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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

New NOVA Vaccine Documentary Highlights Michigan Risk Communication Research

Diseases that were largely eradicated in the United States a generation ago, measles, mumps, and whooping cough, are returning. Across America and around the globe, children are getting sick and dying from preventable diseases—in part, because some parents are choosing to skip their children’s shots. How and why do vaccines work? The award-winning PBS science series NOVA helps viewers find out in “Vaccines—Calling the Shots,” which premieres Wednesday, September 10 at 9 p.m. Eastern

Dr. Brian Zikmund-Fisher

[Photo: Dr. Brian Zikmund-Fisher]

Misinformation about vaccines can spread quickly, creating confusion about the relative risks of vaccinating vs. not vaccinating. “Vaccines—Calling the Shots” explores the history and science behind vaccinations, tracks outbreaks, and sheds light on the risks of opting out—and encourages parents to ask questions and use the best available evidence to make decisions about how to protect their children.

The documentary travels the globe to provide the latest evidence and answers. Featuring scientists, pediatricians, psychologists, anthropologists, and parents wrestling with vaccine-related questions, the hour-long film explores the history and science behind vaccinations, tracks outbreaks, and sheds light on the risks of opting out.

U-M associate professor Dr. Brian Zikmund-Fisher, who specializes in risk communication to inform health and medical decision-making and leads the U-M Risk Science Center’s Risk Communication Focus Initiative, features prominently in the NOVA documentary. He weighs in on the concerns of some parents — including a number of new mothers interviewed in San Francisco — about the risk of adverse reactions from vaccination. While the film acknowledges that there are very rare risks, Dr. Zikmund-Fisher puts those risks in perspective: You would need about 10 football stadiums, each with 100,000 people, to find a single serious allergic reaction to a vaccine.

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