Published: Feb. 9, 2015

MSU experts available to weigh in on growing vaccine debate

Contact(s): Sarina Gleason Media Communications office: (517) 355-9742

As the debate continues to wage on about childhood vaccinations, Michigan State University has experts available to give their perspectives on this growing issue.

Mark Largent is a historian focused on the role of scientists and physicians in American public policy. He has written on various topics including evolution-creation and Darwinism, and recently on the debates over compulsory vaccinations.

“Rather than caricaturing vaccine-anxious parents as simply ignorant, lazy or selfish, we need to recognize the complex set of concerns, assumptions and viewpoints that animate parents’ fears and begin to engage with them in more respectful ways.”

He can be reached at (517) 355-3441 or at

Dean Sienko is the associate dean for prevention and public health in the College of Human Medicine. He has worked as both the medical director and director of the Ingham County Health Department for nearly 23 years and also just completed his role as commander of the U.S. Army Public Health Command.

“I believe it’s good to have this debate, but it must be grounded in good science. Part of the issue is that Americans need to understand how to interpret data. We can’t conclude that because two things occur at roughly the same time, that one caused the other.”

He can be reached at (517) 432-6685 or

Kimberly Mitcham, assistant professor of osteopathic medicine, is a pediatrician who has been vaccinating children for more than 20 years.

“There’s so much energy and passion around this topic that I’d rather see it directed to areas much more concerning to children such as childhood obesity, curing cancer and minimizing violence toward children. These are the areas we need to pay attention to – not vaccinations.”

A pediatrician’s view on vaccines

She can be reached at (517) 353-3100 or

Joan Rose is co-director of the Center for Advancing Microbial Risk Assessment. She is an international expert in public health safety through water microbiology and water quality. She has been involved in the investigation of numerous waterborne disease outbreaks worldwide and is a pioneer in sequencing virus DNA in water sources.

“The scientific community knows very little about the millions of viruses in the world. Because of the resurgence of measles, Ebola and other deadly viruses, it’s critically important we learn more about this group of microbes, their infectivity, how they are transported, survive and ultimately how to control them.”

She can be reached at (517) 432-4412 or

Anil Jain is a University Distinguished Professor whose research focuses on pattern recognition, computer vision and biometric recognition. He is currently developing a fingerprint-based recognition method to track vaccination schedules for infants and toddlers, which will increase immunization coverage.

“Electronic records can boost vaccine coverage, which in turn saves lives. You can’t eradicate a disease unless you improve the coverage. Tracking who has been vaccinated – who has received the necessary booster shots so you can do a follow up – that’s the important thing.”

He can be reached at 517-353-3148 or

Rhonda Conner-Warren, assistant professor of health programs in the College of Nursing, is a pediatric nurse practitioner and advocate for delivering quality care to improve children’s health. Much of her work has specialized in areas of health-risk behaviors among children and teens and she currently is involved in vaccination efforts with the Ingham County Department of Health - Child Health Clinic.

“I have witnessed the sicknesses, hospitalizations and deaths of children who did not receive immunizations for health issues such as whooping cough, certain types of pneumonia and the flu. The loss of a child from these preventable illnesses is unacceptable.”

She can be reached at (517) 355-4719 or

Folu Ogundimu is an associate professor in the School of Journalism with research expertise in public health communications. One of his recent projects is a World Health Organization polio vaccination program in Nigeria.

“One of the key lessons from our work in Nigeria is that regardless of the science, it comes down to whether or not people believe vaccines are safe. I think the lesson to draw from this is that those who are less likely to vaccinate their children for whatever reasons do not need to have their objections reinforced by political leadership or experts in the public health community.”

He can be reached at (517) 353-6459 or