Opinion: When it comes to vaccines, trust the real experts
By Frank Kalman
When it comes to facing a deadly disease, who you are relying on for advice truly matters!
According to Dr. Philip Landrigan — epidemiologist and pediatrician and one of the world’s leading advocates of children’s health — children today live longer, healthier lives and suffer less disease than children at any previous time in history. A child born this year in the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Germany, France, Australia, Italy, or Japan can expect to live for 80 years and more — nearly double the 45- to 50-year lifespan that was the norm just a little more than 100 years ago, at the beginning of the 20th century.
This unprecedented gain in health and longevity is a triumph for modern medicine and public health. It reflects the success of vaccines, the widespread availability of healthy food and safe drinking water, a 90% reduction in infant mortality, and control of ancient infectious diseases — cholera, smallpox, typhus, yellow fever, scarlet fever, tuberculosis, measles, malaria, pertussis, and polio — that previously decimated the world’s children. This is a great step forward for humanity.
Today, vaccines couldn’t be more critical. The faster we can snuff out COVID-19, the better. Like cancer, the mutations of this disease are scary, and the sooner we can limit the COVID-19’s ability to jump from one person to another, the better.
Each time COVID-19 jumps to an individual, it is given the opportunity to mutate and possibly mutate out of the range of the current vaccines. According to MSNBC, the Pfizer vaccine is already proving to be less effective against the delta variant than against earlier versions of the virus.
Again: Whose advice you take truly matters. In the last 20 years of fighting pediatric cancer and 10 years running End Kids Cancer, a pediatric cancer research foundation, I have applied two rules. First, the person giving the advice must be qualified, medically trained professionals with extensive experience in the field they are talking about.
Then I consider the individual and institution in terms of how much they have to lose if they share incorrect information. Some individuals or groups on social media have nothing to lose, as opposed to John Hopkins Medical Center or Memorial Sloan Kettering, or the National Institute of Health, if they disseminate wrong and harmful information.
There are shortcuts. I have gained a lot of very important information from other parents fighting cancer or other informal sources. Still, I have always confirmed with the sources mentioned above when I am going to make an important decision based on that information. Even then, I do not rely on just one institution.
I’m not advocating pro or con for vaccinating children. I am not qualified. That’s up to the doctors. My only reason for talking about the impact vaccines have in fighting disease is to show the positive impact vaccines have had in the past, time and time again.
• Frank Kalman is founder and executive director of the End Kids Cancer Foundation in San Luis Obispo. This column was adapted from an email sent in the foundation’s newsletter.