am still unlicensed to provide any [sound] medical advice, I can recommend incorporating strategies during clinical encounters to promote healthy mechanisms of prevention, like vaccination. Students can even be advocates to their fellow peers and anyone else who will listen. 🙂