“It seems that the media is often giving celebrities and actors more authority on this issue than they are giving the experts. I know it’s a paradox, but that’s part of why I wanted to become a spokesperson, to say to people, ‘Please don’t listen to me. Don’t listen to actors. Go to the experts.’”“My main message to parents is that they should not be taking medical advice from me or any other celebrity. They should look to their pediatrician, the AAP and other experts.”
Peet clearly identifies herself here as a “spokesperson,” as someone communicating a message—-get your child vaccinated—to the public. She is not, as she clearly acknowledges, a dispenser of “medical advice.” She is a mother, and the mother of a young child, and the mother of a young child at a time when one worry after another travels ’round the internet and the OBGYN’s waiting room: How can you make sure there’s nothing wrong with your yet unborn baby? How can you be 110%-plus sure?
The belief, unsubstantiated by science, that vaccines or something in vaccines can be linked to autism, has led to some 4800 families of autistic children filing claims that a vaccine somehow “damaged” and “injured” their child, with the result that the child became autistic. In many ways, the discussion about vaccines and autism is not so much about autistic children who are here today (and in need of the best schools and services to help them achieve their full potential). Discussions about vaccines and autism are mostly about children, and even children who are yet in utero and have yet to be conceived, who don’t have autism; as proponents of a vaccine-autism link claim, they want to get the thimerosal out and the schedule changed so that no more children will become autistic due to a vaccine. This is one reason why anti-vaccine/pro-vaccine safety advocates seems to be so (at the very least) hesitant and (as often stated) disdainful of evidence for genetic causes of autism. Autism is “preventable” (just say no to those shots, or at least that schedule and green ‘em in the process) and “treatable” (by unproven and potentially dangerous treatments like chelation that stem from also-nproven theories of what causes autism).
And this is precisely why it’s extra-aggravating that vaccines have today come to be so associated with autism. Proponents of a vaccine-autism link can make some very public health-minded-sounding statements about not wanting anymore children to become autistic and not wanting any families to have suffered what they have in raising an autistic child. But much of the rhetoric is about children who are not autistic and who are not even born yet—-no wonder Dr. Paul Offit refers to such anti-vaccine/pro-vaccine-safety advocates as “Autism’s False Prophets,” sending out dire predictions of what will happen if children keep getting vaccinated.
Autism’s False Prophets, Dr. Offit’s new book, is to be published September 5th and various websites (including one under Dr. Offit’s own name, and not his own) have been rife with accusations of his “conflicts of interests” and “ties to Big Pharma”; have generally impugned his character; and have utitlized tactics meant to intimidate and deliver a one-two punch in the gut. I expect the invective will only rise through the month of August and slam down like a tsunami just as September stars. Any surprise that Jenny McCarthy has been linked up with WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) to “smackdown” autism?
Dr. Offit’s title also hints at the apocalyptic language the proponents of a vaccine-autism link often use: Gotta stop giving all those shots or face a (use to the word again) tsunami, an epidemic, a trainwreck of autism—-keep giving all those vaccines and it’ll be over for tomorrow’s children. It won’t be the first time that we’ve heard of “prophets” who had plenty to say about autism and its causes. From the March 14th Washington Post (via High Beam Research):
A man whose pungent opinions on child-rearing were likened to the preachments of a biblical prophet, Bettelheim was the author of highly influential books and articles-popular and scholarly……….
And I think we know how wrong that “prophet” was.