I just spent a few days in Atlanta for a meeting of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). This is group of top thought leaders who have dedicated their lives to studying and fighting infectious disease. They come from around the country, three times a year, to discuss the latest information about vaccine-preventable diseases and to develop strategies to help stem them.
It's a big room. Picture a large screen and a presentation podium at the front. Just behind that, ACIP members and officers from professional health organizations sit in horseshoe formation. Rows of seats at the back of the room are usually filled with vast representation from the public--international health experts, county health departments, healthcare institutions, the pharmaceutical industry and everyday citizens can take a seat. That's what I like best about ACIP; anybody is welcome to attend and can even sign up to comment during the open session. Ultimately, the discussions at ACIP lead to recommendations to help protect people like me and you from vaccine-preventable diseases.
I'm not a scientist. I understand words more than molecules and atoms. Sometimes the presentations can be a little dense for me. Still, I find these meetings intriguing and reassuring. It makes me feel good that a collection of some the biggest brains in science get together on a regular basis to share knowledge and collaborate on public health initiatives.