A pediatrician takes the anti-vaccine movement head on

Would you rather have your kids get measles or autism?

That’s the choice that anti-vaccine proponent Jenny McCarthy lays out on the talk show circuit. But in a LA Times column, pediatrician Rahul Parikh comments, “At best, that’s a false choice; at worst, it’s a sick, horrible wish for her or anybody else’s child.”

He further observes, rightly, that the anti-vaccine movement has done a much better job communicating their agenda, and utilizing social media, than doctors have. That’s one reason why their message is gaining traction and resonating with confused parents.

And despite the staggering amount of evidence demonstrating the safety, vaccines will always have a target on their back.

“After we spend millions of your healthcare dollars to disprove these hypotheses,” Dr. Parikh writes, “they’ll move the target to something else.”

Indeed, “as they run out of ingredients to blame, they’ve turned their ire against pediatricians, painting them as some monolithic group of people who march to the beat of drug companies, both parties bent on making profits from vaccines at the expense of children.”

In other words, no amount of data will convince those who refuse vaccines. Rather than fighting a reactionary battle with them, it’s wiser to spend money proactively promoting the benefits of vaccines, or even better, convincing parents what will happen if more begin to refuse them for their kids.

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  • Anonymous

    There are a couple hints of a silver lining to this Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey antivaccine nonsense. It, like the creationism/evolution debate, has continued the work of introducing the scientific method to the larger public. People are aware not just of the content (a lack of a link between vaccines and autism after a number of well done studies), but the process (how rational scientists examine evidence and postulate new hypotheses which are tested in a methodical manner). Since its development in the Enlightenment, the scientific method has been one of the most enduring human discoveries, allowing us as a species to look beyond our own limited anecdotal guesses and superstitious beliefs about how the world works, which for thousands of years, was how we explained phenomenon we couldn’t understand.

    The autism-causing-vaccine-controversy is predicated on belief in the absence of evidence. Four hundred years ago, well, that would be enough to make it true. Jim Carrey and Jenny McCarthy provide excellent models of that paradigm, which has dominated human thinking for millenia. This debate allows us as members of the public to look at how far we have come, in that we have the ability to make hypotheses, test them, collect data, pool it, examine it, and make rational conclusions, so we don’t have to rely as much on belief or superstition to make sense of this world.

  • Anonymous

    How about a public service campaign with easy-to-understand graphic images. Remember the fried egg/”this is your brain on drugs”?

    Iron lungs, little white caskets (for the Minnesota kids who died of HiB), any horrible sequela -the more ugly and tragic, the better -from some disease a standard childhood vaccination would have prevented. Include nasty things that happen to immunocompromised adults who are exposed to germy unvaccinated kids. Find some celebrity endorsers – not medical professionals – to take up the crusade. I don’t know who’s popular now; maybe Gov. Schwarzenegger can reprise his role as the Terminator Use Facebook, Twitter, and the rest of the social networking tools the antivaxers use.Give some jobs to creative and talented people laid off in various industries, such as advertising, IT, tv/film production, marketing, etc. Fight fire with fire!

    The most fanatic antivaxers will cling to their uninformed, misbegottenbeliefs. We’ve proven the difficulty of convincing any group of fanatics to change their worldview – how many Al Qaeda or Taliban members have recanted their beliefs? (Possibly those the CIA bribes with Viagra, but who knows?)

    Antivaxers want something to blame, something to sue, never mind the fact that the Vaccine Court discreditedtheir hypotheses and proven them wrong time after time.

    Autism is a terrible mental disorder, but so are schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression, all of which are diagnosed in children and adults. The groups who stand up for the mentally ill do so in a positive manner, rather than in the woo-filled, histrionic manner the antivaxers use.

    Reinforcing the message that childhood vaccinations are the right thing to do can’t hurt.

  • Anonymous

    I wish Jenny McCarthy would come see the THREE kids our unit has lost in the past 6 weeks alone due to delayed vaccines…it’s difficult to care about autism when you’re turning off the ECMO circuit and withdrawing support because of PREVENTABLE CHILDHOOD ILLNESSES.

  • Lou

    My take on the vaccination debate…which I can’t even believe is a debate at all…


  • Anonymous

    Regardless of how any pediatrician or celebrity feels about the topic of vaccination, the final choice belongs to the parent. It is a doctors job to educate, not enforce, but it will always be wise to remember we live in a society that values choice of the parent over the choice of Merck or Astra-Zeneca. This is not a discussion on vaccination so much as it is a rant on parents vaccine choices, but honestly, isn’t the 20plus vaccines the APA suggests in the first year of a child’s life excessive?

  • Anonymous

    To Anon 12:00 AM:

    We live in a society that values individual choice, and I agree that an adult can make whatever idiotic choice they like for themselves. However, when ignorance begins to harm helpless children–that’s where we need to draw the line on this “freedom to make stupid choices”.

  • Anonymous

    Anon 12:00:
    However uninformed your choice may be, in this society you have a right not to vaccinate your children. But with that right comes responsibility. This includes the possible need that your children to be excluded from public education. In short you may need to home school your children. Your “right” should not risk the rest of our children.
    Astra-Zenica and Merck did not write the vaccine schedule the AAP did. Conspiracy theories anyone?
    Look at the vaccine schedule. Each vaccine is specifically against a certain scourage of yesteryear that has now been largely forgotten thanks to it’s success. Do me a favor, try talking to the last of the polio epidemic survivors of the 1940′s-1950′s. They are still out there in there. Many have post-polio syndrome. Hepatitis B (the one Jenny questions as “needed”) causes 50% cirrhosis in thoses chronically infected. This easily can be not an issue with a simple vaccination. Seems like a nobrainer here. It is really too bad when people like Jim Carrey can get their uneducated views on sites like the Huffington Post to be read by the masses. Study after study has disproved these views. But these people aren’t interested in science. They are interested in blaming someone for a disease we don’t clearly understand in presentation. That stated, it is not caused by vaccines. The studies show this to be true.

  • Rogue Medic

    As Anonymous 12:00 demonstrates, much of this is about conspiracy theories. They feel as if drug companies have taken advantage of them. Yet they defend quacks selling them books and treatments that are just based on scare tactics. No scientific evidence of safety, but these scams are supposed to be safer than vaccines.

    Conspiracy theories are for people who do not understand math or science.

  • Anonymous

    what ever happened to freedom of choice? all you vaccine lovin people: go get your freakin vaccines. Leave the rest of us alone/

  • Rogue Medic

    Anonymous 7:28,

    what ever happened to freedom of choice?

    Since when is killing children freedom of choice?

    Since when is killing those with impaired immune systems freedom of choice?

    This is the problem with conspiracy theories. Once you start feeling persecuted, you feel that any behavior is justified.

    The prodisease movement feels justified in killing children. These spreaders of lethal illness justify killing as freedom of choice.

  • Amanda

    Parents should have the right to say whether or not they want to vaccinate their own children. We always hear the positve aspects of them but doctor’s fail to inform patients and parents of the negative ones.

  • ouraboros

    I am a firm beleiver in fredom of choice when it comes to my children and beleive the same should be true for all.


    If, because of your choice, your child becomes sick and infects, injurs or kills mine, you should be held responsible, criminally as well as civily.

    Your rights end where mine begin. If you choose act recklessly, you and your children should expect to be home schooled and excluded from long term close contact with children of responsible adults. Dont worry, eventually your little comunity will be wiped out by one of the diseases society at large has made a memory and we wont need to have these discussions anymore.

  • DMG

    Wow, nice discussion. I was beginning to think that only the anti-vaccination crowd posted online.

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