Addressing concerned parents about vaccines

By Phil Plait | May 29, 2009 2:00 pm

The CDC gets it. They put out a really well-done video for parents with questions about vaccines that specifically deals with the misinformation put out by the antivax mob.

Nice. Informative, calm, and speaks directly to concerned parents. Spread the word.

And stay through to the video’s end. Cuteness!


Comments (37)

  1. Very nice. I like that they put those outtakes at the end, too. The video puts a human feel to the issue, which is very important.

    And, for those who are going to comment on how bad vaccines are, please, before doing so, click on my name for some information. Larian also included the same info on the Facts, not Fantasy site.

  2. Bill Nettles

    Thanks for that link, Phil.

    Now, will you weigh in on Chu’s axing of government support for fuel cell vehicles?

  3. Great video Phil, love the bloopers at the end there.

    OT, I absolutely agree with axing the fuel cell support. It’s not a real solution to either global climate change OR energy independence.

  4. Davidlpf

    Larian and all good website.

  5. Dennis Q

    Here are two stories that the Science Daily recently ran:

    Lessons From The Vaccine-autism Wars

    How Many Scientists Fabricate And Falsify Research?

    The first article deals with some of the reasons the scientists may be losing the public opinion battle on vaccination.

    The second article deals about one possible reason the scientific establishment, especially medical and pharmacological researchers, may be losing credibility in the public opinion.

    IMHO, since people have more and more distrust in the government, that distrust is also directed at agencies such as the CDC and the FDA. So, studies made by or approved by these two organisms, or any information emanating from them, regarding the safety of vaccines are going to be met with some level of skepticism by the population in general.

    I believe most scientists are honest and dedicated people who work for the advancement of science and the well-being of mankind. The problem is not with science and scientists, though. The perception out there is that science, especially in the medical and pharma areas, has been hijacked by vested interests and powerful lobby groups who tend to put money ahead of science. This may be one of the reasons we see situations like those outlined in the second article. I once saw a documentary on PBS about how the pharmaceutical industry finances a good deal of the medical research. This could be a good thing per se, but it could also be a source of serious conflicts of interest. As the second article says: – “In both kinds of surveys, misconduct was reported most frequently by medical and pharmacological researchers. This suggests that either the latter are more open and honest in their answers, or that frauds and bias are more frequent in their fields. The latter interpretation would support growing fears that industrial sponsorship is severely distorting scientific evidence to promote commercial treatments and drugs”-.

    In my opinion, if science is to win the public opinion battle on the vaccine controversy, it is going to take more than scientific evidence. Influential and vocal players in the medical industry are going to have to make a strong statement about how they wish to dissociate themselves from the interest groups, denounce the ongoing practice of industrial sponsorship of medical research by players who have vested interests and push for alternative ‘no strings attached” sources of financing for medical research. That’s just my opinion. But I have a feeling it’s also the perception of a fair segment of the population.

    What do you people think?

  6. Will


  7. Davidlpf

    Either we are being Poed or someone needs some meds of his own.

  8. Or you just can’t tell a joke when you read one, Davidlpf 😀

    Great video, Phil.

  9. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    Facts and Fantasy is worth a visit. (Or more.)

    I especially liked the “mountain vs tent” parable.

  10. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    Shouldn’t that be “being Poed upon” like in “O noes, now BA blog got poed on again”?

  11. dhtroy

    O.k., so we all know that vaccines don’t cause autism or other mental problems, so I was kind of wondering … what, exactly, is your excuse then Phil?


  12. Too bad it’s from the CDC, because a lot of the people opposed to vaccines already don’t trust the government and this certainly isn’t going to change that. And it comes off as scripted (which it probably is), but it’s still really good and I will “share” it on my Facebook page -even though I know I will suffer a rash of angry comments, which I will have to counter one by one by one…

  13. Vern

    Fight the good fight, Lauren.

    Looks like its ratings are getting hit on YouTube. Show it some love, peeps.

  14. Lauren, interestingly you should mention the lack of trust. Today’s blog post on Facts, not Fantasy mentions this article: Worth a read I think!

  15. Thanny

    Here’s my take on hydrogen fuel cells.

    Until there’s a viable infrastructure for the creation and distribution of hydrogen that doesn’t depend on fossil fuels, hydrogen fuel cells are not the answer.

    Any long term goal using hydrogen fuel cells would have to treat it as an energy transport mechanism, not a source of energy, since it’s clear that it takes more energy to create hydrogen than is gained by consuming it. But if we develop renewable electricity generation much further, that power can be used to create hydrogen as a means of transporting that electricity indirectly (imagine a tidal hydrogen plant that used electricity from tides to create the gas).

    The same kind of cycle could be used with methanol, too, which can be created by running a methanol fuel cell backwards (removing carbon dioxide from the air), with the electricity coming from solar, wind, or even fission sources. That converts that clean, renewable electricity into an easily transportable liquid which can even run current combustion vehicles with little to no engine modifications, and take advantage of all the existing gasoline distribution infrastructure.

    Right now, the correct path is making electricity generation carbon-neutral and renewable, then modernizing the grid as much as possible. The resulting excess power generation potential can subsequently be realized to create fuels like hydrogen or methanol that serve as easily transportable power.

  16. Mike

    Well then, since Thanny has broken the ice for off-topic posts…

    Phil, I finished reading Death From The Skies yesterday morning. It was great…but a few hours later, I found myself appreciating it even more.

    See, on Monday, I got some other books, including the novelization for Revenge of the Sith. I’m more a fan of Star Wars than Star Trek (though I love both), possibly because the epic feel of the conflicts in Star Wars seems more apropos to the scale, even though wars waged at that scale should be destroying whole worlds nearly as a matter of course.

    Anbyway, I read Revenge of the Sith yesterday afternoon and evening. And I was so glad I had read yours first.

    There was an almost melancholy to your book in the notion that nothing lasts forever. But there was also a sort of hope without hope going on–that even once the universe is gone, something might come along after it, even if we’re no longer there for it. And, of course, the notion that the universe is still, for the foreseeable future, ours to explore some more.

    As it was about the end of an era, if not the end of a civilization, Revenge of the Sith had the same general idea…but the novel brought it into sharp focus (possibly because Matt Stover is a better writer than George Lucas). The era of the old Republic was an age of heroes and great deeds. But even they couldn’t hold back the dark forever. Anakin Skywalker knew this on some level–shortly after beginning his training, a mission took him and Obi-Wan to a system with a dead star, and he realized even stars can die.

    The dark always wins. But it hasn’t won yet. And the light might get another shot.If I had read both of those books on their own (not sequentially), I might have come up with the same thoughts. But they would not have had the emotional resonance I had from reading them back to back: the seeming end of the story…with a little hope for another chapter.

    tl;dr Your book is, as the kids say, the tits.

  17. I liked the video, it’s tone, pacing and style were great at trying to calm the fears of mothers. I do want to mention two things that I noticed. First, an important question that should have been raised “Do vaccines have any side effects” was not covered at all. Sadly, I’m certain the anti-vax flotilla will sink their teeth into that as the weak spot in this video. Any downside, even the smallest thing not mentioned, is sure to be represented as part of the conspiracy.

    Also, as director of this video, I would have made certain that the moms on the couch relaxed a bit and dropped their defensive body language. They appear to be trying to make as much distance between themselves and “authority” as they can. It’s a small thing but it unconsciously affects how we interpret how the mothers are receiving the information from the doctor. They should uncross their legs and arms, swivel to face the doctor and lean forward a bit towards her to communicate interest and lack of fear. If you watch the video without sound you can see the effect more clearly.

  18. timmy

    Hydrogen fuel cells are a real possibility for stationary applications but three things need to happen (1) we have to improve the energy density (2) we have to improve the efficiency (3) we have to develop the ability to crack the Hydrogen at the application

  19. I’m featuring this video on my YouTube channel.

  20. Good points, equinox! I did as you suggested and I did notice how the black lady with the blue turtleneck was turned away from the CDC doc. The crossed legs didn’t bother me too much, it’s just what ladies do, it’s more, well, ladylike, you know? The CDC lady should’ve not worn the jacket, though, as it made her look too official.

    Perhaps scouting the CDC for someone different to be on camera, someone with more media skills. It’s not easy to learn how to do this stuff, takes a talent (maybe that’s why we call them “on camera talent”). When you get non-pros to work well, though, it’s magical! It really resonates with audiences, and the payoff is huge. Verisimilitude and all that…

    I know how hard staging scenes like this is, especially when using non professional talent. You want them to look like we’ve accidentally happened upon them in the home setting but they (not being used to the cameras) tend to tense up and get stilted. Perhaps they each should’ve gotten a snifter of brandy to nurse! Works fer me!

  21. zar

    I think it might be a good idea to discuss how vaccines just train the body’s immune system, just making its natural defenses stronger. And use the word “natural” a lot. A lot of people seem afraid of how vaccines are “unnatural” (like internet access is natural?), but really they’re just working with the abilities the human body already has.

  22. blur

    i think all antivaxers should be jailed for being a real threat for children.
    if they’re tolerated, then what’s next- anti-antibioticers, antisurgeons, antivitamins?

    antivax is so retarded, i cannot even think…

  23. As we approach the 7 year anniversary of the last time my son spoke… “My name is Tanner. My name is Tanner.” After his vaccinations for school, I am sad that the CDC still has to lie to us. Their mantra is lie deny divide ignore and discredit. See for yourself We have not done due diligence. We do not provide informed consent. Are you willing to sacrifice your child for the greater good? Autism is lifelong thing to deal with. The mainstream medical community will not even partner in cleaning up their mess. Think twice. Research the new hippocratic oath used to be “First do no harm” now it is “For the good of the community” One child a day is too many with Autism… We are seeing 72 a day. One every 20 minutes. Something is rotten in….

  24. Dana's Dad

    As we approach the 3rd month since my 4 week old daughter Dana died from pertussis…too young to be vaccinated. I am pleading with people to stop this senseless debate. Children will and are dying from vaccine preventable diseases….Believe me, I KNOW!

    Death of your child is a shocking thing to live through. I wish it on absolutely nobody. I live with it each day!

    To suggest that the medical community would knowingly hurt our babies is ludicrous. They take an oath the protect and preserve life. If you’d seen the devastation in the eyes of the intensive care staff when my daughter died, you’d never doubt their integrity and commitment. They tried every thing possible to save her. WE HAVE SO MUCH RESPECT FOR WHO THEY ARE AND WHAT THEY DO!! Picture 14 people desperately working together on my little girl…in tears as they failed to save her. THEY CARE!!!!

    I’ll let the medical experts explain vaccinations to you. Our story is all I have to tell. Please learn from it….we are trying to help you and others understand just what happens when people don’t do the right thing!

  25. Lawyer

    Yey! 1+ for Reason. 5- for scaremongering, falsitudes!

  26. ccpetersen

    I think that Dana’s Dad says all there needs to be said here about the wisdom of vaccinations and why we need to continue them.

    On the other hand, Tanner’s Dad shows us why ignorance is foolish. Tanner’s Dad — at least YOUR child is still alive. In some part due to falsification of facts and misrepresentation of facts about vaccines by anti-vaxxers whom you admire and follow, Dana’s Dad no longer has the privilege of seeing his child alive and well.

    Tanner’s Dad, you have been duped by people who want to make you feel bad. It gives them power over you. Reject it and find out the facts — not what uneducated liars who want power over you have told you.

    Moreover, if there really ARE that many children being diagnosed AND vaccines no longer have the harmful agents your anti-vax gods tell you they did, then perhaps you need to be asking people to look in other directions for the cause of autism. Much good research is being done to find the cause — but you and your crowd will never listen to anything about it because it doesn’t fit the opinions you choose to believe. Opinions that are just that: opinions NOT based on hard facts.

    I’ll say it another way: I strongly suggest that you find a way to honor Dana’s Dad’s loss by looking beyond the lies you were told and the crap you CHOOSE to believe, and start taking responsibility for educating yourself about the current state of autism research being done by responsible, credible institutions and researchers. End your silly delusions. And, keep your children away from other children and pregnant women. For those who are not yet vaccinated (the very young, the unborn) you’re raising a generation of disease carriers, all to serve some useless propaganda.

    Harsh am I? Yes. Ignorance, fear and wilful gullibility deserve no less than my most profound pity of you, and yes, harshness — because you and your cohorts choose to believe nonsense over common sense in the face of overwhelming evidence that puts the lie to the delusions you have.

    No doubt you care for your child — no one can fault you for that. I applaud it. But, you choose a very strange and tragic way to show it.

  27. @Tanner’s Dad, while your pain is real, as ccpetersen said, don’t let the poor human ability to assign cause and effect fool you. And for all those people who have anecdotal stories remember that the correlation may seem remarkable to you because anomalies always seem remarkable when they happen to you. However, what you need to understand is that in the context of the 306 million people in the United States, anomalies are actually not only expected, it would be remarkable if they didn’t occur. Here’s a back of the envelope explanation why (from another blogger that frequents BA


    There is a simple reason why this is not relevant, take the following facts:

    * children take vaccines

    * autism displays its first symptoms in childhood

    * children under the age of 5 make up ~7% of the population

    * there are ~306 million people in the U.S.

    * about 80% of children are vaccinated entirely


    This means 306 x 0.07 x .8 = 1.7 million children (roughly) have been vaccinated. With the vaccination schedule being what it is, then, there are somewhere around 100,000 children getting a shot every month (that last one is hand-wavey, it assumes a lot about frequency distributions, but that’s not really germane to my point). Autism rates are estimated at anywhere between 1 in 100 and 1 in 150 children, that means we have about 17,000 diagnosis of autism. If every single one of those autism diagnosis was given to a vaccinated child (they’re not, but again for our sake here it introduces very small error), and those 17,000 have a scatter distribution of vaccination patterns, that means not one, not dozens, not hundreds, but *thousands* of those diagnosis came within days or weeks of a vaccination: yes, this means that dozens will occur within an hour of a vaccination.


    Put those thousands of people together on a message board (and since autism is hard to deal with, a very high percentage of these family *do* bond together, like SMA sufferers or MS or cancer or any other family-impacting disease), you�ll have a few thousand people all saying to each other, “Gee� MY kid got a shot right before her symptoms started showing, too! There are thousands of us! THAT CAN’T BE A COINCIDENCE.”


    But you can see, it actually *isn’t* a coincidence� it’s exactly what we would EXPECT to happen.

  28. TravisM

    MAMA! Mom… (laughter…)
    AWWWW. So cute. That is real, gotta love the out-takes.

  29. Mark Hansen

    Tanner’s Dad, you’ve been lied to again. The Hippocratic oath (either version) doesn’t contain either “First, do no harm” or “For the good of the community”. I did research the Hippocratic oath and it’s changes. You should too.

  30. brnofeathers

    As a parent, thanks Phil, for all that you do on this.

  31. Steve in Dublin

    Phil, hi,

    A little bit OT, I know, but… take post no. 32 above for example. This is somebody with a bot capitalising on the fact that your site has a high Google PageRank. They’re linking this spam back to their own site (fistfulofscience dot wordpress dot com) in an effort to boost the rank of their pitiful blog (incoming links from sites ranked higher than you boost your own PageRank).

    Why don’t you have your mods just delete these obvious sponging attempts?


  32. DK

    This video is just propaganda. The objections are completely mild – they do not address any of the real concerns of vaccine objectors, like the fact that known neurotoxins are being injected into young developing immune systems. Notice I said known neurotoxins.. meaning recognized by science as chemicals that damage the nervous system.

    I would love the CDC and our government to answer one basic thing: If you are so confident that vaccines are safe, why do you shield vaccine companies from all liability? Clearly you KNOW it’s not safe otherwise there is no need to take such draconian measures to shield the companies from families who have legitimate claims.

    Lastly the ending in which they show a “doctor” in a white coat telling us how important it is is a joke. US doctors go through a rigid medical schooling in which they are taught not to think for themselves, so doctors for the most part do not question anything other than official positions – starting with not questioning the logic that injecting a known neurotoxin into a baby is NOT going to damage them.
    Furthermore the “system” has been setup that pediatricians make a huge % of income based just on vaccination rates – so unless they push vaccines they don’t get paid.
    Conflict of interest anyone?

  33. Tammi

    Vaccines and children,
    I am a mother that is 49 years old. I took my older children to the nearest playgroup that had chicken pox, measels, mumps and rubella. My son now age 9 had Whopping cough at age 2 weeks. My children have had every communicatable desease out here. EXCEPT FOR influenza and swine. Pefectly healthy and fine, had maximum of 5 vaccines before school,some 24 years ago.
    NOW the 9 year old before he turned 1 had 20 shots, by the age of 18 months showed signs of autism. Now he has tourettes ( a NEUROLOGICAL SYNDROME), NONE of this is in our family history on either side. We had genetics done before we delivered, we had chromozone checks, never was ill, had awesome pregnacy. No reason to think we had an issue. Went through every person in history for 9 generations.
    Check out Guillian Barre Syndrome A NEUROLOGICAL SYNDROME AFTER A ANY VACCINE!
    CDC, FDA, Ever talk with a neurologist? Ever sat with one after your child is no longer there emotionally. MANY NEUROLOGISTS have been after the CDC and FDA for misleading the public. The chemicals in the vaccines do cause harm to the brain. Chemical imbalances bring about bipolar disorders, paranoid schizophrenia, depression, many other diagnoses.
    Secondly Autism 1 in 100. Alzheimers 1 in 100, Dementia 1 in 100, ALL NEUROLOGICAL DISORDERS ALL ON THE RISE!
    Tuberculousis is still here, Polio is still here, chick pox still here and these are coming from VACCINATED KIDS.
    I recieved one flu shot my entire life. That shot made me sick, I was the only one to reccieve the shot and become ill.
    SO WHO IS INFECTING WHO? Your live virus are just that LIVE they can spread. Your family sick because you got the shot, not because some one that wasn’t vaccinated infected you. Wake up America smell that Coffee!!

  34. Tammi

    MISTAKE MADE not because some one that was vaccinated infected you. Should read NOT BECAUSE SOME ONE THAT WASN”T VACCINATED INFECTED YOU!


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