Capitol Alert

Video: Vaccine letter from drug company speaks from the past

There’s a hopeful start to a 1962 letter from drug manufacturer Pfizer to then-toddler Theresa Hazelton: “By the time you are old enough for this letter to have any significance to you, it is probable that one of the most destructive diseases of childhood will no longer be a problem.”

The missive informed Hazelton – now 55-year-old Terry Rugne – that she was the first child to receive the measles vaccine in California, as part of a field trial of the new drug. Its prediction for the future didn’t quite work out; an outbreak of measles this year grabbed national headlines.

Rugne lived in South San Francisco at the time, and now lives in Lincoln.

A spokesperson for Pfizer was able to verify that the letter, provided to The Sacramento Bee by Rugne’s mother, Stella Bohren, was authentic and sent by the company. Pfizer couldn’t find any like it sent to children in other states.

But like a time capsule, the letter seems to speak from the past to today’s vaccine controversy, praising Rugne’s parents for their decision to have her vaccinated by saying that researchers’ efforts would have been “meaningless had not parents like yours cooperated to the extent of permitting you to participate in the field trials of this vaccine.”

Bohren, who lives in Applegate, says she wasn’t worried because “I had faith in my doctor.”

Rugne had no memory of the shot, but was glad it seemed to work. “I guess I didn’t really think much of it,” she said, “but I’ve never had the measles.”

Andrew Holzman: 916-326-5545, @andrewlholzman Photographer Madeline Lear contributed to this report.

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