Anti-vaccine myth dispeller talks with Lester Holt

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By Shamard Charles, M.D. and Felix Gussone, MD

Melody Anne Butler, a registered nurse and infection preventionist at Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center on Long Island, New York, had mixed feelings about vaccines until she was pregnant with her third son during the deadly H1N1 flu pandemic in 2009.

The mother of four was concerned for her baby’s safety, but also overwhelmed by scary reports circulating online about vaccine safety. After talking with her clinical nurse educator about pseudoscience and vaccine misinformation on the internet, Butler decided to get her children vaccinated.

She was shocked that nurses were involved in spreading vaccine myths online. That led to Butler founding Nurses Who Vaccinate, a nonprofit that provides nurses and health care professionals with current, evidence-based information on the benefits of immunizations and current recommendations. But her early encounters with nurses who were opposed to vaccines were frustrating.

“They did not want to hear what I had to say,” Butler told NBC News anchor Lester Holt. “It was my first encounter with very vile anti-vaccinators. I was really taken back because these were fellow nurses and they were not receptive to the information.”

Amid the ongoing measles outbreaks in the U.S., Butler discussed vaccine misinformation and common myths with Holt.

Holt: Do you change minds?

Butler: Yes, but it’s not an overnight thing. I establish a relationship with these people. They know they can come to me with their questions and concerns because I was one of them. I understand you can be taken for a ride. I understand how susceptible people can be, even those who are college educated.