Measles Epidemic 1991 -Compelling Narrative

I saw two personal heroes yesterday –Donald Schaffner and Paul Offit.  This happened at the 13th annual Donald Schaffner conference.

Dr. Schaffner is a former surgeon at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta .  In recent years, he has battled a number of medical problems.  During my early years as an attending, he and I worked together to help a number of children.  His patience, caring, and dedication to providing the best care were unrivaled.

I had never met Dr. Offit in person and this was the first time that I heard him speak.  However, he has been an outspoken advocate for vaccines and has written extensively on this subject; in addition, he has cast a critical eye on some alternative medicine practices.  I have quoted him numerous times on this blog (see links below). His topic for this conference: “The Philadelphia Measles Epidemic of 1991: Lesson from the Past or Prologue to the Future.”

This was an amazing narrative of the measles epidemic combining the epidemiology, with journalism, law, politics, and the history of refusing vaccines.  I did not take any notes, though I did take two pictures.  The lecture was effective because it was presented like any good story with lots of details, facts, and passion.  The lies and mistakes were discussed as well.

Legal Foundation for Compulsory Vaccination during Measles Epidemic

Legal Foundation for Compulsory Vaccination during Measles Epidemic

High case fatality among those who claimed religious exemptions to vaccine

High case fatality among those who claimed religious exemptions to vaccine

Key points:

  • Religious vaccine exemption was claimed initially by Christian Scientists. This has been expanded by other groups claiming personal beliefs.
  • Vaccine successes have made people forget how dangerous diseases like measles can be; unfortunately, resurgence of these diseases may be necessary to convince people that vaccination is worthwhile

One more link -yesterday on NPR: Measles Still Kills

Related blog posts:

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