Sanofi Pasteur launched an education campaign aimed at blunting increasing skepticism of childhood vaccinations.
Dubbed ImmYounity, the effort features a new website, vaccines.com
, outfitted with lots of highly visual and easily shareable factoids, FAQs and other educational materials, along with brochures for use by healthcare providers. It's all pretty run of the mill stuff, but the context – increasing doubts about the benefits and safety of childhood vaccines among parents – is alarming.
“From listening to parents' concerns about the current vaccine environment, we began to think about what else we could do to support them,” said Sanofi Pasteur's Phil Hosbach, VP, immunization policy, in a statement. “We concluded that it is critical to enhance our commitment to educate parents about the importance of vaccines.”
The effort launches amid news reports of “Pox parties” organized through Facebook by parents fearful of vaccines, some even soliciting strangers to mail them what they believe to be chickenpox-infected lollipops. Many, it seems, believe that vaccines aren't safe or don't work. In particular, anecdotal evidence suggests that some parents believe that the mumps, measles and rubella vaccine can make their children autistic, though the leading proponent of that thoroughly-discredited theory, US-based English physician Andrew Wakefield, was recently barred from practicing medicine in the UK when the British Medical Journal found his work to be riddled with falsified data. Wakefield's autism panic is probably to blame for recent slippage in MMR vaccination rates, which sank from 92.1% of kids 19-35 months old to 90% between 2009 and 2009 before going back up to 91.5% last year, according to CDC figures -- as well as a resurgence of measles in the US and Canada.
In developing content for the site, Sanofi convened a “roundtable” of thought leaders, including 22 clinicians, public health leaders and parents, via webcast. The site features Dr. Laura Jana, an Omaha pediatrician, author, blogger and green room habitué.
“Now more than ever, parents are searching for factual, credible answers to their vaccine questions,” said Jana in a statement. “Especially with the rise of social media, parents can easily find themselves confused and faced with information overload.”
For now, said Sanofi, the site will focus mainly on vaccination for children and adolescents, though the company may broaden that to address adults and seniors in the future.