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Interviewing someone with a vaccine-preventable disease likely to change anti-vaccination opinions, BYU study finds

Graphs, charts and scientific studies don’t do much to change the mind of someone who is anti-vaccine. Stories, however, might.

“I think a lot of the time as scientists, we tend to think that we have the facts on our side, and studies, and that they should speak for themselves,” said Brian Poole, an associate professor of microbiology and molecular biology at Brigham Young University. “Stories will really move people.”

That approach was highly successful in changing college students who started out a study as vaccine-hesitant change to being pro-vaccine, according to research published in the journal Vaccines.

Provo is a hotspot for the number of children who enter kindergarten without receiving the full slate of required vaccines.

Poole, one of the article’s six authors, had noticed that on his annual teacher evaluations, students would write things like, “Dr. Poole is great, but he is pro-vaccine.”

“It is definitely a prevalent idea that vaccines are somehow dangerous,” Poole said.

Deborah Johnson, a graduate student and the article’s lead author, brought up that college students aren’t being exposed to vaccine-preventable diseases.

Poole said those who are anti-vaccine have their beliefs due to stories they’ve heard about individuals who have been harmed after receiving a vaccine, so he decided to present them with a new story.

“They are doing something based on their experience,” Poole said. “I think that having another experience may help out.”

Students in three different winter 2018 classes were offered extra credit if they took a pre- and post-survey and interviewed either a family or community member who had a disease. A group was assigned to interview someone with an autoimmune disease to act as a control group for the study, while another group interviewed those who had had a vaccine-preventable disease, like shingles or tuberculosis.

More than 400 students completed the project. To avoid bias, the pre- and post-surveys also included questions about depression and autoimmune diseases, and students didn’t know the project was about opinions on vaccinations.

About 13% of students who took the first survey were identified as vaccine-hesitant. After conducting interviews, 68% of those who were vaccine-hesitant and had done interviews with people with vaccine-preventable diseases had become pro-vaccine, compared to 27% of those in the control group moved from being vaccine-hesitant to pro-vaccine.

The results shocked Poole.

“Honestly, I wasn’t expecting very much,” he said. “I thought the students who were vaccine-hesitant would stay vaccine-hesitant.”

Poole said that other studies have shown that trying to influence those who are anti-vaccine can backfire.

“If you try to convince people that vaccines are safe, they tend to dig in and think vaccines are less safe,” he said.

He plans to continue offering the interview project to future students, and said it’s an easy intervention to do.

He said that introducing storytelling into the scientific conversation around vaccines can help shift attitudes.

“Some of the reason for this study was just to see if stories could move people to accept the truth, which is that these studies have shown, which if that vaccines are safe and valuable and have saved millions of lives,” Poole said.

Hundreds gather in Provo in a sacred moment to remember 'those who believed in service before self'

Adorned with yellow, white and purple chrysanthemums and a bounty of other flowers from individual gardens, cemeteries across Utah County were dressed in florals over the weekend as part of the annual Memorial Day ceremonies, celebrations and family get-togethers.

In Provo, the pine trees at the Provo City Cemetery blew softly in the morning breeze as the sound of a rifle salute — performed by Metro Special Weapons and Tactics, or SWAT, Team —cracked the air and then silence as one lone bugler played Taps.

“It is a sacred day,” said Mayor Michelle Kaufusi as she welcomed about 200 people to the city’s Memorial Day Services.

“We honor those who believed in service before self,” Kaufusi said. She referenced a quote from President John F. Kennedy that encouraged American’s to be more than they are.

“Take appreciation a step further with action,” Kaufusi said. “As you leave today keep the fallen in your hearts.”

The Memorial Day service is sponsored by America’s Freedom Festival. Paul Warner, executive director, reminded those attending of the yearly processional of the Old Guard at Arlington Cemetery in Washington, D.C.

The Guard puts a flag on each headstone and then salutes it in a brief moment of devotion before moving on to the next headstone and the next, Warner said. There are about 200,000 flags on headstones for this Memorial Day in Arlington.

Former Utah County Commissioner Doug Witney was the keynote speaker in Provo. “I stand here as a veteran of the Vietnam War,” he said.

Witney was drafted into the Army at age 19. He went through basic training and was in the 1st Infantry Division, and was shipped to an air mobile unit in Vietnam.

He shared stories from his experiences in Vietnam.

For seven and a half months his job was to set up ambushes and to kill the enemy. “It sounds harsh by today’s standards,” Witney said.

“I was on a search and destroy team that every night ambushed trails,” Witney said. “I was made a sergeant at age 19 and continued for two and a half more months to do the same thing.”

He said he remembers at his emotional lowest he was sitting on a helmet in a heavy monsoon rain. He was covered in leaches, ringworm, boils and had mosquitoes and ants crawling all over him.

“I testify there are no atheists in foxholes,” Witney said.

He was one of the lucky ones pulled off the line to go see the Bob Hope show right before Christmas. However, the first day of the Christmas cease-fire he engaged the enemy.

“There was never really a cease-fire,” Witney said. “So many North Vietnamese strafed the hill all night. They had mined the whole area.”

Witney got shot through both thighs. While he dreamed of going back to his unit while in the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, the doctors told him he would be going home.

“The lessons I learned over there were: there is a God, families are important, freedom and country are important, and each one of us has a time in this life,” Witney said. “When I was shot, it wasn’t my day to die.”

The one-hour service also featured the voices of the Treeside Elementary School Choir, a charter school in southeast Provo.

Preparing to sue, ex-Boy Scouts recall abuse by unit leaders

NEW YORK — Sharing their stories doesn’t come easily for these middle-aged men. At times, their eyes well up or their voices crack as they describe being sexually abused in the Boy Scouts and suffering from emotional damage long afterward.

Looking back, they all remember vividly how excited they were to become Scouts.

“I was real gung-ho about getting my badges — fishing and campfires and all of that,” said Darrell Jackson, now a 57-year-old New Yorker. “It was good at the beginning.”

Jackson, whose unit leader was convicted of sodomy and imprisoned for about 18 months, is among hundreds of men across the U.S. who have recently contacted lawyers for help suing the Boy Scouts of America for sex abuse they say they suffered at the hands of Scout leaders.

Many of the men are from New York, which this year adjusted its restrictive statute-of-limitations law. The changes allow victims of long-ago abuse to sue for damages during a one-year window starting in August. New Jersey enacted a similar law this month. California is on track to follow suit.

Some of the lawyers told The Associated Press they have evidence that the BSA was inaccurate when the organization said in recent press statements that it had never “knowingly allowed a perpetrator to work with youth.”

The Boy Scouts acknowledge that sex-abuse litigation poses a financial threat and have not ruled out seeking bankruptcy protection.

Jackson joined a Cub Scout pack in Brooklyn in 1972 and the next year testified against his pack leader, Freddie Modica.

His initial fascination with the Boy Scouts was simple: He liked the uniforms. “It was like G.I. Joe dolls,” he recalled.

He soon learned that some boys in the unit were making visits to the pack leader’s home.

“They made it seem like it was a big thing — and I felt out of the loop,” Jackson said. “When I got a chance to go, I was like ‘OK.’”

The allure, Jackson recalled, was that the scoutmaster — while posing as a supportive father figure — let the boys engage in taboo pastimes such as smoking and drinking.

Jackson now refers to what ensued as “the ugliness” — repeated sexual molestation by the scoutmaster until Jackson summoned the nerve to tell his grandmother, who was raising him. Initially skeptical, she eventually went to police.

In the years after the trial, Jackson says, he was often mocked with anti-gay slurs. He responded at times with belligerence and mistrust.

“It caused me to go into crime, drugs, everything, just to block stuff out,” he said. “It basically messed up my life.”

Despite receiving psychological counseling over the years, his marriage broke down. His childhood dreams of becoming an oceanographer faded. He cobbled together a career in home remodeling and maintenance.

Why sue the Boy Scouts? He says the organization should be held accountable, and he wants children to be safe.

“I don’t want nobody to go through what I went through,” he said.


Raymond Luna says he still has psychological scars from being abused as a scout in New York City in the 1970s.

“In my head, there’s still anger,” said Luna, 56, who now lives in Poughkeepsie, New York, and runs a fire-alarm installation company.

He recalls that the scoutmaster befriended many of the single moms — including his own — who had sons in the troop. Luna was among several boys who began visiting the scoutmaster’s house. He says that’s where the molestation took place.

He said he never reported the abuse to others.

“The shame was so big — like it was a secret,” he said. “During my teenage years up to when I was 33, I totally blocked it out.”

Even during a 26-year-marriage — which produced five children before ending in divorce — Luna says he never told his wife. He abused drugs and alcohol to keep the bad memories at bay and underwent years of therapy.

The counseling “helped me realize that I was a victim and not a participant,” he said.

Luna says he’s increasingly at peace. He has shared his full story with his current girlfriend. But he snapped to attention when he saw a TV ad seeking survivors of Boy Scout sex abuse to join in litigation. He and Jackson signed on with the same Seattle-based law firm.

After searching the internet for references to his former scoutmaster, he learned nothing about the man’s whereabouts but found him listed in a database of the Boy Scouts’ “ineligible volunteer” files, which list thousands of adults barred from scouting because of confirmed or suspected acts of molestation.

An expert hired by the Boy Scouts testified earlier this year that 7,819 suspected abusers were identified in the files, as well as 12,254 victims.

Luna’s former scoutmaster was placed in the files in 1964 after an arrest for abusing a 12-year-old boy, yet he rejoined New York City’s scouting ranks in the early 1970s. He remained a scoutmaster until 1975, roughly a year after Luna quit the organization in shame and anger, the paperwork showed.

“The BSA needs to know how much pain the abuse caused me and so many others,” Luna said.


Jason Amala, one of Jackson and Luna’s lawyers, said scout officials failed to take reasonable steps to protect the boys from the foreseeable harm of being sexually abused by scout leaders. The claims will seek unspecified compensatory damages for pain and suffering and punitive damages based on an allegation that the BSA intentionally concealed their knowledge of the danger.

“We get people who call us virtually every day who still think it’s their fault. And until the Scouts are fully transparent and accountable, you’re going to have that problem,” Amala said. “It wasn’t their fault — not their parents’ fault, not their moms’ fault. It was the Boy Scouts’ fault.”

The BSA has repeatedly apologized and says it now has policies to curtail abuse, including making mandatory criminal background checks for all staff and volunteers and requiring two or more adult leaders to be present with youth at all times during scouting activities.

“We believe victims, we support them,” said the BSA’s chief executive, Mike Surbaugh. “We encourage them to come forward.”

William Stevens, 50, came forward last year in Arkansas, filing a lawsuit alleging he was molested by his scoutmaster at least six times over a two-year period after joining the Scouts’ Webelos program shortly before his 10th birthday in 1978.

The BSA’s files show that the scoutmaster accused by Stevens, Samuel Otts, was caught sexually abusing a boy while a scoutmaster in Georgia in 1977. Yet Otts subsequently registered as a scout leader in Arkansas and remained active until 1980.

Rather than call police, the Scouts “allowed him to transfer and did nothing to warn the parents and scouts” in his new troop, said Peter Janci, one of Stevens’ lawyers.

Last year, an Arkansas judge ruled against Stevens, saying his lawsuit was precluded by the state’s statute of limitations. Janci hopes that ruling will be reconsidered if his legal team can prove the Boy Scouts made false claims about their abuse-prevention efforts.

The Boy Scouts say they report all suspected abusers in their database to law enforcement.

But Janci and his partner, Stephen Crew, say they have identified multiple cases in the Boy Scouts’ database in which adult volunteers implicated in child abuse were allowed to return to scouting assignments on a probationary basis.

Asked about the lawyers’ assertion, the BSA pointed to its current anti-abuse policies, but added, “We recognize, however, that there were moments in our organization’s history when certain cases were not handled the way they would be addressed today.”

Stevens went on to forge a successful life. He’s married, has a daughter and is human resources director for a Little Rock-based trucking company.

Yet his experience in the Scouts in Hot Springs, Arkansas, has haunted him.

“For the past 40 years, I’ve always felt like I was damaged goods,” he said. “I’ve lived with the shame and embarrassment and guilt because of the abuse I suffered. I pushed people away and didn’t let them get close to me.”

Only in 2016, Stevens says, did he come across an online database that included the Boy Scouts’ file about Otts and learn of the abuse that was documented in Georgia. Stevens reached out to Janci’s Oregon-based law firm and decided to go public with his story, speaking occasionally to small groups in abuse-recovery programs.

“That was the most difficult thing I’ve done in my life,” Stevens said, “but also the most rewarding.”

Man’s best friend joins Pleasant Grove Police Department

Months after Pleasant Grove Police Department’s K-9 retired due to injuries, a new K-9 officer has joined the crew. Django, a 3-year-old German shepherd, has become part of the department, teaming up with his new partner, Cpl. Chris Petersen.

The department’s former K-9, Havoc, retired in February after serving since 2014. The 5-year-old German shepherd severely injured his leg when he got caught trying to get out of his kennel. After multiple surgeries, his leg had to be amputated. The department spent thousands of dollars trying to save Havoc’s leg, according to Capt. Britt Smith.

For about a year, the department has been without a drug dog, Smith said. “It impacts the level of drug interdiction we can do on the streets.”

There have been times, Smith said, when the officers needed a dog for a drug search, but one was not available soon enough. “We have had to let them go and are potentially missing some,” Smith said.

Petersen was excited for the chance to be a K-9 handler, after working in various other police positions for the past 14 years.

“It’s a great opportunity,” he said.

Django and Petersen will begin drug detection training in July and patrol work training in September, where he will learn to apprehend suspects and conduct building searches. In the meantime, the partners have been participating in weekly trainings with the Utah County K-9 Team.

“Every week is different,” Petersen said.

Django has also been learning to socialize and get accustomed to human interaction. “The longer he lives with Chris, the more social he gets,” Smith said. “He is turning out to be a nice, sweet dog.”

The new K-9 was fully funded by the department’s Honorary Colonels. In fact, the Colonels have made the decision to fund the K-9 program in Pleasant Grove in perpetuity, according to Mike Petersen, Honorary Colonels president.

“The K-9 program in Pleasant Grove is a huge part of our police department. These K-9s help with more than just narcotic detection. They help keep officers safe by apprehension and sometimes just their presence causes suspects to comply with officers,” Mike Petersen said. “The K-9s are also amazing for community outreach and our safe schools. The Colonels felt that this was the best use of our fundraising efforts, to ensure the Pleasant Grove Police Department is not without a K-9.”

The Honorary Colonels plan to fund the K-9 program through yearly fundraisers and are even hoping to be able to purchase a second K-9 for the department in the near future.

One fundraiser, a car show, is coming up on June 15, and is one of the first events of Strawberry Days. Last year, more than 120 vehicles entered.

“We had classic cars and trucks as well as super cars and newer sports cars,” Mike Petersen said.

The car show will be held at Shannon Fields by the Rodeo Grounds, 220 S. State St. in Pleasant Grove. There is no entry fee for vehicle admission.

Funds are raised through sponsors and tickets for the drawing prizes. More information can be found at

Utah officials say elder abuse is on the rise

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah officials say they are receiving more complaints about abuse of vulnerable and elderly residents as those over 65 become the fastest-growing age group in the state.

Allegations of elder abuse have increased by 40% over a three-year period, state officials said. The reports detail financial, physical and sexual exploitation in long-term care facilities and private homes.

Utah Adult Protective Services received 5,325 reports of abuse of seniorcitizens in 2017, up from 3,030 in 2014, The Deseret News reported.

Utah’s retirement age population is expected to double over the next 50 years, according to an analysis from the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute.

The rate of those with Alzheimer’s disease also will sharply increase, more than tripling in the same time frame to a total of 112,000 cases, the report estimates. The disease can cause memory loss, hallucinations and other cognitive issues. It has no cure.

State officials said Utah must do more to prepare for its aging population. Their recommendations include having more doctors encourage dance and exercise, which can help prevent Alzheimer’s, more affordable housing for aging residents and incentives to attract workers to caregiving.

Rob Ence, executive director of the governor’s Commission on Aging, said it was a good start for the state to pass a 2017 requirement for employees of long-term care facilities to receive training on how to work with patients with dementia.

But the state still must grow state programs to investigate abuse and advocate for patients’ rights, he said.

Utah law requires anyone who suspects abuse of a vulnerable adult to notify either police or Utah Adult Protective Services, which works to shield victims from further abuse.

Nan Mendenhall, director of the protective agency, said people helping an older loved one should carefully vet caretakers and check in on them regularly to prevent abuse.

“If you don’t have active eyes coming in to see your loved ones, they’re more likely to be abused,” she said.

Evan Cobb, Daily Herald 

Angela Pack, a baker at Chip, measures out cookie dough at the new shop on Friday, Nov. 9, 2018, in American Fork.