The war on vaccines: Misplaced mistrust in a modern miracle?

UAlberta professor Lynora Saxinger explores the global state of immunization

Ryan O'Byrne - 8 May 2019

2019 isn't even half over and it is already being called one of the worst years for a disease nearly eliminated almost 20 years ago. Measles has made a comeback, with the World Health Organization (WHO) reporting that in the first three months of 2019, the number of measles cases has risen by 300 per cent globally. This spike in measles outbreaks has been linked to gaps in vaccination coverage in every region of the world.

Not long ago, vaccines were seen as lifesaving miracles of modern medicine. But now, they are being viewed with growing mistrust, and there has been a marked increase of anti-vaccine groups and the spread of misinformation about the benefits of vaccination. In fact, the WHO has listed "vaccine hesitancy" as one of the top 10 threats to global health in 2019. What is happening? Is vaccine hesitancy really a global health risk? What can be done to help?

These are the questions Lynora Saxinger, associate professor in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry's Division of Infectious Diseases, will explore during a talk at the third annual Festival of Health on Saturday, May 25. Saxinger will be part of a series of speakers discussing important issues that researchers at the U of A are tackling every day. Issues like the consequences of vaccine hesitancy.

"What I find surprising about the issue of vaccination is the sheer degree of difference between the depth of scientific support for immunizations versus the way they are portrayed by some groups, many of whom use scientific language to do it," said Saxinger. "So the big question is, how did we get here?"

Saxinger will be speaking during the Festival of Health's Rapid-Fire Presentations and Ask the Experts: Q & A Sessions starting at 1 p.m. In addition to vaccine hesitancy, she will discuss current issues in the immunization world, the concept of herd immunity, how immunizations are studied for safety, and characteristics of anti-vaccine groups.

The Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry's Festival of Health is a free event and open to the public. Event information and a link for tickets is below.

Festival of Health

Register here for your free ticket
May 25, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.

Edmonton Clinic Health Academy

North Campus, University of Alberta

Booths and Children's Activities Area

10 a.m. - 3 p.m.

Learning Session and Tours Block 1

10:30 - 11:30 a.m.

Barbecue and Entertainment

11:30 a.m. - 1 p.m.

Rapid Fire Presentations and Ask The Experts: Q & A Session

1 - 2:30 p.m.

Learning Sessions and Tours Block 2

3 - 4 p.m.

More information available at