Yes, medical school students learn about vaccines
CLAIM: Doctors are not taught about vaccines in medical school.
AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The Liaison Committee on Medical Education, which accredits medical schools in the U.S. and Canada, told The Associated Press that vaccine education is included in medical school training. The United States Medical Licensing Examination, a three-step exam for medical licensure, also includes topics about vaccines.
THE FACTS: A video circulating on Instagram falsely claims that vaccines are not included in medical school education. The video shows a nephrologist identified as Suzanne Humphries saying, “Doctors are not taught about vaccines in medical school. We are not taught what’s in vaccines … we are not taught how vaccines are manufactured, as far as what kind of animals go into them. We are not taught the potential dangers of vaccination.” Humphries, who is licensed to practice medicine in Maine, argues against getting vaccines.
According to the LCME, schools must provide a curriculum based on current medical knowledge and preventative care to prepare a medical student for residency training and to later practice medicine, Dr. Alison Whelan, the Association of American Medical Colleges’ chief academic officer, told The Associated Press in a statement.
The United States Medical Licensing Examination includes several topics on vaccine development and adverse reactions, while also testing for knowledge around how vaccines work and age eligibility to receive them.
“Additionally, vaccines are taught as part of several courses that a medical student would take during their time at medical school – including courses in pharmacology, pediatrics, microbiology, and immunology,” Whelan said. “This knowledge is further tested in the USMLE licensing exams and expanded upon as a medical school graduate enters into residency and continues their medical training.”
In 2019, 119 out of 131 participating medical schools reported in detail to the AAMC Curriculum Inventory (CI), a voluntary survey, that they required education content related to vaccines and immunizations. A spokesperson for AAMC said that some schools provided more detail than others, adding that it “doesn’t mean that the other 9% did not teach vaccine content. We can only state what they report out.”
Multiple peer-reviewed medical journals have documented instances where medical school students are taught about childhood immunizations and how to approach conversations with patients who may be vaccine-hesitant.
Dr. Stacey Rose, assistant professor of internal medicine and infectious diseases at Baylor College of Medicine, said that throughout medical school, vaccines are “absolutely part of the overall approach to teaching rising physicians about not only how to treat diseases, but also how to prevent them.”
She said that from their first year at Baylor, medical students take courses about infectious diseases with multiple lectures on immunization or vaccines. When students move on to their clinical training, they get more information on vaccines.
For example, during pediatric training, they learn about appropriate vaccinations for children and when they should be given. During rotations in family medicine or internal medicine, students have outpatient visits with adults and vaccines are part of primary care, Rose explained.
Rose noted that students are taught to understand how vaccines work, which also includes some understanding of how vaccines are produced.
“If it came down to a question or a concern from any individual patient regarding, ‘hey, what’s in this vaccine and how would I find out more,’ I think our students would know where to go to get that type of information,” Rose said. “We want to empower our students with not just facts but understanding.”
Humphries did not respond to comment at the time of publication.
This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.
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