New U.S. surgeon general encourages vaccination in KC visit

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- The new U.S. surgeon general made a house call in Kansas City Thursday, urging more cooperation and collaboration to tackle current disease outbreaks and plagues such as violence and obesity.

Dr. Vivek Murthy won confirmation last month. At age 37, he's the youngest surgeon general in U.S. history. Yet he knows what happened in American before he was born, before there were vaccines.

"We had many people we would lose to deaths. Many people who, as in the case of polio, were paralyzed," said Dr. Murthy.

He says ironically, the success of vaccines has some parents thinking they're not necessary anymore, and that's a factor in current outbreaks of measles, whooping cough and flu. Some people fear the vaccines more than the diseases.

"He can get the messages out that vaccines work, and that we need to get them age-appropriately immunized," said Susan McLoughlin, executive director of the Maternal and Child Health Coalition.

Dr. Murthy says those trusted in the community, including faith, business, school and health care leaders, need to be recruited to share the message, too.

"To make sure we're sharing the science of vaccination with the communities so they understand the MMR vaccine, for example, does not cause autism," he said.

He said they can work together, too, to reduce other major health threats such as childhood obesity, mental illness and violence.

"I heard many times today about how violence is a problem that community leaders here perceive to be urgent and important," the surgeon general said.

He says it's a problem that can be overcome with cooperation and investment in prevention.

Dr. Murthy also encouraged sign-up for health insurance on www.healthcare.gov by the February 15th deadline. He says not having insurance is a barrier to some people getting immunizations.