THE SHOW "NOVA: Vaccines -- Calling the Shots"

WHEN | WHERE Wednesday night at 9 on WNET/13

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Diseases thought long gone -- measles, whooping cough -- are making a comeback (including an outbreak of measles recently in Brooklyn) because of what might be called failure-to- inoculate. Doubts have crept into the minds of some parents: Should I? And what are the risks? Those questions are resoundingly answered here.

MY SAY Is there really a valid debate any longer over the value or importance of vaccines? If so, then "Calling the Shots" is designed as an ironclad, insistent, well-reported film that, in the very nicest way possible, tells those who have decided not to vaccinate their children that they are -- essentially -- blithering idiots. There is no debate, or should be no debate, or if there is a debate, those doing the debating have spent way too much time on the Internet. That's the other message here.

There's a reason for the urgency of the message: "NOVA" says that so-called "herd immunity," a shield that protects virtually everyone (even the uninoculated) from disease, is largely intact when roughly 95 percent of the population is inoculated. But it crumbles when that level falls even a few percentage points -- as happened in France a few years ago, when 15,000 people contracted measles and six died. (Children, as always, are at greatest risk.)

Simply put, diseases that once were thought eradicated at that point find a way to sneak back into the general population, and there is evidence -- as this program documents -- that more and more people are not vaccinating their children, or delaying vaccination.

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One by one, "Shots" strikes down the anti-vaccine bogeymen -- for example, how vaccines may cause autism (zero evidence for that claim, according to dozens of studies) or seizures (Dravet syndrome, a form of epilepsy in infancy, can be triggered by vaccines -- but there are other triggers, too, including fever). It is so methodical that after a while, "Calling the Shots" starts to sound like an industry film in support of a product that most people bought decades ago and continue to buy.

BOTTOM LINE Interesting -- but essentially directed at someone who may actually doubt the efficacy of vaccination.