My First Point of Inquiry Show Is Up–Paul Offit on the Costs of Vaccine Denialism

By Chris Mooney | February 12, 2010 1:14 pm

You can listen here, and I also strongly encourage you to subscribe via iTunes from the same page.

The show introduction starts like this:

Recently, there was another nail in the coffin for vaccine skeptics. The British medical journal The Lancet took the dramatic step of retracting a 1998 paper that lies at the root of modern vaccine denialism. Authored by a doctor named Andrew Wakefield and his colleagues, it was heavily touted as having uncovered a new cause of autism—the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine, or, the MMR vaccine.

Not so fast. Twelve years later, there are more problems with the paper than you can count—and yet somehow, it managed to spawn a movement.

In this conversation with host Chris Mooney, Dr. Paul Offit discusses the state of the vaccine skeptic movement in light of this latest news. In particular, Offit explores why the tides may be turning on the movement—as well as the grave public health consequences of ongoing vaccine avoidance.

Again, listen and subscribe here. And don’t forget to buy Paul Offit’s book Autism’s False Prophets if you don’t already own it…



Comments (10)

  1. Gus Snarp

    In case you didn’t see it, Wakefield’s monkey study was withdrawn recently as well.

  2. Albert Bakker

    Great interview, great man! Bought the book with slight regret I didn’t earlier.

  3. Paul Offit is a very tough act to follow. Good luck with this!

  4. Marion Delgado

    It’s very good, came through on my Point of Inquiry podcast, and it’s a keeper, and it’ll help. Thanks.

  5. Chris

    Yes, I agree that Dr. Offit is a very good writer.

    I have read three of this books. This one, the one on the Cutter Incident and Vaccinated, the biography of Maurice Hilleman. The latter was so engaging that I even read it while on the bus, even though I usually get nauseous while reading in cars/buses.

  6. Just wanted to point out that Dr. Offit is donating all the proceeds from “Autism’s False Prophets” to support autism research.

  7. Sean McCorkle

    Great interview with a great guest! Keep ’em coming! I think the intersection of science & public policy is very appropriate for the show and promises to breath new life into the programming, considering that there are a lot of timely and relevant topics these days.

    I also agree that the Lancet, not the press, bears responsibility for the initial MMR story. The scientists themselves are obliged to get it right; while science is a dynamic process, and conclusions can come and go in time, there’s no excuse for analytical errors (poor methods & controls, bad statistics,etc.) The peer-reviewed literature is one of the important gatekeepers in the whole process, and the news media should be able to rely on it.

  8. Chris

    Alison Singer:

    Just wanted to point out that Dr. Offit is donating all the proceeds from “Autism’s False Prophets” to support autism research.

    And he has even donated more with some extra help! See his comment here:

    Both Mr. Handley and I each agreed to contribute $5,000 to an autism charity of which I approved. (This was my idea). The charity was the Center for Autism Research at UCLA,

  9. science-based humanist

    Chris, I enjoyed your inaugural podcast. The hour-long interview format is invaluable. The SGU rogues do good interviews, but their format does not allow for the kind of in-depth conversation that POI has become famous for. Your plan to focus on what you know best – the intersection of science and public policy – is a great one. As is evidenced by the Offit interview, you professional background as a science writer will enrich the interviews.

  10. bob

    I liked your interview, Chris. Nice work.

    However, I have a question. Why didn’t you bring up your idea about building bridges to the leaders of the antivax community? Did you think it wasn’t necessary (or have you changed your mind about it) because Dr Offit told you that he gets lots of positive feedback from the “silent majority”? I doubt it, because I don’t think this “silent majority” is news to you, since overall vaccine compliance in the US has thankfully remained very high.


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About Chris Mooney

Chris is a science and political journalist and commentator and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science--dubbed "a landmark in contemporary political reporting" by and a "well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists" by Scientific American--Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. They also write "The Intersection" blog together for Discover blogs. For a longer bio and contact information, see here.


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