I have to admit it: I was excited by the news of the royal baby. Like many Americans, I have always been fascinated by the lives and times of the British royal family. So when Prince George was born last week, I guiltily perused the internet soaking up the news.
However, all it took was one tweet to turn my interest from gawking at celebrities to thinking of this event as a critical moment for public health. A health and development blogger, Laura Seay of Texas in Africa, tweeted, “The Cambridges could do a lot of good by having their son vaccinated, on schedule, for everything, in public.”
Seay’s message is simple, but so true.
As a student studying Health Communication and Education at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, I spend my days learning about behavior change, or, how to get regular people to do positive things to improve their health. One common technique in promoting positive behavior is to highlight famous and respected people publicly engaging in the desired action. It makes people think, “If they do it, I can and should, too.”
Unfortunately, in today’s world, some important health behaviors, such as getting a vaccine, have become culturally divisive and difficult to promote. Many families opt-out of vaccinating their children because they fear a long disproved connection between vaccines and autism. According to a recent issue of The Lancet, one of the world’s leading medical journals, in Wales alone, the home of Prince William and his family, there are 30,000 unvaccinated children between the ages of 10-18.
However, no scientific link has been found between autism and vaccines, and The Lancet has renounced a prominent 1998 article it published suggesting a link between the two. Despite the science and the facts, many people still believe in a link between vaccines and autism, and this dangerous belief continues to be perpetuated today by prominent celebrities and sham research. If Prince William and Duchess Catherine were to vaccinate their child in front of the world, they would be putting their stamp of approval on the importance of vaccines and serving as role models for parents around the globe.
Just like any new parents, Will and Kate will have to make many hard decisions about the life of their new child. However, a life in the spotlight comes with responsibility. They could do a lot for their country, and for the world, by publicly vaccinating their son to show billions of people that vaccines are safe, vaccines are essential, and vaccines are fit for a king.