SotF – Michael Head – To Vax or Not To Vax: An amble through vaccination and those who dangerously preach against it

Tuesday 18 August 2015, 7:50 pm - 8:50 pm
At: Banshee Labyrinth, 29-35 Niddry Street, EH1 1LG


Michael Head

Michael Head

We all love our children dearly and chose to vaccinate them or not vaccinate them because of that deep love. Yet the discussion of whether or not to vaccinate can bring friendships to an end and the decision itself can have life-threatening consequences, not just for babies and unvaccinated children, but for anyone with a compromised immune system such as elderly people in our community.

Michael Head looks at vaccination in the larger context. Smallpox is eradicated, polio has nearly gone the same way and in most countries diphtheria is rare. That’s due to vaccination. Yet headlines are often fixated on measles outbreaks on both sides of the Pond, or the ‘dangers’ of the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine.

Too many people are just not fussed about vaccines, or worse, they actively preach and campaign against them, with more than the occasional dollop of an absence of morality.

Plus there’s the desperate search for an ebola vaccine, the imperfections of the tuberculosis vaccine, the waning immunity over time of the pertussis (whooping cough) immunisation, that HIV vaccine that just won’t come, and the annual guesswork that is the composition of the influenza vaccine. It’s a complicated business, alright.

This presentation will walk you through some facts and figures, highlight the new vaccines in the pipeline and provide an insight into the public health danger posed by those who, even today, still try and tell you the MMR vaccine gives your child autism (it doesn’t, by the way).


Michael Head is a research associate in infectious diseases at University College London and a visiting academic in the Faculty of Medicine at University of Southampton. He has an undergraduate qualification in Biomedical Science, postgraduate degree in epidemiology and is in the final throes of a PhD with the University of Amsterdam in infectious diseases and global health.

Michael has been working in infectious disease research since 2004, has around 30 peer-reviewed publications in journals including Lancet and Nature journals, and for some reason spends far too much of his spare time reading about ‘bad science’ on the web.

Loading Map....