Highlights from

AAD 2021

American Academy of Dermatology Virtual Meeting Experience 2021

Virtual 23-25 April 2021

The art of prevention: a dermatologist’s thoughts on vaccines

Summary: Dermatologists interface with many different vaccines, and patients with different ideologies. Physicians can make a difference by approaching with facts and compassion.

Dr John Zampella (NYU Langone Health, US) shared the benefits of vaccines in his talk. He started with giving an overview of vaccines in history. Although the procedures used by Edward Jenner, who first created the smallpox vaccine, were primitive, it has been the base of our modern vaccinology. In the last 200 years, society has developed vaccines for nearly 30 infectious diseases. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the fastest vaccine development was of the mumps vaccine in 1967, which took 4 years. The COVID-19 pandemic showed that vaccine development could be decreased to 1 year. Under normal conditions, vaccine development takes 10-15 years.

Vaccines are among the greatest achievements in modern medicine. They are the backbone of public health. Think about eradicated diseases, such as smallpox, and the prevention of disease and death from diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, and measles. The impact of vaccines is not only limited to eradication, it also decreases transmission of diseases such as influenza.

Lately, vaccines have been under fire. The anti-vax movement seems bigger than ever. Vaccine sceptics say that vaccines contain toxic ingredients and are a tool of “Big Pharma” for profit. An earlier study in 1998 providing evidence that MMR vaccination causes autism was retracted because of fraud but is still used by anti-vaxxers to express their worries about vaccines.

Physicians are here to make a difference. Expanding knowledge and sharing compassion are key. The immunology of vaccines is complex, and different classes of vaccines exist. Understanding the new technology of mRNA vaccines is even more complex for the general public. Dermatology interfaces with vaccines, as dermatologists treat at-risk patients and deal with side effects from vaccines. In addition to systematic side effects, dermatologists often observe cutaneous reactions such as injection-site reactions, granulomas, morbilliform eruptions, urticaria and so on. Dr Zampella noted that allergic reactions are possible, but these are generally contraindications.

Important vaccines in dermatology include the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine and future prospects of melanoma vaccines. Next to preventing cervical cancer, HPV vaccines are potential therapeutics for treating cutaneous and genital warts, and basal cell cancer. The HPV vaccine may also work for common warts. Many attempts at creating a melanoma vaccine had been disappointing but newer methods have more promising results. Dr Zampella’s take-home message included that there are many vaccines other than the COVID-19 vaccines to know about with new technologies on the horizon.

  1. Zampella J. Women’s Health Therapeutic Hotline. Session F019. AAD VMX 2021, 23-25 April 2021.

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Article image: @ MarianVejcik

The content and interpretation of these conference highlights are the views and comments of the speakers/authors.