One reason to work in vaccines? You’ll make a difference in the lives of countless parents, children, and students around the world. Another reason? “Disease Detective” is a very cool (and very real) job title. Whatever your motivation—no judgment here—these are four career paths that have a significant impact in the vaccine field.
CDC Epidemic Intelligence Officers, a.k.a. “disease detectives,” track a disease outbreak back to its source, identifying everyone who may have been exposed along the way. Their work allows public health workers to quarantine, vaccinate, and treat those exposed as needed. Disease detectives were especially important to limiting the impact of the recent measles outbreak, and they’re vital to public health whenever an infectious disease breaks out.
Nurses are on the front lines of immunizations. Not only do they administer many vaccines, they are some of the most important advocates in the immunization community. Nurses have a tremendous amount of one-on-one time with patients; this gives them the unique opportunity to advise patients on recommended immunizations, reassure hesitant parents about vaccine safety, and discuss any other concerns in-person with patients.
Vaccine Research and Development
There are two major branches of vaccine research: Basic science researchers and clinical science researchers. Basic researchers look at the physical properties of disease-causing microbes—they’re working to understand how these physical properties can be used in the body to produce immunity against specific diseases. Clinical researchers use that knowledge to develop vaccines and test them for safety and effectiveness, so that they can eventually be administered to the general public.
Many organizations involved in immunization advocacy (like us!) are not-for-profits that rely on fundraising to support their efforts. Development Directors are at the forefront of this, making sure immunization organizations have the funds they need to do their life-saving work. The job involves everything from organizing philanthropic events to securing donations from foundations, individuals, and the government. Consider it a sales job, but the product you’re selling is public health and an end to needless suffering.