As part of the Infectious Disease Science Initiative Seminar Series, nearly 80 UCI community members, including students, faculty and staff, gathered on December 11 at the Thorpe Conference Center for a special seminar delivered by world-renown vaccine advocate Dr. Peter Hotez.
As part of his role as dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, Dr. Hotez has been at the forefront of combating misinformation about vaccines that has proliferated in the past 20 years. The title of his talk was "Vaccine and Neglected Tropical Disease Diplomacy in an Age of War, Political Collapse, Climate Change, and Anti-science."
Highlights from Dr. Hotez’s presentation include:
- Global health initiatives led to dramatic declines in vaccine-preventable diseases, such as measles, pertussis, tetanus, H. influenzae, diphtheria from 2000 to 2017
- During the same period, there were significant declines in the incidence of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), including onchocerciasis, trachoma, ascariasis, hookworm, and schistosomiasis
- These gains are now threatened by new challenges in the 21st century: war and political collapse, urbanization and deforestations, rise of anti-science, and climate change
- It is important to note that neglected tropical diseases are not only a problem in low and middle-income countries; 12 million people in poor communities across the U.S. are infected with one or more NTDs
- A troubling development is the rise of anti-science and vaccine hesitancy in the past 20 years, which has led to dramatic increases in diseases previously thought to be eliminated, such as measles
- The anti-vaccine movement has grown to become a sophisticated, well-funded operation that dominates social media and targets underserved communities and women
- Scientists and public health authorities have done a poor job of actively promoting vaccines and countering the spread of misinformation
- There is an urgent need for scientists to step up and engage with the public to address today’s challenges
- Universities such as UC Irvine can play a key role by integrating science communication and public engagement as an essential part of science curricula
The seminar ended with an engaging discussion of how the UCI community can contribute to promoting access to vaccines and combating neglected tropical diseases. Much thanks to Dr. Hotez for taking time to visit UCI.