Personal Experience Inspires Advocacy
Aug 10, 2011

As we continue to highlight vaccine advocates this week, we wanted to illustrate how personal experience often inspires advocacy. 
Thanks to the efforts of The History of Vaccines – a website which explores the role that immunization has played in the human experience and its continuing contributions to public health – there are numerous informative and inspirational videos that highlight various immunization experts.
In a recent interview with Dr. Paul Offit, a pediatric infectious disease expert and Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the History of Vaccines staff was able to capture Dr. Offit dicussing his formative experience with rotavirus disease as a young physician at a Pittsburgh hospital.
Dr. Offit is not only a well-respected professional, but he is also the developer of the rotavirus vaccine generically known as rotavirus oral vaccine (commercially as RotaTeq), which has been part of the recommended childhood immunization schedule since 2006.   You can visit the  History of Vaccines Gallery link to view the entire set of interview segments with Dr. Offit in which he discusses his work with Stanley Plotkin, MD (developer of the rubella vaccine), the long process of creating the rotavirus vaccine, the relief and pride involved in receiving encouraging safety results from post-licensure monitoring, as well as his general explination of  how a researcher goes about developing a new vaccine.
Additionally, The History of Vaccines video gallery offers more than 55 different video clips with highlights that include:

  • Stanley A. Plotkin, MD, who discusses the devastating rubella epidemic of the early 1960s that swept across Europe and the United States
  • The late Nobel Laureate Baruch Blumberg, MD, describing key discoveries about hepatitis B
  • D.A. Henderson, MD, who relates the story of the eradication of smallpox through the World Health Organization’s Smallpox Eradication Programme
  • The late Maurice Hilleman, PhD, who tells the story of how he observed the emergence of the 1957 Asian flu pandemic and how the vaccine was created to address the threat.
  • C. Everett Koop, who gives an account of his own experiences with polio epidemics and measles complications.

There is even an animation of a 19th century medical text shows the horrible progression of smallpox in a young man (who survived the infection).
About Rotavirus
Rotavirus is the most common cause of severe diarrhea in children and infants worldwide. Before a vaccine was introduced in the United States, the disease caused more than 400,000 doctor visits and 200,000 emergency room visits each year, causing as many as 60 deaths annually in U.S. children younger than five. Globally, rotavirus kills more than 500,000 children each year, with most deaths in developing countries.
The virus spreads easily among children, and can also be passed from children to those with whom they’re in close contact. Rotavirus spreads via the fecal-oral route — that is, from the waste of an infected person to the mouth of another individual. This can occur via contamination on hands or objects like toys.
Rotavirus can be prevented by vaccination, with the first dose of the vaccine series recommended at two months of age. Efforts are also being made to make rotavirus vaccine available throughout the developing world. Mexico was one of the first countries to receive rotavirus vaccine in 2006; by the 2009 rotavirus season, death rates from diarrheal disease had dropped in both the target population for vaccination (children younger than 11 months old, where the rate dropped by 40%) and among children between one and two years of age (by almost 30%). The fact that death rates dropped even in a part of the population that is not targeted by the vaccine suggests that herd immunity benefited the unvaccinated individuals: with fewer infections to begin with, the disease circulated less in the population, leaving less opportunity for exposure.
Feel free to share your experiences with rotavirus below or comment on the various History of Vaccines interviews. 

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