Some vax facts

By Phil Plait | January 11, 2011 2:30 pm

Just a quickie:

1) Today is the birthday of actress Amanda Peet, who is a pro-health hero of mine. Here’s why:

2) Jenny McCarthy is still spouting dangerous nonsense about vaccinations, autism, and health, this time on that notorious font of anti-reality, The Huffington Post. Orac takes her down as does Mike on his weekly Skeptical Rant.

3) I’m very pleased that the website Immunize for Good is now live! This site, put together by my good friends at the Colorado Children‚Äôs Immunization Coalition, is one-stop shopping for reliable, accurate information about vaccinations. Why should you vaccinate your kids (and keep up your boosters)? What do parents say? What are the facts? Immunize for Good is the link that should be at the tip of your clipboard when anyone asks these questions. Got friends, family, acquaintances who are new parents. Send them to Immunize for Good. Please. Especially point out the Fact or Fiction section. Just doing that can save lives.


Comments (38)

  1. Carey

    Love Amanda Peet. Love.

  2. andy

    Sad that the most effective way to transmit a message seems to be celebrity endorsement. We are not supposed to believe celebrity A because they don’t have the expertise, but we are supposed to believe celebrity B who doesn’t actually have the expertise either.

  3. Again, gotta pimp the page that has a lot of good info to start as a place to debunk the lies, distortions, and misconceptions that the anti-vax pro-disase folks spread:

    As to celebrity endorsements, the only argument that I can make there is where they source their opinions on. One sources on peer reviewed scientific publications. The other uses her innate “mommy sense” whatever the heck that is…

  4. CB

    Why is Jenny McCarthy still flapping her stupid lips? Her son isn’t even autistic! Her “mommy sense” was wrong about the most basic premises of her claim!

    Oh and “mommy sense” is when you let every logical fallacy and error of reason that psychology has shown humans brains are naturally prone to run rampant and call the result unassailable fact. It’s recursive, in a way.

  5. With a headline of “Some vax facts” I was expecting information more along these lines:

  6. David

    The fact that some people will listen to an ex-Playboy model writing in a gossipy internet rag and ignore scientific reason pretty much sums it up for me.

  7. david b.

    How the case against the MMR vaccine was fixed in the british medical journal:

  8. Based on the comments, it looks like a lot of the readers over at HuffPo are taking McCarthy to task, though, for her article. Which shows there may yet be hope after all.

  9. I preferred Jenny McCarthy the harmless and mildly entertaining dumb blonde instead of jenny McCarthy the public health hazard dumb blonde. I say this with sincere apologies to all non-dumb blondes all across the world, including the exquisitely non-dumb blonde woman sitting on the living room couch across from me right now. But seriously, on the upside, don’t you think the antivax movement has flushed right-thinking and rational people out of the bushes to be more public in their support for science and common sense?

  10. Monkey

    My sister has a child (now 2 ish) and she is for the most part a very able-minded rational person. Not a “skeptic” in totality, but always thinking like one. Anyway…all it took was a little dinner discussion and a few mentions of “autism” “be a good mom” “they say that its bad” from my Fox news addicted parents and she is scared…scared poopless (self-censoring!)….of vaccinating her child. I send her all the links that Phil posts, all the podcasts and all the sites like Offit, etc, talk to her about the science, the reality and show her all the stuff that is out there (and yes, even the powerful bombshell that just dropped about Wakefield) and she is still….concerned. Doesnt know. The seed of irrational doubt brought on by – and this is no personal attack on specific news folks – Fox and Rush (Limbaugh, not the band….) and Glenny boy was enough to erase the entire body of science.

    I think that this stuff is awsome, the A. Peets of the world who are willing to speak their mind and use thier power for good, and all the stuff we work with in the skep-community, but there is still power in doubt. The bad doubt. The conspiratorial doubt….my sister is afraid of being a bad parent, and in the proess is making poor parenting choices. The fear locked her into innaction. Somehow we need to be ahead of the curve, instead of always reacitonary. I will not tell my sister what to do, but I implore her to weigh the evidence for herself.

  11. @Monkey. Yes, the impulse to protect our children is so strong and can be so easily exploited by narcissistic celebs like McCarthy and the rest. What can you do? At the end of the day, your sister has the right to put her own child’s health at risk. It’s just that I would resent people putting my family’s children at risk.

  12. Monkey

    Yeah, you are totally right….its just tough, thats all. Its a family “no-fly zone” in terms of conversation because it gets super heated now, but I certainly dont shy away from it and make my opinions and sources known. Anyway, its still tough.

  13. OMG!!! Have you seen this? Wakefield may have started this whole thing for money. If so, my God, what does it take to make a man stoop low enough to terrify millions of parents to make a few buck?

  14. Nigel Depledge

    @ Monkey (10 & 12) –
    Man, that’s a tough one!

    It highlights how crappy the media are at reporting stories that are more than mere opinion or football results.

    Newspapers have been especially bad for many decades, but TV news reports are rarely much better and new media are sometimes even worse. It seems that far too few journalists ask how people know what they claim to know – or even care about integrity in any sense.

    I heartily recommend Ben Goldacre’s book Bad Science as an introduction to media-proofing.

  15. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ ^ Nigel Depledge :

    It highlights how crappy the media are at reporting stories that are more than mere opinion or football results.

    Seconded by me. The media are really pretty appalling when it comes to science generally & this issue in particular. It really shouldn’t be so hard for them to get just the basics right should it? But yet it seems to be. :-(

    @9. gogblog Says:

    I preferred Jenny McCarthy the harmless and mildly entertaining dumb blonde instead of jenny McCarthy the public health hazard dumb blonde.

    Me too. ūüėČ

    As a supposed “health issues” spokeslady Jenny McCarthy makes an excellent playboy bunny.

    Oh & HAPPY BIRTHDAY Amanda Peet! Many happy returns! :-)

    (Just on the off-chance she’s going to read this – belatedly too I know.)

  16. Messier Tidy Upper

    Also my favourite song on this issue :

    Just in case you haven’t seen / heard it before.

    Also in case you haven’t seen it yet this :

    Via Penn & Teller is pretty great & well worth watching too. :-)


    NB. Both these clips have featured on this blog in the past too.

  17. Stanley

    more of your ‘get drugged up wit dead germs’ garbage?

  18. Zucchi

    As a bleeding-heart, tax-and-spend liberal, I find a lot of interesting stuff at the Huffington Post. It kills me that they also give a home to this kind of crap.

  19. Terry

    You should just come to the darkside and realize that the only way to achieve true social justice is to keep the government from stealing all of our money. Then you can fully appreciate HuffPo for what it is.

  20. Mark

    All you need to know about the anti-vax movement… This is truly sad.

  21. LaurenF

    I smiled when I saw this post yesterday, because I saw it only a few hours after taking my little boy in for his first round of vaccines (including DTP, which takes a weight off my mind given that it’s been on the rise in my state!)

    The nurse and I had a nice chat about Ms. McCarthy and that excresence Wakefield. Somehow I’d missed that he was actually practicing as a doctor in Texas – I thought he was just there to help the anti-vaccine nutters! Man did I get mad hearing about that, so it was nice that it was leavened by the news that he’s losing that right to practice.

  22. Messier Tidy Upper

    PS. I meant to add a warning that the linked ‘Penn & Teller’ on vaccines Youtube clip contains some

    Not Safe For Work

    Language but forgot to add that to my comment above – mea culpa, my apologies. :-(

  23. Dawn

    @LaurenF: actually, IIRC, Wakers never was “practicing” (in the formal, licensed sense of the word) in Texas. He was the nominative “consultant” for Thoughtful House, which had another, US licensed physician as the “medical director”. However, from stories I’ve heard (he met with parents who came to TH), he was practicing without a license by giving advice and suggesting medications (leaving the actual test ordering, procedures and prescriptions to the US doc). Fortunately for us all, he is no longer there, but he is still in the US drumming up support for his next “study”.

    PS…congrats of the first round being over with. May your son get through them all as easily as my 2 daughters did (a little crankiness, a little redness and tenderness on the vax site on the leg for a day or so). Have to admit, they did better with their vaccines than I did with my last TD…

  24. rob

    Amanda: if you read this, congrats to you for being a celebrity that spouts reason!

    i am going to go and watch one of your movies on Netflix tonight.

  25. Chris A.

    @rob (#24):
    As long as the A. Peet movie you choose to watch isn’t “2012.” I’m afraid that much of her karmic capital earned combating the anti-vax nutters may have been spent on that piece of disaster porn $#!+. Not trying to be a hater here, I was just disappointed at her choice to be involved with that one. Overall, I think she’s still on the “plus” side.

  26. I’m keeping a list of positive responses to the BMJ (Yes Wakefield is a fraud, and here are the implications…) and negative responses (Wakefield’s research IS TOO valid and vaccines cause autism anyway) at A roundup of responses to the BJM & Wakefield’s research was motivated by fraud. The list includes responses to today’s revelations in the BMJ

    that Wakefield’s fraud was motivated by schemes to make millions from alternative vaccines.

    Some observations
    1. The positive responses come from a broad range of sites — politically left and right; people who are skeptics/ people who have heretofore (to my knowledge) never commented on vaccines or autism before, and so on. The negative responses are from a predictable set of sites and people.
    2. The news coverage in the US has (perhaps inadvertently) perpetrated the idea that all parents of children with autism believe in the vaccine causation myth. It is a complete falsehood. Many parents of children with autism and adults with autism robustly reject the myth.
    3. Kev Leitch, whose daughter has intense autism, has a moving post on how Wakefield’s actions have damaged everyone affected by autism

  27. Sir Eccles

    So, what is Andrew Wakefield’s visa status in the US?

  28. mike burkhart

    I just saw on CNN a report that the study liking vaccines and autism is flawed . Therefore it should not be trusted or relied upon. This meens that Anti-vaxers have no proof to backup there claims.

  29. Beelzebud

    I guess I can forgive her for being in 2012. :)

    I didn’t dislike that movie so much for the 2012 theme (I can suspend disbelief in the name of good fiction), but boy was it ridiculous!

  30. TheBlackCat

    @ Liz: Wow, I knew Wakefield had commercial conflicts of interest, but I had no idea it was anything as detailed and secretive as that. The hospital should also be held responsible for its role in covering up his conflicts of interest.

  31. LaurenF

    @Dawn – Thanks for the clarification, that makes me feel a little better!

    He did much better than I do. We both got upset when the nurse stuck him, but he was calmed down and even smiling when I was still sniffling. His daddy’s going to have to take him as he gets more aware of his surroundings, so hopefully my phobia doesn’t get passed on!

  32. Joseph G

    I feel sorry for Jim Carey. Basically, he was faced with a choice: going along with loony anti-vaccine nonsense, or not getting to bang Jenny McCarthy anymore.
    I’m not sure which one I’d pick either.

    Edit: Or as my boss says “Maybe he doesn’t agree with the anti-vax stuff, but he wants to keep giving Jenny his injections.”
    Yeah, I work in a strange place.

  33. Mat in Sydney

    I’m torn. On one hand I can see the value in having this lady use her celebrity to support the cause (ie, fight fire with fire), but on the other hand, isn’t it being hypocritical? We’ve always dismissed Jenny McCarthy primarily based on her lack of formal scientific/medical qualifications (and past culinary habits). It’s nice to have Amanda Peet’s support, but I just feel promoting her as a hero makes us look exactly the same as those who view Jenny McCarthy as a hero. Will it all come down to which side has the most celebrities on their team? I hope not, but maybe that’s the nature of the beast, especially with the power of the media to guide public opinions.

  34. Zucchi

    The people who remain anti-vaccine true believers seem like a textbook example of “belief perseverance”; holding onto a belief even harder after being offered contrary evidence. I don’t know what it’s like to have an autistic child; maybe it makes people so desperate for some kind of handle on the situation that they’ll believe whatever seems to offer a coherent cause or way of dealing with it.

    (There are probably still parents of autistic children who believe in “facilitated communication”.)

  35. bigjohn756

    Amanda Peet is very intelligent…also, a doll.

  36. Thanks for the link, Phil! I just noticed; must have missed it when you first posted while I was rolling around, Scrooge McDuck-like, in all my Big Pharma phat cash.



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