Is it OK to question vaccines?
Absolutely. A new documentary, Vaccines — Calling the Shots, scheduled for release this month encourages parents to voice their questions about vaccines. The program steers clear of social controversies and remains on a scientifically solid path, winding through topics that include the history of vaccines, the basics of immunology, vaccinology and outbreaks, all to illustrate a central message — science supports vaccinations.
Inevitably, vaccine decisions center on weighing the risks and benefits. In examining the choice to vaccinate, the vaccination question becomes similar to a myriad of risk/reward decisions we make every single day. Indeed, each of us is willing to live with an amount of risk acceptable to us because it’s part of accomplishing needed tasks or attaining worthwhile rewards, such as allowing our kids to participate in sports, ride their bikes around the block, sleep over at a friend’s house, take a bath or shower, walk outside during a thunderstorm, or even ride in a car.
But, many people worry about the risks of serious, adverse effects following vaccination. Like with any medication, vaccines are not risk free, but the odds of a life threatening event as a result of vaccination are extremely unlikely. Yet balanced against the benefits — immunity for the vaccinated individual and increased protection for the community — the decision becomes a lot more logical.
In addition to discussing risks and benefits from the point of view of parents, doctors, scientists, and decision analysts, the film brings the point full circle when the producers ask viewers to think back to 1955, when vaccine-preventable diseases were a part of everyday life. When the success of the polio vaccine trials was announced, suddenly, an entire generation of parents and kids that once lived in fear had a chance to choose protection instead.
The weighing of vaccine risks versus rewards is one of many critical topics addressed in PBS and WGBH’s “Nova” documentary, Vaccines — Calling the Shots, set to premier Wed., Sept. 10 at 9 p.m. EDT/8 CDT. Check your local PBS listings for show times. You can also view the documentary online at the NOVA website library or download it from the Apple iTunes store.
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