September 2, 2015

History; Controversies; Interventions

When Mickey Got Measles:
Vaccine Hesitancy Issues and Interventions in the post-Disney Outbreak Era


Saad Omer, MPH, MBBS, PhD

Associate Professor
Global Health, Epidemiology, and Pediatrics
Emory University, Schools of Public Health & Medicine
Emory Vaccine Center

Clubhouse Location:
WHSCAB Plaza and Auditorium (1440 Clifton Rd)
6:00pm — wine, cheese, networking
6:30pm — meeting convenes
8:00pm — casual buffet dinner, more networking

Labor Day is almost here. Quick! ... here is your end-of-summer To Do list. Get cracking on it now:

  1. Register NOW for the 2015-2016 VDC season opener
  2. Forward this message to new colleagues/students who recently moved to our region and might be interested in the VDC
  3. Email me ( your summer memories and pictures
  4. Get all jazzed up about attending the September meeting.

Dear Vacciners,
In 1966 the "Its a Small World" attraction was installed at Disneyland in California after having first spent two years at the New York World's Fair. Now featured as a major attraction in all five Disney operations (Anaheim, Orlando, Paris, Tokyo, and Hong Kong), an official Disney site dedicated to it claims that each separate park plays the attraction's theme song "Its a Small World After All" ~1,200 times during a given 16-hour operating day. Can you even imagine?

Not surprisingly, Disney keeps very, very quiet about the long term mental health impact on park employees who work in the aural vicinity of this song but at your own risk of developing an ear worm, please take a minute and a half of your time to watch this video all the way to the end to get a glimpse of the song's global reach and it's true implications. (Note: you may have to endure a truly noxious advertisement for Herbal Essence shampoo before the video comes on).

OK ... Those of you who watched the video will have discovered that:

This is a good thing for the people in the video because sometime between December 15-20, 2014 Disneyland started helping to teach us that it really IS a small world after all when a park visitor sparked a four-month measles outbreak that eventually spread to include 147 people in the US and, as of the time that the US outbreak was declared officially over on 04/14/15, at least 159 people in Quebec.

Truly depressing news given that measles had been officially declared eliminated in the US in 2000 and in the Americas in 2002.

For those of you lucky enough not to have personal experience with the measles, believe me — this is one BAD BUG.

I mean, what can you possibly say good about a virus that can be transmitted by a person who hasn't yet realized s/he has the disease, can be caught by simply breathing the air in a room that an infectious person left TWO HOURS ago, will infect up to 90% of susceptible people who are in the vicinity of that infectious somebody, requires just about the highest vaccination coverage (92-94%) of all vaccine-preventable diseases to achieve herd immunity (and is still capable of causing illness in communities that has an even higher coverage than that), makes everyone who gets it seriously miserable, killed 2.6 million people annually before the invention of a vaccine for it in the 1980s, and as of 2012 was still killing ~122,000 children around the world each year? I'll tell you what you can say good about measles … NOTHING.

Except maybe this. The Disneyland Outbreak seems to have been a wake up call, vividly reminding parents, politicians, and principals that measles (and other vaccine preventable diseases) circulating anywhere in the world are just a plane ride away from a school, play group, or theme park near you and your tykes. Which, since there are ~70,000 airplanes up in the air at any given time (see what this looks like), clearly puts germs in a frequent flyer medallion class of their very own.

So how has that wake up call been going? What have we learned so far from the Disney Outbreak and how have we acted, or not, on that knowledge?

Just say "Count Me In!" to the September meeting of the Vaccine Dinner Club and find out!

Hope to see you for Dinner at the Club,
aka your friendly neighborhood Vaccine Dinner Club goddess