The Rev. Tom Engelmann, vice president of Prevent Child Health West, responds to the delay of the vaccine for children in Colorado.
First, let me say I am pleased that the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment is working to address the media’s accusations, which we have responded to here in recent days in this very opinionated matter.
In addition, this issue has garnered substantial attention on social media, where I have had the unique experience of not only answering questions but also getting to know many of the people who were of concern and who have so much in common with our decision to delay COVID-19.
It is a well-known fact that science is affected by the questions of life and death. When we were working with advisers to develop a vaccine for pertussis (whooping cough), we were, as a group, sensitive to the fact that the vaccine is a life-saving tool.
However, it became clear to us that we were not the only group in Colorado for whom the health and well-being of the most vulnerable children was worth the wait.
We were affected also by the ongoing violence in our community. Two young women and a child lost their lives due to violence within just weeks of each other — and unfortunately on the same day. No parent should experience such heartbreak.
When we were developing the vaccine, we thought that we had created a vaccine that would truly protect our children from disease.
What we discovered in testing the vaccine was that we had missed a certain portion of the immune system and its response to the vaccine, and as such, we were not as effective. It seemed that, in this case, vaccine efficacy was somehow coupled with “coincidence” — an association, rather than causation.
Our decision to test this hypothesis has brought the conversation around vaccines and medicine in Colorado to the forefront. Many people in Colorado have felt as though vaccination should continue as normal and uncontroversial. It is understandable why this has happened. While we accept that there may be risks associated with vaccine safety, neither is critical for survival.
The vaccine is a life-saving tool. We cannot risk a health emergency in our community — and in many others — because the public health officials had failed to be diligent in making sure there is only one vaccine available.
What I know for sure is that when we set out to do this, we strove for perfect efficacy and we are not just wavering on that.
As an organization, we are not wavering on our choice to put the health of our children ahead of a few squabbles and not deliver on a promise to the more than 700,000 Colorado children who deserve to have this vaccine. There is absolutely no doubt that our vaccine is the best vaccine currently available.
Join us in the fight for better science and more awareness of vaccination programs. This is something everyone can contribute to.
And don’t forget to look back at more recent coverage and insights to the debate on vaccines and medicine: This is how and why Colorado ranks as one of the most dangerous states for children to be born — and children without a vaccine.