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, MD, MPH, is the author of Sometimes Brilliant: The Impossible Adventures of a Spiritual Seeker and Visionary Physician Who Helped Conquer the Worst Disease in History. Dr. Larry was Vice President of Google and Executive Director of Google.org. He is board-certified in preventive medicine and public health and co-founder of The Seva Foundation, an international NGO whose programs and grantees have given back sight to more than 3.5 million blind people in over 20 countries. Dr. Larry lived in India for more than a decade working as a United Nations medical officer where he played a key role in the successful World Health Organization (WHO) smallpox eradication program in South Asia. He currently serves as the acting Chairman of the Board of the Skoll Global Threats Fund whose mission is to confront global threats like: pandemics, climate change, water, nuclear proliferation and the Middle East conflict.
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.
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Universities claim to prepare students for the world. How many actually do it?
- 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.
A new study may help us better understand how children build social cognition through caregiver interaction.
Researchers at UT Southwestern noted a 47 percent increase in blood flow to regions associated with memory.
- 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.
A strange weakness in the Earth's protective magnetic field is growing and possibly splitting, shows data.
- "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.
According to a man that knows more than 20 languages, the key is to start in the middle.
- 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.