Students gathered to learn more about the science behind vaccines and the importance of vaccination for public health and society in Smith-Buonanno 106 yesterday. "Vaccination Fascination: a Mythbuster Seminar," featured Richard Bungiro, lecturer in biology, molecular microbiology and immunology and Monica Kunkel, infirmary coordinator at Brown Health Services, and was organized by Brown MEDLIFE and the Community Health Departmental Undergraduate Group.
"Millions of people have been saved by vaccines. When an infectious disease doesn't kill you, it can leave you crippled for life," Bungiro, who spoke first, said.
Bungiro gave students an overview of the history and public health benefits of vaccination, as well as information on the basic scientific principles underlying vaccines.
"I'm the one actually sticking the needle in your arm," Kunkel began her portion of the talk. She proceeded to discuss vaccine policy at Brown and in Rhode Island. At Brown, students are required to receive vaccines for a number of illnesses and will face consequences such as a $100 fine or a dean's letter for noncompliance.
Health Services provides students with free flu vaccines each year, and Kunkel encourages students to take advantage of the service. Shivang Desai '14, a member of MEDLIFE, organized the event after realizing that "lots of people had scientifically inaccurate ideas about vaccines" keeping them from getting the flu vaccine. As Kunkel mentioned the availability of flu vaccines at Brown, Bungiro raised his arms above his head in a silent sign of victory. Ending the talk, Kunkel said, "We love vaccines at Health Services."
Bungiro and Kunkel both also spoke about the anti-vaccine movement, a topic that several students cited as a primary reason for attending the event. Jasmina Suko '14, said she was "interested in the anti-vaccine frenzy."
Kevin Nguyen '14 said he attended the event to "hear Brown Health Services take on vaccine protocols and to see a more clear delineation on the vaccine controversy in recent years."
Bungiro used his "favorite celebrity" Jenny McCarthy as an example of an anti-vaccine advocate who lacks scientific backing, and Kunkel systematically dispelled several vaccine myths.