An Immunization Against Public Paranoia
Pediatrician Edgar Marcuse addressed several alarming trends about declining child immunization rates during last Monday’s lecture at the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Center. Marcuse drew an overflow crowd to the annual event.
Marcuse pointed to numerous recent statistics which indicate growing parental distrust of child immunizations. Given the highly mobile nature of today’s society, He argued that this may have grave consequences in the future.
Marcuse alluded to a measles outbreak that occurred in 2008, in which a 7-year-old child who had not been vaccinated for measles contracted the disease during a trip to Switzerland. After returning to San Diego, the child spread the disease to those in his family and the surrounding community.
A total of seven other outbreaks occurred across the nation by the year’s end. The acting director for the United States Center for Disease Control insisted that many of these outbreaks had occurred in groups in which the parents had failed to have their children vaccinated.
Marcuse made a distinction between two kinds of non-vaccinating parents: those who decline out of deeply held ethical beliefs and the others who don’t feel informed enough to expose their children to these unknown treatments. Marcuse focused most of his efforts toward this second group of parents, arguing that education was crucial to winning over these parents. He proposed a system in which parents would be able to consult specialists who would assuage their concerns and counter any urban legends.
In particular, Marcuse contradicted the idea that child immunizations overwhelm the immune system of infants. He pointed to the fact that children used to be given even more immunizations.
Marcuse also suggested that the U.S. should replace its system of negative reinforcement with a system that positively encouraged immunizations, like those of Australia. Instead of penalizing people who didn’t immunize their kids, he urged rewards for those who do.
Marcuse stressed a caring approach to this system of education. He ended his lecture by quoting the words of John Maxwell: “People don’t care how much you know until they know that you care.”
Alyssa Cruz, director of special events for the School of Biological Sciences, was pleased with the event’s outcome.
“The event was definitely well-received by the community,” Cruz said. “We had over 250 guests that attended. And it was the first time that I had several audience members come up to me and ask if they could have a copy of the video right then and there.”
In fact, some of the individuals in the audience wanted to distribute footage of the lecture for educational purposes.
“I had a gentleman from the Orange County health agency that had thought about possible [distribution of] the presentation to members of the community and the PTA,” Cruz said after the lecture. “So, we’re kind of looking into options for him so that Dr. Marcuses’ lecture can be distributed to more people.”
This marks the 10th year that the School of Biological Sciences has sponsored the Howard A. Schneiderman Memorial Bioethics Lecture.