With new measles cases being reported in Canada, it seems more important than ever for the public to be made aware of the importance of vaccinations.
Measles, a contagious disease that is also preventable through a vaccine, has been spreading, with doctors blaming some parents who choose not to vaccinate their children, reported Global News. And reports have emerged of a university instructor who may be teaching anti-vaccine info to first-year students.
According to a Storify set up by former student Isabelle Duchaine, Melody Torcolacci, who is a teaching adjunct for first-year health course Physical Determinants of Health, is questioning the safety of vaccines.
Duchaine, who worked as Academic Affairs Commissioner and handled university and provincial issues of educational quality and accessibility, first learned about this issue two years ago.
"I hadn't really seen the course content at that point, and the claims seemed too outlandish to be believed," Duchaine told The Huffington Post Canada. "I've been hearing from some former students that the material hasn't changed, and although the mandatory course feedback forms are confidential, comments on ratemyprof.com reflect a lot of discontent about the material."
The Principal and representative from Queen's AMS Academic commented on the matter on Twitter:
I am aware of the situation regarding HLTH 102 and have asked the provost to work with Arts and Science to gather more information.— Daniel Woolf (@queensprincipal) February 4, 2015
Here are a few of the slides Duchaine received from students that are reportedly from Torcolacci's course:
Here's the first slide:February 4, 2015
"No scientific evidence exist showing vaccines NOT contributing to increased incidence of chronic illness&disability" pic.twitter.com/lCN8jzRHK5— Isabelle Duchaine (@iDuchaine) February 4, 2015
The anti-vaccination movement is based on the unproven belief that vaccines can themselves increase the risk of contracting diseases. The supposed connection between vaccines and autism, for example, which was first published in The Lancet by Andrew Wakefield, was shown be based on false research, and the publication retracted the paper. Even Autism Speaks, the organization "strongly [encourages] parents to have their children vaccinated for protection against serious disease."
Though Duchaine emphasizes this is not indicative of general teachings at Queen's, it is a big concern for students.
"Queen's professors don't shy away from teaching invigorating material," she says. "I've taken classes in controversial subjects, but I'm not aware of anything happening on this scale. One friend in engineering compared it to an engineering professor teaching a geocentric model of the universe, or a physics profs arguing against gravity."
Can we talk about how horrible it is that Melody Torcolacci still teaches that vaccines cause autism in university-level classes? #queensu— Michael Green (@lifebettergreen) February 3, 2015
Queen's recently put out a press release with quotes from immunization expert Linda Levesque, who stated, "“Although the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine-autism link has been completely debunked by good science, the latter came too late and public confidence in this vaccine has never been fully restored."
UPDATED: According to a statement received by the Huffington Post Canada from Queen's University's Principal Daniel Woolf, the matter is under investigation:
"I became aware today of the situation regarding HLTH 102 and have asked the provost and vice-principal (academic) to work with Arts and Science to look into this matter and gather more information. The university is committed to the academic freedom of our faculty members; at the same time, the university expects that faculty members will present intellectually rigorous research and course material and that they will present available scientific evidence objectively and declare their biases. The university also expects that courses meet the needs of our students in terms of promoting critical thinking, independent judgment, and discussion."