Earlier today I wrote about how I used to be an anti-vaccine person and my journey into and out of that world. I am passionate about getting out the correct, factual information to Moms about vaccines. There is so much false information out there and fear sells. We are a society that loves fear even when we say we hate it. But fear sells TV shows, magazines, movies and books. Anyway…back to vaccines. I am passionate about protecting kids and about Moms getting the correct information. I said how Dr. Paul Offit’s book changed my life. Since reading Autism’s False Prophets, I have become a huge fan of his. I have read several of his books and I have seen some of his appearances on TV. I recently emailed the Vaccine Education Center at CHOP and asked them if we (a few bloggers) could come in for a morning, see the place and spend time chatting with Dr. Offit. I couldn’t believe it when they said yes!
For those of you not familiar with Philadelphia, CHOP is one of our shining stars. It is located in West Philly or University City. It is the nation’s first children’s hospital and it is consistently ranks as the #1 Children’s Hospital by many different entities including Parents Magazine and US News and World Report. It is here that Dr. Offit used an NIH grant to develop the lifesaving rotavirus vaccine. Since then, he has won many awards in science and medicine, but in pop culture he is known as the very public face for the pro-vaccine movement and he is frequently villainized by the anti-vaxers. When you think about it, it’s crazy that we even have a pro-vaccine movement, but if we have to have one I am glad that it is Dr. Offit who is speaking for us.
It was a gorgeous August day when we visited CHOP and the VEC. The VEC is actually located in a separate building several blocks from the main CHOP campus. Other than the very interesting conversation with Dr. Offit and Charlotte, the Assistant Director of the VEC, the VEC itself is pretty plain and boring. I’m not sure what I expected, but here is what it is. It’s a set of offices and cubicles and they write and publish correct, accurate and scientific information about vaccines. And they compile this information into flyers, booklets, informational handouts and DVDs, and then they give them away, for free, to pretty much anyone who asks for them. “It’s not a very good business plan,” Dr. Offit joked while we were there. “To compile and print up all this information at our own expense and then give it away.”
But it needs to be done. Pediatricians are having these vaccine conversations at rates even greater than before. You would think that the whole Wakefield debacle that included him losing his medical license would have quieted down some of the anti-vaxers but curiously they have only become more vocal despite more and more damning evidence against them. We can’t sit silent and let them be the only voice heard, so greater quantities of accurate vaccine information must be made available to parents. After we chatted for about an hour and took a short tour of the VEC, Dr. Offit gave us a walking and talking tour through University City back to the main campus of CHOP and the research facilities.
University City is quite scenic and it was really interesting and flattering to have such a rock star giving us a guided tour. I don’t know if he even noticed or not, but I saw a few med students or interns elbow each other and say “hey, that’s Dr. Offit.” And us 4 mom bloggers in our 30s and 40s made the perfect fan girls to complete the picture. But seriously, so being so smart and so accomplished, he is very down to earth and humble. This is a man who has literally saved billions of lives with his research, and he took a morning to walk us around and educate us.
Also read: My friend Erica’s post-Science Rocks. Vaccines Save Lives.
Seeing the research facilities was very interesting. It’s just, well, a research lab. But amazing things have happened here.
Have you ever seen those questions floating around on Facebook, that say “If you could invite any 5 people to a dinner party, who would you invite?” Dr. Offit would always be on my list. Even if I didn’t have him over for dinner, we did get to have a breakfast conversation with him and for that I am flattered. I want to thank the Vaccine Education Center for hosting us and sharing the morning with us. You can contact them for accurate vaccine information, or better yet, they have a new app. It is called “Vaccines on the Go, what you should know.”
Vaccines on the Go: What You Should Know contains information about:
- Vaccines and the diseases they prevent
- Vaccine safety topics, including autism, thimerosal and too many vaccines
- Types of vaccines and how they’re made
- Recommended immunization schedules for children, teens and adults
Additional features include:
- Graphics depicting disease characteristics, such as levels of contagiousness and typical disease timelines
- Links to videos about vaccines
- Vaccine-related games, like hangman and matching
- Opportunities to record questions for the next doctor’s visit or email the Vaccine Education Center for answers to vaccine questions
- Links to other online VEC resources, like booklets and Q&A sheets
Whether or not you live in Philadelphia, and whether or not you think you’ll ever visit CHOP, CHOP and the VEC can be a valuable resource for any family. They have a wealth of information on their website, on YouTube and elsewhere. You can connect with CHOP and all their social media here.