The following quote is from a lengthy feature in Wired magazine on Paul Offit, his battle against anti-vaccination advocates, the mistrust of science, and the dangerous implications of not vaccinating children. Offit, author of Autism’s False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure, has been fighting an often vicious battle with those who fear that vaccines cause autism despite the medical and scientific evidence that proves the safety of vaccinations. (Questions about Offit’s integrity and even death threats are frequently employed by his opponents.) The triumph of pseudo-science over science has led to the outbreak of measles and put many elementary school children at risk. From the article:
“I used to say that the tide would turn when children started to die. Well, children have started to die,” Offit says, frowning as he ticks off recent fatal cases of meningitis in unvaccinated children in Pennsylvania and Minnesota. “So now I’ve changed it to ‘when enough children start to die.’ Because obviously, we’re not there yet.”
The article also explores how the fear of vaccines has taken hold and looks at the distorted claims made by Offit’s opponents, including the suggestion that he is a shill of pharmaceutical companies. Information found on the Internet along with the anti-vaccine advocacy of celebrities such as Jenny McCarthy and public figures such as Robert Kennedy, Jr. has served to confuse parents and increased the level of fear regarding vaccines. Offit sympathizes with those parents whose children have been diagnosed with autism and are searching for a cure but worries that McCarthy and others are providing false hope and explanations. The article quotes Offit’s response to one of his most vociferous opponents:
“Barbara Loe Fisher inflames people against me. And wrongly. I’m in this for the same reason she is. I care about kids. Does she think Merck is paying me to speak about vaccines? Is that the logic?” he asks, exasperated. (Merck is doing no such thing). But when it comes to mandating vaccinations, Offit says, Fisher is right about him: He is an adamant supporter.