AVAC Spotlight: Robert H. Hopkins, Jr., MD
Professor of Medicine and Pediatrics and Director of Division of General Internal Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences
Dr. Robert Hopkins is a leader in local and national efforts to improve access to vaccines. He is past governor of the Arkansas chapter of the American College of Physicians (ACP), a board-certified physician in internal medicine and pediatrics, a member of the National Vaccine Advisory Committee (NVAC), and maintains an active teaching and clinical practice, caring for both adults and children.
Vaccines are a unique form of health care. Surgery to repair a broken arm or leg is remarkable, but that one surgery doesn’t prevent someone else from breaking an arm or a leg. Vaccines are different—vaccines not only protect the person who receives the shot, but the benefits can extend to those who did not receive the immunization, which can limit the spread of disease in a community.
This concept is often referred to as “herd Immunity,” but Dr. Hopkins prefers a different term—after all, we’re talking about people, not cattle, so he has adopted the term “community immunity” instead to reflect how the benefits of vaccines benefits the individual and that person’s family, workplace, and neighborhood.
As important as community immunity is, the benefits are greatest when a majority of persons in a neighborhood are vaccinated as recommended. To make that happen, we need to address both the real and perceived barriers to immunization that lead to hesitancy or avoidance. Otherwise, communities and regions will remain more vulnerable to disease outbreaks. A unified message on the importance, safety, and efficacy of vaccines adopted by all stakeholders is imperative to maximizing rates and lowering health risks to individuals and society.
Government, public health officials, community leaders, physicians, pharmacists, and other healthcare providers should all speak to the same set of messages about vaccine value, safety, and the benefits to individuals and communities.
That’s why—in addition to being an immunization champion in his own practice—Dr. Hopkins also helps to train other immunization champions through ACPs “I Raise the Rates” campaign, which assists internists and other primary care providers in understanding their current patients’ immunizations and making practice changes that promote immunizations. This data-driven collaborative supports patients, physicians, health care teams, systems, and communities in raising adult immunization rates and reducing vaccine-preventable diseases.
At AVAC, we agree with Dr. Hopkins that promoting vaccination is critically important—our member organizations work tirelessly to build systems that make it as easy as possible for all adults—no matter where they live—to receive recommended vaccines. We thank him for dedicating his career to this worthy goal we look forward to working with him to spread the word that vaccines are safe, effective, help optimize health, and minimize disease risk.