Streams

The Anti-Vaccine Movement

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Dr. Paul A. Offit, Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and Director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and a founding advisory board member of the Autism Science Foundation, discusses the debate over vaccines and why the link between autism and vaccines has been discredited. His book Deadly Choices: How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All explains the origins of the anti-vaccine movement and how it has affected public health.

Guests:

Dr. Paul A. Offit
News, weather, Radiolab, Brian Lehrer and more.
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Comments [73]

I've never commented on a show before, but I am going to do so after reading some of these comments. The vaccine conversation is intriguing, I agree. But Mr. Lopate appeared to have the same background as Jenny McCarthy, just personal feelings and opinions. No real questions, and then making the guy answer each one twice because you want to argue about what you've experienced. And placing a weird division between himself and the doctor, saying "you people" like that, like this childrens specialist is just dying to hurt kids!

Jenny McCarthy is full of beans. She's Sarah Palin but shouting about medicine instead of politics and it's embarrassing and dangerous at once. Embarrassing because these are the people that are meant to represent and empower mothers, and I'm a mom who wants no part in that! It is dangerous because obviously people are falling for these overcharged rhetoric fueled by emotions, opinions and heresay.

The truth is we should respect our doctor. They really just want to make us well and as comfortable as possible. There are no conspiracies, just people who trained for a decade on the human body's complexities. A specialist that you asked to be on the show was accosted -- he doesn't know who you're talking about, he can't diagnose or fix that situation -- he's here to talk facts. Scientific facts. And you respond with somermotiomal baggage and made him repeat himself on like 3 different issues.

Go dr offit! Dont fall for doing this science-hating, fear-baiting show again ever.

Jan. 21 2011 02:48 AM

As a long time podcast listener to the show, I am again disappointed by the effect of the personal bias shown by the interviewer to this subject.

I believe Mr. Lopate's condescending attitude (most evident in his last question about "the disconnect shown by people like you") only serves to misinform his audience and does a disservice to the advancement of scientific knowledge thru the media. This is surprising as Mr. Lopate usually shows great respect for science by specifically having show segments like "Please Explain" with scientific experts!

I am sad to see this host do an inferior interview when his personal situation so clearly affects his usually excellent performance.

Jan. 20 2011 07:45 PM
jim musante from colorado

As a long time podcast listener to the show, I am again disappointed by the effect of the personal bias shown by the interviewer to this subject.

I believe Mr. Lopate's condescending attitude (most evident in his last question about "the disconnect shown by people like you") only serves to misinform his audience and does a disservice to the advancement of scientific knowledge thru the media. This is surprising as Mr. Lopate usually shows great respect for science by specifically having show segments like "Please Explain" with scientific experts!

I am sad to see this host do an inferior interview when his personal situation so clearly affects his usually excellent performance.

Jan. 20 2011 07:31 PM
the white dog from small town

I am wondering why some of the people commenting believe that an unvaccinated child threatens their vaccinated child. Isn't that the reason they chose to vaccinate...to protect them from the ostensibly life threatening diseases? How does it pose a threat if one feels confident in the effectiveness of the treatment?

Jan. 15 2011 08:31 PM
maggie dors

Thank you Dr. Offit!!! I am a mother of a child with autism and I want to scream when people ask me if I think vaccines caused autism in my child. Why do people think Playboy models know more about autism than science. Living with autism is extremely difficult and this discussion is one more exhausting thing placed on our shoulders. I for one am glad I got my child vaccinated. He may have austism but not a life threatening desease to accompany it. We need to more conversations about helping autistic children and stop wasting time and money pointing the finger at vaccines.

Jan. 15 2011 02:50 PM
Rachele from Brooklyn

After hearing Dr. Offit on Science Friday last week I was preemptively cringing to hear him speak with Mr. Lopate today. As a daily listener to the podcast I know Mr. Lopate's personal experience with the issue and I was a bit worried this could descend intO the chaos I heard with callers to Science Friday last week.

My point is that I want to cheer for Leonard Lopate for giving us the pure class, intelligence, and perfect skills as an interviewer I have come to expect from listening every day. I am so impressed with this interview and I appreciate the attention to this sticky topic. While I do believe that vaccinations are important to our society at large, I continue to be thoughtful about the regiment given to such young children. I am thankful to be able to learn more and keep questioning what I hear from both sides of the argument. Thank you so much and Bravo to Leonard Lopate!

Jan. 14 2011 07:13 PM
Louis from Queens

Fascinating interchange. WNYC, thank you for this excellent piece. What I find interesting is that in response to Mr. Lopate's personal experience that Dr. Offit asks the question 'is it causal or is it coincidence?' as if those were the only two possibilities. The problem in general with this approach is that it fails to recognize that any disease condition is a product of a collection of factors and is not the result of any single cause.

I have read a few of the epidimiological studies published on pubmed (refuting the autism/vaccination link) and have found them to draw conclusions that aren't indicated by the findings. For example:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16818529
does not consider that there might be non-genetic environmental factors that are a necessary pre-condition for MMR vaccination to produce pervasive developmental disorders. This study certainly doesn't constitute proof of the safety of vaccines!
I might perhaps check out Dr. Offit's book to investigate further his claim of scientific proof.

Jan. 14 2011 02:24 PM
Cori from NJ

There is more to the Deer/Wakefield story than any news outlet is reporting. Here is a link that seems to reveal some of the background.

http://beyondthecurtain.wordpress.com/2010/03/10/consider-a-few-things-about-dr-wakefield-the-gmc-and-the-autism-vaccine-link/

Jan. 14 2011 11:56 AM
a g from n j

hand it to "national petroleum radio" to give uneven time to the pro-vaccine corporate denialist lunatics. so much for journalistic integrity folks........no $ from me, guys and gals at wnyc......forget it! brian deer is an industry funded goon and anderson coooper should go back to mommy and make blue jeans. he is not competent,as an investigative reporter. offit,is just another piece of work.........

Jan. 13 2011 11:36 PM
Dave from NJ

I would hope that there are at least five facts about vaccinations that we all agree about. 1. Vaccines help some people. 2. Vaccines injure some people. 3. Some vaccines work. 4. Some vaccines do not. 5. We don't know enough about why 1-4 are true and we should. I cannot have it logically explained to me why we cannot come together around these fundamental truths about vaccines and improve the program. The positives are there in number 1 and 3 and by and large they outweigh the negatives of 2 and 4, unless you or your children are injured or simply not protected by the vaccines. There is no other medical procedure where people are not allowed to make informed decisions about each specific treatment for themselves or their children. I have three children and one on the way. They have all received some of their vaccinations, but not all. I know that there is zero chance that my children could be exposed to Hepatitis B, because neither my wife or I have it and they will not be sexually active or engage in IV drug use before they enter kindergarten. Those are the only ways in which they could get the disease. As Dr. Offitt pointed out every medical procedure has risks. If there is no chance of my child getting Hepatitis B, why should I take any risk and give them the vaccine. Cant we have this kind of reasonable dialogue?

Jan. 13 2011 10:28 PM
Jonathan from Morristown

We can easily test the entire vaccination schedule. Growing numbers of parents are refusing to vaccinate their children. Compare those kids with those who have been fully vaccinated. No ethical problems there.

And by the way, there is plenty of published peer-reviewed scientific literature linking vaccines and thimerosal to autism Here's a summary:

http://www.safeminds.org/research/docs/SM%20Science%20Summary%202010-11.pdf

Jan. 13 2011 09:24 PM
RickK from Connecticut

We cannot test "the entire vaccine schedule." You can't give one group of kids placebo vaccines and one group real vaccines. That's not ethical.

Vaccines are not 100% safe. No treatment that does anything is 100% safe. Biology is complicated. Only homeopathic dilutions and other placebos are 100% safe because they don't actually do anything.

Unfortunately, a child cannot cure polio or rubella through positive thinking and placebos. I'm very thankful to Dr. Offit and others who have the passion to keep fighting the good fight for the world's children, and the skills to win it.

Jan. 13 2011 08:21 PM
Joe from Bridgewater

Thanks for the great story on this atrocious fraud.

The following story from CNN yields further light:

Vaccine Study's Author Held Related Patent, Journal Reports

from CNN
The author of a now-retracted study linking autism to childhood vaccines expected a related medical test to rack up sales of up to $43 million a year, a British medical journal reported Tuesday.
The report in the medical journal BMJ is the second in a series sharply critical of Dr. Andrew Wakefield, who reported the link in 1998. It follows the journal's declaration last week that the 1998 paper in which Wakefield first suggested a connection between autism and the measles, mumps and rubella, or MMR, vaccine was an "elaborate fraud."
The venture "was to be launched off the back of the vaccine scare, diagnosing a purported--and still unsubstantiated--'new syndrome,'" BMJ reported Tuesday. A prospectus for potential investors suggested that a test for the disorder Wakefield dubbed "autistic enterocolitis" could produce as much as 28 million pounds ($43 million U.S.) in revenue, the journal reported, with "litigation driven testing" of patients in the United States and Britain its initial market.
http://ow.ly/3DaHB

Jan. 13 2011 08:18 PM
Bernard from Bronx

This was one of the best interviews I have been fortunate to hear. Both the scientist and Mr Lopate were at the top of their game. Mr Lopate was pressing with some smart and pointed questions . At the same time Dr Offit was equal to the task of giving credible answers.
As a listener I am still not sure if a connection exist between mmr vaccination and autism, but I am now encouraged to look further to find the truth. And that is what good radio should do.

Jan. 13 2011 07:29 PM
Daniel from Hoboken, NJ

I am an admirer of Leonard Lopate, but he should stay away from this topic due to personal bias. Abundant controlled scientific studies have shown no causal relationship between vaccines and autism. Sometimes science comes up with the answer to a hypothesis and it is cut and dried. By propagating doubt rooted in his own anecdotal experience, Lopate may dissuade some parents against vaccination, thus weakening the herd immunity and creating a health hazard for entire communities.

Jan. 13 2011 05:03 PM
George from East Village

I was very disappointed in the unbalanced treatment of the vaccine- autism debate on the Brian Lerher Show before the Leonard Lopate program on the same subject. Perhaps a person representing the science supporting the evidence that a connection exists would have been more helpful to the listeners. Mr. Lopate’s show was equally one sided but his personal experience with autism equipped him to ask more penetrating questions. The witch hunt against Dr. Andrew Wakefield, funded by big farma, was revealed in the investigative report by Gary null on Progressive Radio Network on 01/10/11, 3PM program and an interview of Isabella Thomas, one of the parents of the 12 children in the Wakefield study on 01/12/11, 12 PM program (See PRN archives). In this interview she reveals how she has been misrepresented and abused by the reporters and pharmaceutical backed physicians who reject the science that threatens their reputations and financial interests.
I am a parent with now adult children. I stopped vaccinating them when I learned of the dangers- easy to believe considering the historic amorality of the pharmaceutical industry and.
Yours truly

Jan. 13 2011 02:25 PM
MC from Manhattan

I often wonder if the resistance to the scientific establishment and this suspicion of science in general is just part of the many one to many comparison flaws in logic that people use to rationalize the Judeo Christian concept of "human exceptional-ism" as if mankind's advances in synthesis of biological and chemical processes are "apart" from nature, To the contrary, man and everything that man creates is made from, by, and for nature itself and is part of the natural history of this planet. I for one do not believe in human exceptional-ism. I believe that we and all that we due are the products of nature itself. Vaccines are an extension of our own immune system's ability to utilize our knowledge and discovery to protect our species.

Jan. 13 2011 02:18 PM
VictorS from New Jersey

Actually, I thought Dr Offit was quite rational. I found Mr. Lopate's interview to be one sided, full of half truths and pseudo-scientific mumbo jumbo. He's obviously made up his mind about vaccines. His question about the antibiotic drops put in infants' eyes was a great example. A, it's not a vaccine. B, it prevents blindness and other serious conditions from undetected gonorrhea or syphilis in the mother.
California recently had a pertussis (whooping cough)outbreak that led to the deaths of several children and hospitalization of hundreds more
http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5926a5.htm?s_cid=mm5926a5_w
due almost entirely to unvaccinated children. A measles epidemic was due entirely to a single unvaccinated child and led to at least one hospitalization of an infant. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5708a3.htm
And yes, while rubella can be a benign disease in children, it can be serious and even fatal in adults, and if a pregnant woman is exposed, will lead to devastating birth defects. While Mr. Lopate is entitled to his opinions, his interviews should be based on facts and his questions should be objective.

Jan. 13 2011 02:13 PM

Another important point: focusing on the Wakefield study (always known to be a farce) and some well-intentioned but potentially fringe high-profile anti-vaccine groups and people are red herrings and avoid the focus on the basic issue: that no one has done a study of the safety of the CDC schedule as a whole. To say otherwise is wrong and irresponsible (again, the bill, HR 2832, tried to get the NIH to study the CDC schedule). Forget the conspiracy theorists, the anti-pharma people and just focus on science. We need to demand that the study be done. Until it is, there's troubling research that suggests a prudent approach where we employ a simple mechanism of separating all the shots and checking for titres (when possible). We've gone a little further and used data (e.g. from Sears' book) to provide a subset of the CDC schedule to our child. Our child has an autoimmune disease which some studies show a troubling association in terms of it serving as a potential genetic marker for autism susceptibility (again, these studies just mean that the correlation or cause/effect potential needs to be investigated).

Jan. 13 2011 01:42 PM

I need to emphasize that what Dr. Offitt and others are doing is engaging in the very dynamics that are in contrast to what science is all about. It's an almost fanatical attachment to a single viewpoint that doesn't allow for dialogue and, worse, does the very thing he cites in those opposed to his views: it misrepresents the current state of vaccine research. NO study has been performed that has tested the safety of the entire CDC schedule, including no study that shows the effects of multiple shots given close together. There are studies that cite transitive correlation (you can substitute 'association' here) between vaccines and autism (e.g. vaccines -> overstimulate Th2 -> autoimmune disorder -> the latter is a potential marker for genetic susceptibiity to autism). Again, these studies do NOT prove vaccine/autism causation; they just emphasize the need for an actual study! Rep Maloney introduced a bill in 2007 (HR 2832) to do just that: get the NIH to test the CDC schedule. The bill didn't go anywhere and we're still left with the same problem. When pediatricians cite the AAP pamphlet that says multiple shots are safe -- given the fact that the immune system successfully handles thousands of environmental antigen -- it's problematic. Unlike environmental antigens, vaccines over-stimulate the Th2 side of the immune system (and I've mentioned the transitive correlation). In addition, Dr. Offitt's dismissal of The Vaccine Book is off-putting; I sat down to do a risk/benefit analysis for each vaccine and found the task daunting but then saw that Dr. Sears had done just that -- a simple data/analysis/conclusion analysis that doesn't get into the autism controversy. It was basic analysis and well-done.

Integrative, mainstream pediatrician, Dr. Lawrence Rosen provides a rational voice in the vaccine controversy, with a pro-vaccine approach that takes into account the still-unknown issues and recommends a separate-all-shots approach. He emphasizes a partnership and dialogue-oriented approach with parents. Dr. Rosen addresses his concerns with Dr. Offitt as well, offering a very frank opinion that coincides with one poster's assessment of Dr. Offitt as 'defensive and angry' : 'And I think Dr. Offit has to go, too - whatever role he serves for the AAP as vaccine watchdog is certainly now backfiring. ... As long Paul Offit is the one the AAP trots out to send the pro-vaccine message, many parents on the fence will continue to opt out. ... Whether we want to admit it or not, public trust in the immunization program and in pediatricians in general is eroding. ... we must all agree that the only way to save the U.S. vaccine program - and trust in our profession by the families who need us most - is to encourage public conversation in a non judgmental manner. And it has to start here, with us.' (http://www.thewholechild.us/integrative_/2009/01/vaccines-in-offit-we-do-not-trust.html)

Jan. 13 2011 01:28 PM
Paul from NYC

Mr Offit continues to make a poor showing. If one applies a little reason and reflection, already things are more than just questionable. He says that tens of millions of dollars have been spent on vaccine research. And it's still going on? Really? After spending so many years, and so much money -- how could that possibly be convincing? The same is true for cancer and other kinds of "research."

According to news and various reports, a swine flu pandemic is sweeping through Britain despite the fact that 70 percent of Britain's over-65 population was vaccinated against swine flu last year. This year that number is nearly the same -- 68.5% -- but flu vaccine proponents insist that until everyone is vaccinated, the flu will continue to infect people.

Jan. 13 2011 01:23 PM
Steve

Some great comments here. Not that long ago our ancestors observed others eating habits and whether they got sick or died to find safe foods. Lucky those who had parents and others to teach them. And imagine how long that took. We may be making the mistake that we now know all there is to know-or are close to it-about human biology.
Interesting that science comes to the aid of big medicine more often than not.
Human health depends on millions of factors and these surveys can never control for all of them and thus only offer insight not fact.

Jan. 13 2011 01:08 PM
thatgirlinnewyork from manhattan

J: thank you for positing what medical science refuses to acknowledge: that research and development of drugs and medical protocol is a "one size fits all" approach. we know that this is a faulty approach, because the human body is not produced in a factory, and QCd for some kind of "standard" equipment/potential.

like education, it's just another low-bar standard americans have come to accept--except when it doesn't work for them. and it doesn't work for a great lot of people, not just a few "nuts".

it's amazing how offit and others love to throw out "jenny mccarthy" in order to shut down an argument. it's exactly how they avoid answering the harder questions about how medical science could earn greater credibility here.

Jan. 13 2011 12:55 PM
Amy from Manhattan

On the DPT vaccine, it's especially important to make sure babies do get this vaccine & in particular that the pertussis (whooping cough) component is included (some versions of the vaccine omit it). There's been a resurgence of whooping cough in the last decade or so, & the patients most likely to die from it are babies who haven't received the full series of vaccinations (either because they're not old enough to have completed it or because their parents "spaced out" the inoculations).

Adults & adolescents should also continue to get boosters w/the pertussis component; the resurgence happened because the childhood vaccinations wear off, & the babies die because they catch whooping cough from close contacts who are older & caught the disease because they didn't get booster shots but are more likely to survive it. The CDC has a page on this: http://www.cdc.gov/Features/Pertussis/.

Jan. 13 2011 12:50 PM
thatgirlinnewyork from manhattan

i urge everyone to read the latest vanity fair exploration of how clinical trials are run now--and how the FDA has no hand in either absolute standardization of them, or a hand in monitoring the great lot of them. results are reported on a "voluntary" basis, and as someone who worked in pharma for years, i can say that it's discouraging to read that ever more evidence sublimation is taking place. given all of this, how can we blindly defend the whole of pharmaceutical brands?

http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2011/01/deadly-medicine-201101

Jan. 13 2011 12:49 PM
J from New York

I think we really need to be asking about the "scientific method" that is being applied in these studies. The method being applied is based on statistics and relies on a "normal" distribution. By definition, this is seeking to "explain" phenomenon in the largest part of the population. It is Not, by definition, going to explain All of the population. So the claim that there are no exceptional cases of children with different sensitivities and, hence, susceptibilities conflicts with the mathematical method that is being applied.

Another way to think about this is to read the list of observed "side" effects on the detailed medical insert in any medication. The list of effects is extensive - and can be frightening. Application of statistical methods might find that these side effects do not effect the bulk of the "normal" distribution of people taking the medication, but they do not deny that these side effects might be the case for any single person in the population.

We cannot confuse application of a mathematical approach - which is an estimation or model itself - with the interpretation of what can or cannot be associated with the larger population of people and the very real side effects experienced. The insistence that vaccines can not cause autism based on the results of the application of the "scientific method" is a misstatement of the interpretation of the statistics involved.

Jan. 13 2011 12:46 PM
Mical Moser from Brooklyn

I found that back and forth between Offit and Lopate so interesting! Thanks for having Offit on. He's so smart. I wish we could have heard more about his current book.

Jan. 13 2011 12:44 PM
Pordy from Madison, nj

I applaud Leonard for having this guest given his well known doubts regarding vaccinations. I hope this guest changed your mind some!

Jan. 13 2011 12:44 PM
Larry from Brooklyn

It is true that science is not always right. We are equipped to constantly re-evaluate our hypothesis with a continuous stream of new data. We look at trends in those data and try to not base decisions on anecdotal personal experience. That is why changes are made in recommendations and poor treatments are removed from the health system. This is not a sign of scientific weakness- this is a sign of scientific progress. Are politics and money involved? Of course. Does that mean science is meaningless? No. What I find remarkable is how resistant non-scientists are to changing their positions/faith.

Jan. 13 2011 12:39 PM
Nick from UWS

One minute he says he's not an expert on autism, the next minute he says he's the founder of the Autism Science Organization and is at the forefront of people who talk to parents about autism.

This person is a slippery character, and this is why people do not trust the scientific or medical establishments.

Jan. 13 2011 12:39 PM
Amy

I've been reading The Age of Autism and it explores the ways mercury exposure has been linked with Autism. What would he say about mercury exposure, rather than a genetic link? And, if he claims it is genetic, why have we only recently identified it and why does it mostly happen in the West?

Jan. 13 2011 12:38 PM
Mike from Tribeca

Excellent guest and good job of playing devil's advocate, Leonard.

Jan. 13 2011 12:38 PM
anonyme

Francine from Bklyn - my point exactly - so many variables to study, like age, etc.

Bravo Leonard!

there you go sometimes they get it wrong - that means we don't have to take your absolutes as absolute! Whose body is it, anyway?

How soon till we read something directly contradicting Offit's book!

I think people don't listen to science is the patronizing attitude of some scientists

Jan. 13 2011 12:38 PM
mc from Brooklyn

Where do we go from here? Maybe we can quit all this hysteria and spend research money on finding out the real causes. I have this in my own family. I would really like to see genetic studies done. The spectrum is just that--a spectrum. Are there clusters of genes involved? Depending on the numbers or clusters of genes, do you get profound autism, high-functioning autism, Asperger's Syndrom?

Jan. 13 2011 12:37 PM
gregb

Thank you, Leonard, for inviting this guest to balance (and I think convincingly) debunk the MMR-autism link. Emotions are more powerful than data in the short term, but data more reliable in the long-term.

Ignore stubborn facts at your peril.

Jan. 13 2011 12:35 PM
Jolly from NJ

Kudos- Leonard for this discussion. The scientific perspective is well needed. The doctor was knowledgeable and dispensed good information.
With your personal story, thanks for sharing a different view. Great questions as usual.

Jan. 13 2011 12:35 PM
Ria from Bedford, NY

I'm a psychologist and Mom.

I've also "annecdotally" noticed that my younger son changed after having reportedly normal side effects from the normal schedule of vaccines. Is it PDD?

Scientists need to be more humble- "good science" doesn't cover everything. Who of us would be surprised that data may show different results at some point down the road.

Dr. Offit sounds defensive and angry. It's off-putting.

Jan. 13 2011 12:35 PM
Steve from Brooklyn

I've taken that Hopkins class as a student and we are taught to present the argument very much unlike Dr. Offit. Dr. Wakefield was so much more compassionate in his presentation than much of the professional community that it's obvious how he won this public debate.

Jan. 13 2011 12:35 PM
jerry

Dr Offit for some reason believes Hep B is spread by "casual contact" even though CDC states otherwise. Why? Do young children need this vaccine? Or is it mainly to protect them when they become sexually active?

Jan. 13 2011 12:34 PM
Mary from New York City

Watch Dr. Offit's video where he equates suggests that Dr. Wakefield caused the deaths of children in the U.K. Is this responsible commentary?

http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/735439?src=mp&spon=17

Jan. 13 2011 12:32 PM
Cori from NJ

I'm skeptical about all of it, including that Deer's reporting on Wakefield is accurate. More research is required, both on the autism/vaccine link and on the Wakefield study.

I wish that Leonard had come more prepared to challenge the guests basic claims.

Jan. 13 2011 12:32 PM
Mr. Bad from NYC

Nicolas Taleb wrote persuasively about medical logic in "The Black Swan", pointing out that when a doctor says, "there is no evidence of cancer" doesn't mean that that is "evidence of NO cancer". The medical establishment is rightly hysterical about the possibility of the return of epidemic disease long though vanquished but all of the personal experiences reported by people like Leonard cannot, and should not be easily dismissed. IMO doctors are closing ranks and siding with their responsibility for public health - no doubt under government supervision and funding withdrawl threats (CDC). Autism is not a national security threat, epidemic disease is and a very big one.

Jan. 13 2011 12:32 PM
Anika from Brooklyn

I don't understand how people can link autism to the MMR vaccine. Children have been given the MMR vaccine for quite a while and the uptick began in the late 1980s. Wouldn't this fact alone suggest that there isn't a link?

Jan. 13 2011 12:31 PM
NANCY from new york city

Simply, why can't the MMR vaccines be given individually?

Jan. 13 2011 12:31 PM
mc from Brooklyn

Answer: People hold onto wrong information because they want to. To wit: all of the conspiracy theories around the JFK assassination. Parents are desperate to blame this on someone and "Big Pharma" is just the villain they need.

Jan. 13 2011 12:30 PM
anonyme

Larry from Brooklyn - Science isn't always right, either - or reliable - and now much science is suspect due to funding and to bad results with pharmaceuticals in general. I know I do not trust orthodoxy - never will.

Jan. 13 2011 12:30 PM
Elizabeth from Brooklyn, New York

When I was a kid my two sisters and I were give the MMR shot. And we all got really terrible Measels (not mild symptons) and my youngest sister had to go to the hospital as she was so young (around 1 yr). Had her fever gone any higher she may have never been the same. We had been assured by all our doctors that this wouldn't happen and it did. As a result I would never give my kids the MMR shot until they are older and are able to fight off Measels, Mumps or Rubella.

Jan. 13 2011 12:30 PM
Julie

I understand how it can be hard for parents to trust health experts. There is a history of the public being told something is safe until we find out that it isn't.

Jan. 13 2011 12:29 PM
KW from Manhasset

Dr. Paul Offit should be encouraged to directly answer your earlier question as to whether autism rates have gone down as a result of UK residents resisting vaccinating their infants. He answered only that Measles rates went up and didn't answer your question.

Jan. 13 2011 12:29 PM
Jolly from NJ

Kudos- Leonard for this discussion. The scientific perspective is well needed. The doctor was knowledgeable and dispensed good information.
With your personal story, thanks for sharing a different view. Great questions as usual.

Jan. 13 2011 12:28 PM
Betsy from New York City

This is an infuriating interview. Due to his experience with his own child, Leonard seems unable to absorb what Dr. Offit is saying, or refrain from throwing up voodoo scientific theories or conduct the interview in a way that would be helpful to the general public.

Jan. 13 2011 12:28 PM
Francine from Brooklyn

Asked previously by another poster--but is there any correlation between higher autism rates and women having children at later times in their lives? Say, mid 30's to mid 40's?
Just curious--as 'anecdotally' I know a number of later-pregnancy women who have autistic children now.

Jan. 13 2011 12:26 PM
thatgirlinnewyork from manhattan

it's ridiculous to say that there isn't a cohort of children who shouldn't have the MMR or other vaccines. why can't we shift study to determine commonality in those who might experience detrimental adverse events from the vaccine? perhaps there isn't direct causality, but that under certain physical conditions, it sets adverse conditions. i could answer my own question and say that it's most likely because not taking a vaccine wouldn't be profitable to big pharma.

the vaccine schedule from birth to 7 years is incredibly crowded. i'll never believe that they are all "necessary", over "convenience". an example? rotavirus. the greater majority of u.s. children have access to both medical care and hydration products. to push it here, rather than in a third world country where those conditions are not present makes american children guinea pigs, rather than a "protected" class of patient.

the FDA sets an ever-lower bar for the pharma industry. read the fantastic article about the large proportion of non-standardardized clinical trials done in every country except america now in january's vanity fair. it underlines why americans should be concerned about ALL pharmaceutical brands.

ask the guest why western europe dispenses 1/3 the vaccines we do to children, and that, by and large, they enjoy a far better standard of health than we do.

Jan. 13 2011 12:24 PM
Gabriel from NYC

Leonard I can't tell you how impressed I am by you having this guest on your show and by the clear and rational discussion you're having with him knowing how close this issue is to your family. This is exactly why WNYC is such an amazing resource for our community. At times like this I'm proud to be a supporter. Thank you.

Jan. 13 2011 12:24 PM
Venezia from Park Slope, Brooklyn

Wow, defensive much, Leonard?! What an unpleasant interview.

Jan. 13 2011 12:23 PM
matt from brooklyn

Id like a full discloser on this Dr Offit... Does he work or advise for big Pharma for example?

Jan. 13 2011 12:20 PM
CL from New York

Every single person who credits the anti-vaccine movement should read this book. Maybe then they will develop a better grasp of statistics, the characteristics of junk science, and dangers of anecdotal evidence.

Leonard is asking good questions, and Offit's answers are even better.

Jan. 13 2011 12:19 PM
mc from Brooklyn

I think we have a problem in that there is a whole generation that has now grown up without seeing what these diseases look like (susan, have you ever seen diptheria?) I had two classmates in elementary school who had polio. It is easy to dismiss something that is not a visible threat. Believe me, we do not want to go back to measles, whooping cough and the others.

Jan. 13 2011 12:17 PM
Steve from Brooklyn

I'm a doctoral student in Epidemiology at Johns Hopkins and we now have a required class about communicating with the public that was conceived in response to the autism issue. In defending vaccines, we are taught not to aggressively launch into expositions into proving null hypotheses and otherwise come off as an abrasive intellectual bully. You guest might benefit from our class.

Jan. 13 2011 12:16 PM
anonyme

Any studies about genes of those who take the MMR? ANd how about thimerosol and don't be smug - there are so many variables I don't know how you know anything!

Jan. 13 2011 12:15 PM
Larry from Brooklyn

As a neuroscientist, I am wondering why the discussion does not come around to the evidence that 20% of autism cases are associated with pre-natal maternal infection. Furthermore, average head size of autistic children are smaller at birth (before vaccination) and then abnormally large later in childhood. Seems to point to pre-natal conditions.

Leonard: science is not based on personal anecdote.

Jan. 13 2011 12:14 PM
Janine K. from Upper West Side

RESPONSIBLE sources of medically-sound information. Instead of relying on popular opinion e.g. "Google University" (as stated by Jenny McCarthy on the Oprah Winfrey show), there are very respected, medically-sound sources of information, written in user-friendly format for the average person. A few examples:

http://Health.nih.gov/
(National Institutes of Health; there's also a separate branch for National Institutes of MENTAL Health, NIMH, if you need information on mental-health related conditions)

http://www.NLM.nih.gov/MedLinePlus/
(US National Library of Medicine, and National Institutes of Health)

http://www.MayoClinic.com/Health-Information/
(the Mayo Clinics' collected wisdom)

I work in the health/wellness field, as well as conducted scientific research throughout my college years.

** Your information is only as good as the source. **
So always look for credible, reliable sources for your information, esp. medical/health information (NOT Wikipedia, nor Google).

Hope this helps listeners stay responsibly well-informed.

Jan. 13 2011 12:13 PM
Ken from Little Neck

Susan, have you ever considered that these diseases aren't seen as a threat is *because* children are vaccinated against them at birth? Imagine that, if you immunize a society against a particular disease, people don't get that disease.

Jan. 13 2011 12:08 PM
susan from nyc

Brian,
Why didn't you ask Dr. Offit which of those 15 diseases that babies are vaccinated for, causes a real threat in the USA? Might it be diptheria perhaps? I doubt it. One of the problems is- babies are vaccinated needlessly. Yes Dr. Offit, 15 vaccinations for a young body is too many.
Also, why didn't you or Dr. Offit happen to mention that babies are now vaccinated in the hospital at birth, and therefore autism may be showing up earlier (like at 6 months of age like the caller mentioned).
This program felt strongly biased, and then to hear you say that Leonard Lopate is going to follow it up with a similar story really sounds even more biased (for what reason you and Leonard feel this way I cannot imagine). Try having someone on who can explain the incredible increase of autism in this country. Or maybe have someone on who can tell us what kind of unbiased research (which is not paid for by pharmaceutical companies) is being done.
It is interesting how someone who specializes in infectious disease (Dr. Offit) is seemingly uninterested in the huge problem of autism except to insist it has nothing to do with his interest- vaccinations! I wonder how the numbers compare- the number of children with autism vs the number of children with incurable or fatal infectious disease. Ask Dr. Offit to consider that question please.

Jan. 13 2011 12:06 PM
susan from nyc

Brian, why didn't you ask Dr. Offit which of those 15 diseases that babies are vaccinated for, causes a real threat in the USA? Might it be diptheria perhaps? I doubt it. One of the problems is- babies are vaccinated needlessly. Yes Dr. Offit, 15 vaccinations for a young body is too many.
Also, why didn't you or Dr. Offit happen to mention that babies are now vaccinated in the hospital at birth, and therefore autism may be showing up earlier (like at 6 months of age like the caller mentioned).
This program felt strongly biased, and then to hear you say that Leonard Lopate is going to follow it up with a similar story really sounds even more biased (for what reason you and Leonard feel this way I cannot imagine). Try having someone on who can explain the incredible increase of autism in this country. Or maybe have someone on who can tell us what kind of unbiased research (which is not paid for by pharmaceutical companies) is being done.
It is interesting how someone who specializes in infectious disease (Dr. Offit) is seemingly uninterested in the huge problem of autism except to insist it has nothing to do with his interest- vaccinations! I wonder how the numbers compare- the number of children with autism vs the number of children with incurable or fatal infectious disease. Ask Dr. Offit to consider that question please.

Jan. 13 2011 12:04 PM
Ken from Little Neck

Matt, I agree wholeheartedly! I'm sick of parents with zero medical knowledge putting everybody elses children at risk because they think that not protecting their kids is somehow better for them. My daughter is only 3 weeks old, but my wife and I fully intend to vaccinate her on the recommended schedule.

Jan. 13 2011 11:57 AM
Matt from manhattan

Here's an idea - if you want to change or slow down your child's vaccine schedule - go to medical school. If not then stop threatening public health by not vaccinating your children correctly.

There is no link between vaccinations and autism. There IS however a link between not being vaccinated and contracting measles, chicken pox, and hepatitis B. Perhaps you would rather your child die of liver failure than not get vaccinated.

Jan. 13 2011 11:45 AM
Dan from SOHO

@ Andy T...This is actually the first time Dr. Offit has been on the show.

Jan. 13 2011 11:44 AM
Andy T from Manhattan from NY

Why does Leonard Lopate only have Offit as a guest? Why not hear from a parent who child has GI disease, or a clinician like Dr. Sears?
Offiit is so frequently Lopate's guest. He has tremendous conflicts of interests around this issue- it is time to hear other perspectives- especially those serve this sub population of regressive GI ASD children.

Jan. 13 2011 11:33 AM
Ted from Astoria

Dr. Offit:
While I understand the burden that parents of autistic children bear, I am so glad you are carrying the torch for fact-based, scientific reason on this issue. It is still incredulous that the anti-vaccine advocates still refer to one who engaged in academic fraud as "Dr." Wakefield.
I really can't understand their motives - maybe a belief in conspiracy theory, a belief in "Google University"- espoused by one who made a great living exposing herself in print media- a redeemer complex (especially given the establishment of a "sham church" so that parents could use the religious "exemption"), money for tort lawyers and/or chelation advocates, prioritization over other birth/developmental defects that are just as disabling or mire, or even deep family issues (one of the leading advocates had an uncle who was head of ...the FDA!)
Sadly, the only result of this is utilitarianism tossed on its head- the resurgence of diseases once controlled, and a disability and death rate which will not only exceed the rate of autism, but will bring greater societal pain.

Jan. 13 2011 11:21 AM
Bill Leonard from Holmdel, NJ

One more comment: to emphasize, it's very important to get across that the studies have NOT been done to access the safety of the vaccine schedule. That's all anyone is asking -- to apply scientific rigor to answer the question once and for all. Again, Rep. Maloney's 2007 HR 2832 bill tried to get the NIH to do just that but it didn't gain momentum. A research psychologist I spoke to (who is pro-vaccine) said, informally, that the current thought is that there's a genetically-susceptible segment that is prone to autism and that various triggers (including environmental w/ the potential for vaccines) put it in motion. I would suggest that until the studies are done, separate the shots. The AAP pamphlet that says multiple shots are ok because the immune system successfully fends off thousands of environmental antigens is problematic if studies showing that vaccines act very different and over-stimulate the Th2 side of the immune system (which, again, has been cited in studies as needing more research b/c of its potential transitive *correlation* [not cause/effect] to autism).

It might help to note that the late Dr. Eugene Robin (Emeritus Professor of Medicine from Stanford Medical School and one of the world’s former leading experts on risk/benefit analysis in medicine) issued the following statement in 1998 at the First International Public Conference on Vaccination: 'ccurate assessment of the risk/benefit ratio of the vaccine by means of a prospective, randomized, controlled clinical trial should be obligatory. ... We must be honest and admit that we do not know the impact of administering multiple, different vaccines on very young children or, indeed, on anyone". (http://www.spinstop.com/schlafly/vac/robin.htm) 12 years later and the fact is that this study has not been done.

Jan. 13 2011 10:51 AM
Gayle DeLong from Morristown, NJ

I know all vaccines are tested individually for safety, but are there any studies that confirm the entire vaccine schedule is safe?

Jan. 13 2011 10:44 AM
Bill Leonard from Holmdel, NJ

Note that the Wakefield study was always a farce and is a red herring; the issue is still that the CDC schedule has NEVER been subjected to safety testing. Rep. Maloney introduced HR 2832 in 2007 to do just that but it didn't gain momentum. Dr. Donald W.Miller (cardiac surgeon and Professor of Surgery at the University of Washington in Seattle) cites studies of transitive correlation between vaccines and autism (not cause/effect but emphasizes the need for testing the CDC schedule -- http://lewrockwell.com/miller/miller15.html).

2 of the pediatricians we tried didn't want a genuine dialog and partnering with this issue. Dr. Lawrence Rosen (board-certified pediatrician, a former Chief Resident at NY's Mount Sinai Medical Center, a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics and vice-chair of one of the AAP's Sections, has provided opinion on Larry King), provides a rational voice in the vaccine controversy, with a pro-vaccine approach that takes into account the still-unknown issues and recommends a separate-all-shots approach (in addition to checking for titres). By suggesting a partnering and questioning approach, he's been labeled anti-vaccine. He has some pertinent and important opinions of Dr. Offitt -- http://www.thewholechild.us/integrative_/2009/01/vaccines-in-offit-we-do-not-trust.html (" I think Dr. Offit has to go, too - whatever role he serves for the AAP as vaccine watchdog is certainly now backfiring")

I was taken aback with Dr. Offitt's dismissal of The Vaccine Book, characterizing it as 'misrepresentation of vaccine science'. I was trying to do a risk/benefit analysis of each vaccine & found that Dr. Sears had done just that - without entering into the autism controversy.

Jan. 13 2011 10:42 AM

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