5 Common Scientific Misunderstandings You Should Know

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Vaccine Syringe Needle

Scientific discovery offers a wealth of unusual surprises — the more we learn, the more we realize how much we probably still don’t understand. However, even the most scientifically savvy can miss things, or risk misunderstanding tidbits of science. If you’re an expert on bee colonies you might not have time to learn about vaccines or space — and visa versa. If your interests lie more in the range of Van Gogh or Bukowski, you may not be looking into how candles actually work. Below are just five facts that people tend to misunderstand.

1. How Vaccines Keep Us Healthy – Herd Immunity

Vaccines have become a source of conflict for many Americans, and many have decided to forgo vaccinating their children. There are lot of different arguments people make for this. There’s the highly controversial claim that they cause autism, which the scientific community largely opposes, and there are others who just prefer a more purist lifestyle. People are entitled to their preferences and viewpoints. However, it’s generally important to understand a few facts about how vaccines protect us from diseases before considering this plethora of other viewpoints. Vaccines help to protect us at the individual level by lightly infecting us and helping our immune systems to prepare for, and protect against, a specific disease. However, vaccines do something equally important at the population level.

What a vaccine does is to one by one weed out susceptibles in the population, thinning the number of people who can be infected until the disease can no longer replicate in a dangerous way despite its infectious nature. As a result, the disease dies out. This is known as herd immunity. A certain percentage of the population must be immune to the disease for this herd immunity to occur, however. Those getting vaccinated are conferring the advantages to those around them that are not. But if fewer and fewer get vaccinated, eventually herd immunity will be lost — a risk worth understanding and keeping in mind when considering vaccination options.

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