Celebrating 20 Years of Saving Lives Through Immunization
It’s not often enough that we recognize the many important accomplishments made in regards to childhood immunizations over recent decades. Just last week, colleagues traveled from far and wide to join together at the majestic Smithsonian Portrait Gallery and American Art museum to honor the successes of vaccines, and the ongoing collaborations between dedicated individuals that make the field of vaccines such an incredible place to work.
Every Child By Two (ECBT) hosted the celebration to commemorate their 20th Anniversary and to honor the countless individuals who strive every day to ensure the health of children worldwide. ECBT’s Executive Director, Amy Pisani, welcomed guests and explained why she believes that the people who work in the field of vaccines remain active in the field for a lifetime.
“I believe it is due to the truly collaborative spirit that defines our field. The vaccine community does not compete like many other fields. Instead there is an unfailing willingness to work together as a powerful force to ensure that needed programs are developed and shared with one another for the good of public’s health.” She concluded her comments by stating, “Without your willingness to collaborate with one another and ECBT on the mission to ensure the timely vaccination of all children, we would not be celebrating the incredible strides made in vaccines over the past several decades.”
Chief Health and Medical Editor Dr. Richard Besser, of ABC News, was an extraordinary master of ceremonies for the evening. It was intriguing to hear how Dr. Besser’s expansive career at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has contributed to his perspective on immunizations and how his work culminated with his appointment as Acting CDC Director. Now, in his position within the media, he is able to affirm the struggles that we face in attempting to “make news” out of the positive benefits of timely vaccinations. Though as Dr. Besser admitted, it may not always be easy to make the pitch, Dr. Besser’s persistent coverage of vaccine-related news stories are stellar examples of how he has been able to educate viewers regarding the science of vaccines and turn stories of disease prevention into actionable news.
Following Dr. Besser, we were honored to hear from Dr. William Foege, former Director of the CDC during the Carter Administration, and current Senior Fellow for the Global Health Program, which operates under The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. With his diverse breadth of experience, he provided an inspiring keynote address and he proved to be the perfect witness to tout the enormous advancements made over the past several decades in the field of Vaccinology. He explained how impressive it has been to witness so many scientific advancements over the years; advancements which have ultimately resulted in the development of many life-saving vaccines.
Dr. Foege also applauded the public health community, including Every Child By Two co-founders Rosalynn Carter and Betty Bumpers, for their ability to identify and respond to the inequities in vaccine availability among the underprivileged children of this nation. Dr. Foege reflected on the first efforts to overcome this injustice through Congress’ Polio Vaccination Assistance Act of 1955 which provided funds to purchase and deliver polio vaccines so that no child would have to declare themselves poor to be protected from the disease. That, he stated “is the day that vaccines went from protecting the individual to protecting the individual and society; and that‘s the day vaccines and social justice met up!”
The evening continued with a special recognition for Mrs. Carter and Mrs. Bumpers. ECBT Board Member, Dr. Walter Orenstein, recounted his many travels with the ladies during his tenure as Director of the U.S. Immunization Program at the CDC.
“Twenty years ago, Betty Bumpers and Rosalynn Carter saw a big problem in this country – children suffering needlessly from preventable illnesses – and they took action to solve that problem. They were tireless in support of immunization. They would travel far and wide even to remote corners of our country to speak with parents, healthcare providers, and immunization workers. We all owe a debt of gratitude to Mrs. Bumpers and Mrs. Carter for their critical role in elimination of indigenous measles in the U.S., achievement of record high immunization coverage rates in this country and record low levels of vaccine-preventable diseases.”
The evening concluded with Mrs. Carter and Mrs. Bumpers honoring three distinguished leaders in the field of immunizations.
Dr. Deborah Wexler Receives the ECBT Immunization Leadership Award
The Immunization Leadership Award was created to honor an individual who exhibits consistent leadership at the national level with a demonstrated positive impact on the field of immunization. While many people have become immunization champions through their work at national-level organizations such as nonprofits, medical associations, and policy-making entities, the person selected to receive this special award was Deborah Wexler, MD.
Dr. Wexler is the Founder and Executive Director of the Immunization Action Coalition (IAC), a nonprofit organization she started in 1991 when she left her medical practice out of concern for her patients who were becoming infected with measles during a major outbreak. Under Wexler’s tireless leadership, IAC has grown to be one of the nation’s premier sources of immunization information for healthcare providers and their patients. In national vaccine policy, Dr. Wexler has served as a consultant on working groups of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and on external planning committees of CDC’s National Immunization Conferences. Dr. Wexler has also served as Founding Chair of the National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable and she is an active member of the National Influenza Vaccine Summit’s Executive Committee, co-chairs the Adult Vaccine Policy Group, and is a member of the Childhood Vaccine Policy Group, the 317 Coalition Steering Committee, as well as other national immunization groups. Dr. Wexler’s innovative “out of the box” thinking and tenacious spirit made her the ideal candidate for the ECBT Leadership Award.
Dr. Edgar Marcuse Receives Martin H. Smith, MD Award for Achievement in Childhood Immunization
Dr. Martin H. Smith was a tireless advocate for immunization throughout his long career. In addition to 30 years of private practice as a pediatrician, Dr. Smith was a former President of the American Academy of Pediatrics and spearheaded the passage of the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986, which led to the development of the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. Dr. Smith faithfully served as a member of the Every Child By Two Board of Directors up until his death in January 2010. In honor of this great man, Every Child By Two has created a special award that pays tribute to his spirit and dedication to ensuring access to immunizations for all children.
On this special occasion, Every Child By Two recognized Edgar Marcuse, MD, MPH with the Dr. Martin H. Smith Award for Achievement in Childhood Immunization. Dr. Marcuse has dedicated his career to promoting childhood immunizations and he currently holds positions at the University of Washington and Seattle Children’s Hospital. Dr. Marcuse’s expansive career in immunizations includes service to more than a dozen professional organizations. He was a member of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and chair of the National Vaccine Advisory Committee. In Washington State, Dr. Marcuse has provided leadership, influence and expertise for the development of initiatives addressing vaccine hesitancy. He also worked with state policy makers, health insurers and others to create the Washington Vaccine Association, a not-for-profit organization that collects payments from health insurers and submits them to the state for universal vaccine purchase and distribution. Dr. Marcuse works tirelessly with individuals, families, local communities, national organizations, medical associations, and state and national government to improve the understanding of vaccine-preventable diseases and to promote the importance of childhood immunizations.
Senator Debbie McCune Davis Receives the ECBT Immunization Champion Award
Across the United States, immunization champions are working in local communities to promote the importance of immunization. The winner of this award, Senator Debbie McCune Davis, is an individual working at the state-level who has shown consistent leadership in the field of immunization. Ms. McCune Davis is an Arizona State Senator and Program Director of The Arizona Partnership for Immunization (TAPI).
From the outset of her tenure with TAPI, she made it her mission to be a champion for immunizations for all Arizona citizens. She is the driving force behind TAPI activities, events, boards and committees. She brings together for-profit, non-profit, public and private organizations around a common goal of increasing immunization coverage levels and eliminating vaccine-preventable diseases. Ms. McCune Davis has also been critically instrumental and effective in championing The Arizona State Immunization Information System (ASIIS) and immunization registries on a national level. Through Ms. McCune Davis’ untiring efforts, Arizona’s childhood immunization rate has risen from 46 % in 1992 to 75% in 2011. Now, as a state legislator in addition to her TAPI position, she advocates for Arizona citizens of all ages for quality of care, prevention of disease, easing the burden to the health care system and the cost-effectiveness of vaccines.