Vaccine Update for Healthcare Providers

On the Bookshelf

Far From the Trees by Andrew Solomon

Charlotte A. Moser, Assistant Director, Vaccine Education Center at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

Far From the Trees by Andrew Solomon is not new; it was published in 2012. The book is also very thick; in fact, the text pages alone number more than 700. But, reading it is time well-spent.

Solomon spent 10 years interviewing hundreds of families to gain an understanding of parenting a child who is different from oneself. That is, children with horizontal traits; those not possessed by the parent, but which appear in their child. Chapters are devoted to topics seemingly unrelated, yet masterfully threaded together by Solomon — deafness, dwarfism, Down syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, disability, prodigy, rape, crime and transgender all addressed through the lens of parenting an affected child.

The narrative arc takes the reader from Solomon’s perspective as a son to that of himself as a parent. Sharing both his sexual orientation and his mental health status, Solomon talks about his own experiences and his parents’ style of parenting him to set the stage for an exploration of how parental acceptance — or lack thereof — affects the child’s own self-acceptance.

Each chapter captures the social climate and individual experience related to the condition being examined. Families and individual stories are shared as a way to provide the reader with an understanding of what parents within a situation are faced with when it comes to decision-making for their child. To someone who has not experienced these situations first-hand, a new insight into the individual and parental point of view will emerge. Why do some parents choose activism while others do not? Why do some parents seek cures while others oppose them? How does relative wealth — or lack thereof — affect these situations?

Some interesting observations are likely to leave readers thinking about relative perspectives:

While these are only a few examples, each chapter offers readers a thought-provoking discussion of the issues surrounding it. Even for those without the time or interest in reading this tome cover to cover, healthcare providers will likely value it as a resource to consult from time to time or as a chapter-sized capsule for drilling more deeply into a specific issue.

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Twenty tips for evaluating scientific claims

Charlotte A. Moser, Assistant Director, Vaccine Education Center at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

Although this column typically discusses books, a recent paper in Nature is important enough that we felt it worth discussing. Co-authored by William J Sutherland, David Spiegelhalter and Mark A Burgman, Twenty tips for interpreting scientific claims is an excellent commentary piece published in the November 21, 2013 issue.

The authors begin by pointing out that policymakers often do not have the opportunity to read scientific papers themselves; instead, they rely on interpretations of that science by those around them. However, a basic understanding of the “imperfect nature of science” would be an important skill for sorting through these third-party interpretations; therefore, the authors set out to “suggest 20 concepts that should be part of the education of civil servants, politicians, policy advisers and journalists — and anyone else who may have to interact with science or scientists.” The result is a great introduction to evaluating scientific claims.

The concepts included in the list include paragraph-sized explanations related to statistical concepts such as variation and bias, scientific method such as sample size and controls and interpretive error.

The information can be accessed online or in PDF format.

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Thinking about risk communication

Charlotte A. Moser, Assistant Director, Vaccine Education Center at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

A variety of books are available about risk communication. Here are a few that might be of interest:

The book is available on Amazon.com and from Barnes and Noble.

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Anti-vaccine sentiment now and during the time of smallpox

Charlotte A. Moser, Assistant Director, Vaccine Education Center at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

Garth Williams, author of the recent Polio Revisited, previously penned Angel of Death: The Story of Smallpox. Although first published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2010, the well-researched book is a great read for anyone who works with vaccinations or has an interest in the social and historical aspects of vaccine-preventable diseases.

While a recap of the topics covered in the more than 400-page book may be useful, this review will selfishly focus on one of the most fascinating aspects of the book to this reader; specifically, the parallels between arguments put forth today against vaccinations and those used in reference to the smallpox story. As someone who spends days working to address the misinformation and concerns surrounding vaccines, it was both interesting and, somewhat cathartic, to know that those who traveled before dealt with many of the same issues. Likewise, it was with great appreciation for today’s standards, that I finished the book pleased to be addressing these issues in the current tense.

Arguments against smallpox vaccination that may sound familiar:

To be fair, some concerns during the period of smallpox inoculation were valid. Of note, bacterial infections like syphilis and viral infections like hepatitis B were actually spread through smallpox inoculation procedures due to the lack of sterile procedures: “For example, nobody saw anything wrong with medical students going straight from dissecting fresh corpses to attend mothers giving birth; their professors were not much better, sometimes pocketing organs cut out of the recently deceased, to teach students in the delivery room.” (p. 269) Likewise, some doctors did work the system to profit from vaccinations. While there will always be more to learn, the state of science today and the checks and balances in place in the vaccine industry have made today’s vaccine programs extremely safe and effective.

Get the book:
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The Art and Science of Engagement

Magnetic: The Art and Science of Engagement, written by Anne Bergeron and Beth Tuttle, is a book about museums that have enjoyed great success when compared to some of their colleagues’ institutions. The authors studied museums through a quantitative analysis of museum data, qualitative interviews with leadership and on-site case studies. Each chapter describes a central tenet that successful institutions shared and ends with a case study of a museum exemplifying the tenet.

Many of the ideas in the book can be applied to businesses, coalitions and non-profit organizations:

The authors conclude with a statement we can apply regardless of the type of organization in which we work, “Ultimately, perceptions (like brands) are built not on what organizations say about themselves, but on the ways in which others come to know and experience them.” (p.194)

Interested in reading the book?
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Polio Revisited

Dr. Offit recently reviewed Gareth Williams’ book, Paralysed with Fear: The Story of Polio, in The Lancet. We are pleased that you can access the full review on the journal’s website.

Reference for the review: Offit PA. Polio Revisited. The Lancet. 2013. 381:1805-6.

Book information: Paralysed with Fear: The Story of Polio, written by Gareth Williams and published by Palgrave Macmillan, 2013, pp. 336. ISBN 9781137299758.

The book is available from Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble Booksellers.

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"Quiet" by Susan Cain

Susan Cain’s New York Times Bestseller, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, provides readers with an interesting premise — introverts are as important and necessary to our success as a society as their extroverted counterparts. Starting with the contrasting characters of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks, Cain sets the stage for her argument by pointing out the dramatic effects of King’s oration and Parks’ action while acknowledging that the reverse roles would not have been as effective simply because of the types of people they were.

The book is divided into four parts each examining a different aspect of the interplay between introverts and extroverts.

Quiet offers readers an opportunity to learn more about the different types of people in their families, workplaces and communities. In addition, healthcare providers can benefit from this information when extroverted parents discuss their concerns for their quiet, non-joining child. Indeed, if people working with children read only one chapter of this book, it should be “On Cobblers and Generals: How to Cultivate Quiet Kids in a World that Can’t Hear Them” (Chapter 11).

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Vaccine Educational Materials