Vaccines - This page is devoted to teaching students about vaccines. My goal is to devote most of this page to basic information on vaccines and how they work.
Responding to the Anti-Vaxxer Movement -
In addition to teaching the science of vaccines, I intend to have information on here designed to teach students about the "anti-vaxxer" movement, particularly I intend to use this recent movement as an opportunity to teach students critical thinking.
The Science of Vaccines
Some questions to ask about anti-vaccine claims:
1.) Are there any relevent experts (immunologists, biochemists, epidemologists, medical doctors) who are involved in the anti-vaccer movement? While we do not want to fall into a trap of blindly following the majority opinion, anytime we hear scientific claims it is important to ask whether or not these claims are respected by experts in the given field. The majority is not always right, in fact if the history of science has shown us anything, the majority is often wrong, but when there are no experts who agree with a particular claim, it should raise a huge red flag as to the legitimacy of said claim.
2.) Are the facts presented accurate? Unfortunately when it comes to critical thinking, people rarely check the facts. This happens not only in science, but also in politics, history, and discussion on religion.
With regards to the anti-vaxxer movement, I once came accross the claim that a particular study done on an experimental HIV vaccine gave the patients HIV. When I looked up the primary sources cited by the anti-vaxxer article, the claim turned out to be unjustified. None of the primary sources indicated that the vaccine gave anyone HIV. In other words, the anti-vaxxer article made it up.
I mention this story with the cautionary warning that as scientists, it would not be appropriate for us to dismiss any and all anti-vaxxers simply because of a few bad sources. There are bad sources in any movement, regardless of whether they are fringe or mainstream. Also, a good scientist doesn't just "follow the crowd". A herd mentality can be more harmful to good science than anything else.
3.) Does the logic pan out? This should be relatively straight forward. Once the other questions are answered, the question can then be asked as to whether the claims are logical.
For example, there are those who argue that because vaccines have certain side effects, that means that vaccines should not be used. (Sometimes these claims of side effects are true, and sometimes they are not.) But it must be pointed out that even vitamin C can have some pretty strong side effects. It must be asked: Do the benefits outweigh the risk?
On the note of logic, there are also those who argue that because vaccines are not 100% effective, they do not work. Bob was vaccinated for the flu, but Bob still got the flu.
The Vaccine Debate Playlist
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