Why vaccines are absolutely necessary

Vaccines have done their job so well that anti-vax parents have forgotten the horror of contagious disease.

LARRY BRILLIANT: Autism is caused by a lot of factors that we don't fully understand, but vaccines are not one of those factors.

I live in Marin County. I live in the epicenter of the anti-vax movement. It's pretty obvious I have not been very successful in my own county in persuading people. And I understand this is a very complicated business. Measles, for example, one of the M's in MMR, measles spreads faster than any other virus we've ever seen. One case can give rise to 20 or 30 cases in two weeks. If we had a lot of measles around and there were a lot of children getting sick all the time we wouldn't be looking at the marginal question of whether vaccinating my child or not was a good idea; we'd be rushing to get the measles vaccine. And that's what happened. When polio was around, and you always knew somebody in the neighborhood who was paralyzed in an iron lung, we all rushed to get that polio vaccine. In fact, there's photographs of parents standing in line for four or five hours to get the Salk vaccine or the Sabin vaccine. When there's no polio in the United States and we're down to 18 cases of polio in Pakistan, we're this close to eradicating polio, when there's no measles around we change our calculus. Why should I subject my child to a one in a million risk if there's less than a one in a million chance of them getting the disease?

And this is where it becomes hard because we have to talk about prevention of a disease that still exists in the world but not in our neighborhood. It's not front of mind. And a lot of these parents who are against vaccines are wonderful, the most wonderful people, they're just trying to do the right thing for their kids. But vaccines are the best thing science has ever given us. It's saved hundreds of millions of children's lives. It eradicated smallpox. It has reduced the population explosion. I know that that's pretty paradoxical, but as long as there are vaccines children will not die as they did when I was in India—there were places that 50 percent of kids died before the age of five. When that happens parents have many more babies because they expect to lose so many. Vaccines have changed that.

  • "Autism is caused by a lot of factors that we don't fully understand," says epidemiologist Dr Larry Brilliant, "but vaccines are not one of those factors."
  • Vaccines have saved hundreds of millions of children's lives—they have eradicated smallpox, nearly eradicated polio, and they have reduced the population explosion. How? Thanks to vaccinations, parents no longer expect 50% of their children to die from disease, so they have less children.
  • Vaccines have protected the lives of children so effectively that anti-vax parents—who only have their children's best interests at heart—have lost sight of how critical vaccines are. When polio was rampant in the U.S., parents waited in line for hours and hours to have their children vaccinated. Safety changes our mental calculus, but vaccinations must continue to ensure that safety lasts.

The world and workforce need wisdom. Why don’t universities teach it?

Universities claim to prepare students for the world. How many actually do it?

Photo: Take A Pix Media / Getty Images
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Many university mission statements do not live up to their promise, writes Ben Nelson, founder of Minerva, a university designed to develop intellect over content memorization.
  • The core competencies that students need for success—critical thinking, communication, problem solving, and cross-cultural understanding, for example—should be intentionally taught, not left to chance.
  • These competencies can be summed up with one word: wisdom. True wisdom is the ability to apply one's knowledge appropriately when faced with novel situations.
Keep reading Show less

Six-month-olds recognize (and like) when they’re being imitated

A new study may help us better understand how children build social cognition through caregiver interaction.

Personal Growth
  • Scientists speculate imitation helps develop social cognition in babies.
  • A new study out of Lund University shows that six-month-olds look and smile more at imitating adults.
  • Researchers hope the data will spur future studies to discover what role caregiver imitation plays in social cognition development.
  • Keep reading Show less

    New study connects cardiovascular exercise with improved memory

    Researchers at UT Southwestern noted a 47 percent increase in blood flow to regions associated with memory.

    Photo: Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty Images
    Surprising Science
    • Researchers at UT Southwestern observed a stark improvement in memory after cardiovascular exercise.
    • The year-long study included 30 seniors who all had some form of memory impairment.
    • The group of seniors that only stretched for a year did not fair as well in memory tests.
    Keep reading Show less

    Mystery anomaly weakens Earth's magnetic field, report scientists

    A strange weakness in the Earth's protective magnetic field is growing and possibly splitting, shows data.

    ESA
    Surprising Science
    • "The South Atlantic Anomaly" in the Earth's magnetic field is growing and possibly splitting, shows data.
    • The information was gathered by the ESA's Swarm Constellation mission satellites.
    • The changes may indicate the coming reversal of the North and South Poles.
    Keep reading Show less

    Learn a new language—super fast. Here’s how.

    According to a man that knows more than 20 languages, the key is to start in the middle.

    Videos
    • Canadian polyglot Steve Kaufmann says there is indeed a fast track to learning a new language. It involves doubling down on your listening and reading.
    • By taking the focus off grammar rules that are difficult to understand and even more difficult to remember, you can instead develop habits by greater exposure to the language. Kaufmann likens the learning process to a hockey stick.
    • In the beginning you make major progress as you climb the steep hill of the hockey stick, whereas the long shaft of the stick is the difficult part. Because you're not seeing day-to-day changes, you might lose motivation. So, stay the course by consuming content that interests you.