By Ethan Lindenberger
JRNM 151

“When I get a flu vaccine or any vaccine, it’s to help myself, and also because I love you,” said Harry Kestler, Ph.D., in a recent online interview. Dr. Kestler is a microbiology professor at LCCC, and he had aided in the development of the HIV-AIDS vaccine. He uses his experience and knowledge to advocate for vaccines and educate his students on the importance of immunizations. “When I’m vaccinated, I’m one less vector, one less place, where the virus can be transmitted.”

Vaccines protect individuals from preventable diseases, but through that, the chance of a disease spreading to others by infecting someone also decreases. This is why Kestler said he vaccinates because he “loves you.” The vaccines he receives protects everyone around him, a concept known as herd immunity. However, herd immunity works only if enough people have received their vaccines.

Dr. Kestler
Dr. Kestler

“If we get to a certain level [of vaccinations] for this virus (COVID-19), we think it’s around 70%, we can at least return to more normalcy,” Kestler said. The normalcy of life without constant mask-wearing, quarantine, and social distancing from loved ones. If this 70% margin of a vaccinated population is reached, the rest of the population that remains unvaccinated are protected. In hopes of getting to this 70% margin, experts like Kestler are trying to educate students about vaccines, but not in the way you might expect.

“I don’t try to teach facts on the issue, I try to teach people how to acquire the best information,” Kestler said. “You play whack-a-mole if you try to knock down one particular theory and another one just pops out over here.” Instead, he recommends his students, “look for information from a reputable source.”

Logan Valdez, a first-year criminology student at LCCC, said, “I’m going to get the COVID-19 vaccine when it’s available for the general public. I believe this is a virus that will not be going away within this year. It might take everyone catching this virus to finally see the number of cases drop. I would get the vaccine to protect others that are more prone to danger.”

Other professionals such as Mikhail Varshavski, a board-certified family medicine physician popularly known as “Doctor Mike,” are also trying to educate people about the importance of vaccines.

Varshavski’s YouTube channel has over 6.7 million subscribers, with educational content about medicine and science. “Humans are naturally skeptical,” Varshavski said. “Trust in governmental institutions is at an all-time low,” and this all contributes to the rise in skepticism. To combat this, Varshavski gave the same advice as Kestler, saying, “Basic science literacy could be greatly improved, knowledge about quality vs poor-quality studies.”