Sanofi education push targets childhood vax fears

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Sanofi Pasteur launched an education campaign aimed at blunting increasing skepticism of childhood vaccinations.

Dubbed ImmYounity, the effort features a website, vaccines.com, with highly visual and shareable factoids, FAQs and other educational materials, plus brochures for healthcare providers to use. It's all pretty run of the mill, 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 on Facebook by parents fearful of vaccines, some even soliciting strangers to mail them what they believe to be chickenpox-infected lollipops. Many, it seems, think vaccines aren't safe or don't work. 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 discredited theory, US-based English physician Andrew Wakefield, was 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 2008 and 2009 before going back up to 91.5% in 2010, according to CDC figures.

In developing site content, Sanofi convened a “round­table,”  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.

“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.

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