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5 things Bill Nye has to say to anti-vaxxers

Bill Nye, here signing books in New York, says he loves you, Vashon, but you're wrong.
Photo by Scott Roth/Invision/AP
Bill Nye, here signing books in New York, says he loves you, Vashon, but you're wrong.

Bill Nye is back. Netflix is now streaming episodes of “Bill Nye Saves the World,” starring everyone’s favorite bowtie-clad scientist. (And of course, we’re still a bit nostalgic for those olden times when Nye traded in his signature tie for exercise shorts and a cape, all for Seattle’s amusement.)

Nye recently spoke with KUOW’s Bill Radke, sharing his thoughts on colonizing Mars — and parents who refuse to have their children undergo routine immunization treatments.

Here’s what Nye wants anti-vaxxers to know.

1. Eating healthy won’t protect you from infectious disease.

Eating a healthy, balanced diet that includes lots of vegetables has great health benefits. But it’s not going to help much when it comes to diseases like polio, measles, mumps and whooping cough — which can be prevented with vaccines.

“The anti-vaccine thing is just weird,” he said. “These are educated people who equate eating organic carrots with being immune to polio somehow. And it’s just not like that.”

The belief that healthy living can protect against contagions is part of a fundamental misunderstanding about how nutrition works.

Read: Seattle kids have lower vaccination rate than Rwanda

“People think that eating healthy is the same to being immune to germs and parasites,” Nye said. “No, you are incorrect.”

2. “Vaccines protect me from you.”

To the anti-vaxxers who think “none of your beeswax” is a good comeback to those who disagree, Nye has this to say: “If you get infected … your body becomes an incubator for mutations. So you are affecting my rights. Vaccines protect me from you. That’s why we have these things.”

In other words, viruses evolve. And when they mutate and change in the body of an unvaccinated person, that person could infect others — including people who were vaccinated.

3. Listen up, Vashon Island. “You guys are wrong.”

Radke reminded Nye that the Puget Sound region is home to one of the nation’s most notorious anti-vax communities. Nearly one quarter of parents on Vashon Island skip vaccines for their kids, the Tacoma News Tribune reported in 2015.

“You guys are wrong,” Nye said to anti-vaxxers on Vashon and beyond. “I love you all as people, but you’re wrong about the vaccine thing.”

4. Don’t forget the Spanish flu of 1918.

Nye reminded us just how deadly viruses can be by citing the 1918 flu pandemic that infected 500 million people across the world and killed an estimated 50 million. Nicknamed “the Spanish flu,” the epidemic was one of the deadliest contagions in history.

“Part of the reason that I am here speaking with you on the radio is my grandparents did not die of the Spanish flu in 1918,” Nye said. “A lot of their contemporaries did. If you didn’t have the right genes, you died. Fifty-million people. This is very serious business.”

5. Science is political.

Nye had a message for people who think science shouldn’t be political — and to those who turn a blind eye to science, whether it’s evidence that vaccines are safe and necessary or evidence that climate change is real and potentially devastating to the planet.

“Science has always been political,” Nye said. “What we want is for our policies – our public policies, our laws, our regulations – to be informed and consistent with discoveries made in science. To just close your eyes to a situation you do not wish to acknowledge is not going to get us anywhere.”

Nye said that laws should be formed with a grounding in scientific evidence, and pointed out that the Constitution explicitly gives Congress the power “to promote the progress of science and useful arts.

Produced for the web by Amy Rolph.

Year started with KUOW: 1985 – 1986, 1991 – 2004, 2012