Raising Awareness About The Importance Of Vaccines
Over the last 18 years, measles vaccinations alone are estimated to have saved more than 23 million lives according to the World Health Organization. And yet, globally, vaccination rates have stagnated for almost a decade as more and more people opt-out. Last year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, North Carolina ranked below national averages for vaccination coverage among kindergarteners. Professor Emeritus at Wake Forest University School of Medicine Dr. Steven Mizel wants to change that. This week he’ll be addressing the facts and myths surrounding vaccines during his talk, Vaccines: Science, Ethics, and the Community.
On the reasons behind vaccination skepticism:
When we get overload of information, our brain says, let's take a shortcut. Let's just accept what the folks around us believe. But if you get past that shortcut business and you take the time, then you run into something called confirmation bias. And this is when you act like a mob lawyer defending your client versus an impartial judge. You don't care what's right and what's wrong. You're just going to stay with what you got. Then there's the slippery slope part of that. And that's when you say, well, you know, if I changed my mind on this and I've been relying on these people at this cable news network, what's next? Will, I start giving up everything, and then who will I be?
On misunderstanding surrounding natural immunity and vaccines:
I got an email from a woman who was going to take her child up to New York where a measles outbreak had occurred and expose that child. I wrote her back and said that was criminal, because natural infections are extraordinarily dangerous. People claim that there are too many vaccines and it’s overloading the immune system. This shows a complete lack of understanding of the human body. Do you know that you have one hundred times as many bacteria and viruses in your body right this second than you do your own cells? You're more microbe than you are human. How can you possibly overload that?
So, natural immunity will be the worst thing you can do. I mean, think about the world before the advent of vaccines. Think about the Black Plague. In 652 it killed 50 percent of the human beings on the face of the earth. In the 1300s and 1400s, it killed 30 percent of all Europeans. So, we don't worry about these things because we are in the age of vaccines and antibiotics. It's the power of vaccines that keeps the human population alive.
On the claim that vaccines cause autism:
It turns out that's all based on this paper by this fellow named Andrew Wakefield in Great Britain. He wrote a paper saying the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine caused autism. But it turns out this guy created all the data. It was a fraud. And in fact, his paper was retracted from the scientific journal in which it appeared. And he lost his license to practice medicine. But the anti-vaccine movement still uses that paper to push their argument against vaccines.
On January 23 at Temple Emanuel in Winston-Salem, Mizel will guide a program including a lecture, Q & A, and a round table discussion. Clergy from several faiths will address ethical and religious issues surrounding vaccination and the relationship of the individual to the community.
Editor's note: This transcript was lightly edited for clarity.