Scenario

 “Vaccination is where you shoot your kids with small caliber bullets in the hope that they’ll become immune to larger bullets”. 

Discuss the validity and implications of the above statement with your interviewer.  

How to Practice This Scenario

You can practice this scenario at home by ideally getting your friend or family member to act as the interviewer while you play the role of the student. Below are some follow up questions that the interviewer can ask you:

  1. How do vaccinations really work?
  2. Why might some parents choose not to vaccinate their children? In your opinion, is this a justifiable stance?
  3. Have there been any scandals in the past that may deter parents from vaccinating their children?

Explanation

The statement does have a point, in that that’s partially what vaccination is indeed about. But obviously, it’s written in such a simplified and exaggerated way that completely ignores the science of vaccination, and is evidently written by an opponent of vaccination.
 
The statement is actually pretty damaging, in that its simplicity makes it appeal to those who are scientifically ignorant about vaccination (ie: a significant portion of the general public), and makes vaccination seem like something ridiculous that no one in their right mind would support, let alone allow their kids to undergo. 
 
How do vaccinations actually work?
That’s a pretty complex answer that requires a basic understanding of the immune system. Whenever the immune system encounters a pathogen (something that can cause disease), it mounts an “immune response” against said pathogen. This response is specific to that type of pathogen, as the immune system identifies the pathogen by the unique sequence of molecules on its surface (antigens).
 
This primary immune response takes some time (a few days at least) to work, for various reasons that we shan’t go into. In that time, the pathogen has plenty of time to cause damage replicate and spread, which isn’t ideal. So we get ill. But once the immune response kicks in, the pathogen is eradicated and we’re better. 
 
Importantly, the immune system develops a memory for all the antigens it encounters. It produces loads of memory cells, specific to that antigen, that can kick in whenever the antigen is encountered in the future. This secondary immune response is much quicker and than the previous primary response would have been, as by that point, we have many millions of specific memory cells floating around. Thus, if you encounter the pathogen (with the right combination of antigens on its surface) again, your immune system already knows how to deal with it, and it’s destroyed before it can make you ill.
 
That’s the principle on which vaccination works. The vaccine is a weakened/dead/inactive form of the pathogen which still has all the antigens on its surface. The immune responds to the antigens, forming memory cells against it, but importantly, because the pathogen is weakened, it doesn’t cause us any lasting harm. So we develop an immunity against the pathogen without the pathogen doing much harm to us.
 
Diseases that are vaccinated against tend to be those that are so bad that if you didn’t already have immunity to them, you would fall severely ill and/or spread the disease to others before the primary immune response has time to kick in. 
 
To vaccinate or not to vaccinate
Being aspiring medical students, it makes absolutely no sense for you to be anti vaccination, because vaccination is a very very very good thing. But here are some of the arguments that the anti-vaccine camp use every now and again:
 
  • Pharmaceutical companies can’t be trusted!
    • The corporate giants have proven themselves to be untrustworthy based on past behaviour
    • Are you really going to take them at their word that these injections are safe when money and profits are impacted by their answer?
  • All vaccines are loaded with chemicals and other poisons!
    • There’s a whole list of bad chemicals that they use in vaccines
    • Vaccines are grown in animal tissues like monkeys, dogs, chicks, calfs, pigs, horses, rabbits and even the dissected organs of aborted fetuses
    • Can you imagine injecting this stuff directly into your child’s blood? Can you??
  • The MMR vaccine causes autism
    • We all know this one
  • You can always get vaccinated, but you can never undo a vaccination
 
The exact details on how to counter these points aren’t really necessary, but if you’re interested, there’s plenty of stuff available on the internet. 

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