Amanda Peet is a rare species of Hollywood celebrity – thoughtful, humble, serene, and strangely not self-absorbed. That makes her the perfect spokesperson to help the American Academy of Pediatrics inject some much-needed sanity into the manufactured debate over vaccines. The contrast between Peet, who supports vaccines, and Jenny McCarthy, who loudly opposes them, couldn’t have been more obvious during a recent Good Morning America interview. The contrast also illustrates fundamental differences between the two spokeswomen’s science advisers.
Peet discovered her celebrity PSA niche after consulting with Dr. Paul Offit about the safety of vaccinating her infant daughter. Offit is a pediatric immunologist at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, an ivy league professor, researcher, author, and oft-quoted source for news stories about vaccines. Peet says she was surprised at the ignorance and fear (funny how they go together) regarding vaccines, which are arguably the single greatest achievement in medical history. She’s a quick study, and now understands that dose makes the poison, and “toxic” substances such as mercury occur naturally. On GMA she talked about antigens and implored the news media to get this story right.
And then there is Jenny McCarthy’s de facto science adviser, Dr. Jay Gordon, Pediatrician to the Stars, who sat by her side during a memorable Larry King interview. His wise counsel was full on display during a brief clip when McCarthy explained why vaccines are the devil’s brew:
The FDA still has 11 shots that contain mercury and other ingredients like ether and anti-freeze, that we believe played a role in my child’s autism… In 1983 the shot schedule was ten and that’s when autism was 1 in 10,000. Now, today, there are 36 shots and autism is 1 in 150. If you put those two side by side comparisons, you will see what parents are talking about. You can see the blood work-up after we test our kids for heavy metal poisoning or other toxins, or viruses. All the arrows point in one direction.
McCarthy packed three confabulations and one intentionally misleading phrase into that 10 second sound bite. First the lies. She said that vaccines contain ether and anti-freeze, which they do not. Even McCarthy’s Pediatrician to the Stars now admits vaccines do not contain anti-freeze. She said that in 1983 the autism rate was 1:10,000. The real number is 1:2,500. The present day 1:150 prevalence is for all autism spectrum disorders, not just autism.
McCarthy’s claim that 11 vaccines contain thimerosal is irrelevant if her concern is autism, a disorder whose symptoms first appear in the child’s first 36 months. None of McCarthy’s Gang of Eleven are scheduled childhood vaccines. Some are booster shots given to teenagers. Flu shots with thimerosal are not given to infants. Once again, McCarthy aimed to scare, not to inform. And so it goes with the anti-vaccine activists and, too often, the news coverage.