NEW BRITAIN - With flu season nearly upon us, the Newington Kiwanis Club is offering some insight into vaccinations at a public forum.
Newington resident and retired New Britain general pediatrician Dr. Ellen Leonard will present “The Truth About Vaccines” on Monday at 7 p.m. at Paradise Pizza, 10 East St. in New Britain.
Kiwanis members typically invite the public to hear a different speaker each month. Club President Dan Henry decided this was the perfect time to host Leonard.
“Immunization is an issue that has stirred a lot of debate, despite the fact that the science is solidly behind immunizing our children,” Henry said. “Kiwanis International is an organization that is dedicated to serving the needs of children. Educating the public about vaccines is just another way to support our mission to serve children and others.”
Kiwanis International’s 2017 slogan is “Kids Need Kiwanis.” The Eliminate Project, the organization’s ongoing initiative with UNICEF, is working to eliminate maternal/neonatal tetanus.
With rising suspicion of modern medicine and a flood of misinformation on the internet, some parents are choosing to keep their children from suggested vaccinations.
Leonard attributed some of the propaganda to Dr. Andrew Wakefield, who was discredited after he published a 1998 study linking the measles vaccine to autism.
“He faked his data and lost his license because of it, but the information is still out there for people to read,” she explained.
Leonard ran the Pediatric Clinic at the Hospital of Central Connecticut for 27 years until retiring in 2014. She’s cared for thousands of children with a broad scope of ailments.
Preventive care was at the core of her work, and vaccines were a large part of that.
“Before we had all these vaccines, millions of people died of influenza. Even when I was a child, every summer you didn’t go swimming because you could get polio in a pool,” she said. “Vaccines by and large are safe and there’s a lot of misinformation out there. The chance of having a serious reaction to a vaccine is really low. It’s as if you had the entire series of Harry Potter books representing vaccines and one word in one of those books representing the one person who has a reaction. They are one of the safest things we do in medicine.”
During her presentation Leonard plans to discuss the history of vaccinations, what vaccines are currently available to children and adults and her experiences in medicine.
The Kiwanis Forum Nights began in 1986. Until July 27 they were coordinated by member Al Cohen, who recently died.. The club is working to continue the tradition in his honor.
“Besides missing Al Cohen personally, we certainly miss him for all the work he did for putting together these speaker meetings, plus all the publicity he did for them as well as the flea market,” Henry said.
He is working on a series of other speaker topics for coming months.
Those who want to dine should come early before the program. The restaurant’s regular menu will be available.
Erica Schmitt can be reached at 860-801-5097, or firstname.lastname@example.org.