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If They Won’t Believe the Scientists, Maybe They’ll Believe the Actresses

By Matt Brignall ecomii.com
August 1, 2011
File under: Childrens Health, Health Concerns, Illness Prevention

Actress Amanda Peet is in the news this week promoting the Every Child By Two vaccination campaign. In this news article, she talks about a scary experience she had last year when her daughter contracted pertussis (whooping cough), a serious disease that has been making a comeback as vaccination rates drop.

This is not the first time Ms. Peet has been in the news for her pro-vaccine statements. In 2008, she stirred up a hornets nest of anti-vaccine sentiment when she referred to parents who don’t vaccinate their children as “parasites.” Ironic, then, that two years later her daughter (who was too young to have completed the vaccine schedule) contracted the condition that is the center of the firestorm.

My intention here is not to rehash the evidence in favor of vaccinations. It has been done more thoroughly and snarkily than I could manage to do it on such a tight deadline. Rather, my concern is about what has happened to our trust for science in this country.

When I was growing up, scientists were among the most trusted and admired professionals in our society. Vaccine scientists like Salk and Sabin were a big part of the public face of the profession, and parents lined their children up for the newest vaccines against the deadliest pediatric conditions. 40 years later, we have come to a place where we need the star of Body Shots to do PR for the vaccine industry.

This loss of trust is important, because really the only way to present vaccines as controversial is through a line of reasoning that paints science as flawed or falsified. There quite literally is no vaccine controversy anywhere in the field. I can’t find any evidence for a legitimate public health or medical school that teaches an anti-vaccine message. I similarly can’t find any support in the mainstream medical literature for the concept of too many, too soon, a central complaint of many anti-vaccine groups.

As a primary care doctor and as the parent of a child with neurological disease, I am personally very worried about the slipping of coverage rates, especially in my part of the country. Just as importantly, I am worried about our loss of faith in the scientific method, and am struggling to understand where this is coming from.

 

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