The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found further evidence that childhood vaccines and autism are “not related,” in spite of high profile anti-vaccination voices like actress Jenny McCarthy and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
The mainstream media had helped spread fears of vaccination several years ago. In 2005, Kennedy’s scary claims about vaccines were reported on ABC, CBS, in Time magazine and in other media outlets as well. It took until 2008, for some media outlets to do an about face on the issue.
Dr. Frank DeStefano, director of the immunization safety office at the CDC, and author of the recent CDC study told NBC’s chief medical editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman, “This study looked into the concern that receiving too many vaccines at one doctor’s visit or too many vaccines during the first two years of life may be linked to the development of autism.”
DeStefano’s study was published in the Journal of Pediatrics on March 29, 2013, “amidst reports that increasing numbers of parents are delaying or skipping childhood inoculations, fearing side effects of the risk of autism and other learning disabilities,” NBCNews.com reported. NBC “Nightly News” also aired a report on the study March 29.
The dangers of skipping vaccinations include “outbreaks of severe, sometimes deadly, illnesses,” according to Dr. Tanya Altmann of Mattel Children’s Hospital at UCLA.
CBSNews.com also reported that, “A previous study published in January 2013 by the Institute of Medicine confirmed that the 24 immunizations that children receive before the age of 2 are not only safe, but also help prevent illness, deaths and hospital stays. The vaccines are safe when they are taken on their own and in conjunction with each other. None of them were linked to autoimmune diseases, asthma, hypersensitivity, seizures, child developmental disorders, learning or developmental disorders or attention deficit or disruptive disorders.”
The news from the CDC came out just ahead of National Autism Awareness Month and according to NBC “adds to years of research showing that childhood vaccines do not cause autism, despite worries among a growing number of parents that their young children receive ‘too many vaccines’.”
In 2008, Snyderman defended vaccinations saying 16 studies had shown “no causal association” between vaccines and autism. She also warned of the serious dangers of refusing vaccines: “The science is the science. We’re going to start to see outbreaks of polio and measles in this country if we don’t start talking about the real problem.” In September 2010, The Washington Post reported that pertussis, or whooping cough, was making a comeback.
But it wasn’t many years ago that the media was stoking vaccination fears, before eventually refuting such ideas. In 2005, Kennedy drummed up concerns over thimerosal in vaccines and his claims were repeated by ABC, Time magazine and CBS among other outlets.
In 2005, ABC “World News Tonight” gave Kennedy time to argue against vaccines, just before ABC’s medical expert Dr. Timothy Johnson told the audience that there wasn’t evidence to support such claims. Salon.com had also published a report from Kennedy that year, but after multiple corrections, decided to delete the piece from its website.
Other media outlets eventually changed their tune. In 2008, CBS did an about-face on the issue reporting a California study that showed even when thimerosal was eliminated from vaccines, autism rates continued to rise.
In 2012, Time.com had an article highly critical of McCarthy’s vaccination scare tactics. It quoted Gary Freed, study author and director of the Child Health Evaluation and Research Unit at the University of Michigan, who said: “I don’t understand why when a celebrity says something about which they have no training, that is reported more than someone who has done rigorous scientific training.”
“Celebrities are juxtaposed to medical experts as credible sources of information by the media. As long as that continues to occur, the public will continue to assume they are as credible as credible sources really are,” Freed continued.
Slate.com has also criticized the actress. Phil Plait wrote of the tragic death of one five-week old child in Australia who died of whooping cough, “in a region where vaccination rates are low,” on Slate Feb. 4, 2013.