The development and deployment of childhood vaccines represents the most important life-saving achievement in the last century, but the status of our protection against vaccine-preventable illness is as fragile as ever in the United States. In 2019, we have already seen the most cases of measles in a single year since 1992: more than 1,200 cases. This is a large number for a disease that was declared eliminated from the U.S. in 2000.
An anti-vaccine movement that has steadily organized during the last two decades has fueled vaccine hesitancy among families. This movement represents an existential threat to the health of children, and it is the subject of this podcast.
Listen to a physician-scientist discuss the anti-vaccination movement
Our guest is a physician-scientist, pediatrician and advocate we admire greatly: Peter Hotez, MD, PhD. In this episode, we are going to talk about his new book, Vaccines Did Not Cause Rachel's Autism: My Journey as a Vaccine Scientist, Pediatrician and Autism Dad.
Dr. Hotez is Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine and Professor of Pediatrics and Molecular Virology and Microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine. He is also the Director of the Texas Children’s Center for Vaccine Development (CVD) and Texas Children’s Hospital Endowed Chair of Tropical Pediatrics. Dr. Hotez is also a University Professor at Baylor University and Fellow in Disease and Poverty at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy.
In this episode, Dr. Hoetz discusses:
- Living his childhood dream and his medical training journey
- Discovering his calling of applying molecular biology to the study of hookworm
- Developing a vaccine for hookworm disease and its clinical trials 30 years later
- The impact of working with patients with haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) meningitis
- His curious position as a vaccine scientist and pediatrician who has a daughter with autism
- The anti-vaccination movement and realizing that he had to write a book about it
- How he responded when the paper that linked vaccinations to autism came out
- The repercussions of the steep decline in vaccinations, including the return of measles
- Thoughts about the low vaccination rates among certain religious communities
- Overwhelming anti-vaccination propaganda and fake resources
- A powerful quote from his book, Vaccines Did Not Cause Rachel’s Autism
- The lack of support for families with autism and concerns about the future of autistic adults
- How Rachel’s autism affected him and his wife’s personal and professional lives
- How the anti-vaccination movement is constantly trying new approaches and strategies
- How internet and social media allow anti-science movements to flourish
- The need for healthcare providers to start engaging the public
- Why advising young people is one of the most satisfying aspects of his professional life