As a rule of thumb, sentient beings – which is to say, humans – should not take medical advice from celebrities, even ones that play doctors. But given the toxic nonsense shopped by Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey’s “Green our Vaccines” campaign (“we don’t want no stinkin’ dead viruses in our vaccines” – sic) across the media, Amanda Peet deserves a standing ovation for endorsing the universal medical consensus on vaccination in this month’s edition of Cookie magazine:
Peet’s analytical urges are comical when she’s talking about kids’ gear, but not when she’s discussing a subject she feels is among today’s most pressing public-health issues: infant vaccinations. “As soon as I was pregnant, the neuroses kicked in,” says Peet, 36, who is married to screenwriter David Benioff. She began calling her older sister’s husband, a Philadelphia pediatrician, “every five minutes” with all kinds of questions, especially about shots. “I asked him, ‘Why are all of these necessary? Why are some people staggering them?’?” Eventually her brother-in-law arranged a series of phone calls between Peet and his own mentor, Paul Offit, M.D., who is chief of infectious diseases at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, a co-inventor of the rotavirus vaccine, and a board member of Every Child by Two, a pro-vaccine organization cofounded in 1991 by former first lady Rosalynn Carter.
“Once we had spoken, I was shocked at the amount of misinformation floating around, particularly in Hollywood,” says Peet, who quickly boned up on the hot-button controversies surrounding the topic, including the unproven link between certain vaccines and autism; the safety of preservatives like mercury-based thimerosal; and the fear that the relatively high number of shots kids receive today can overwhelm young immune systems. Her conclusion? Well, not only is Frankie up-to-date on her vaccines (with no staggering), but her mom will soon appear in public-service announcements for Every Child by Two. “I buy 99 percent organic food for Frankie, and I don’t like to give her medicine or put sunscreen on her,” says Peet. “But now that I’ve done my research, vaccines do not concern me.” What does concern her is the growing number of unvaccinated children who are benefiting from the “shield” created by the inoculated—we are protected from viruses only if everyone, or most everyone, is immunized: “Frankly, I feel that parents who don’t vaccinate their children are parasites.”
As Salon’s Katharine Mieszkowski notes, the problems of non-vaccination have already started to appear in the U.S.:
…as more parents choose not to vaccinate their kids that shield is becoming less effective. In one recent outbreak of measles in San Diego, 12 kids were infected. What happened? An unvaccinated 7-year-old traveled to Switzerland with his family, contracted the disease there and brought it back home, infecting some of his unvaccinated classmates and several infants in his pediatrician’s office, babies who were too young to have received the immunization.
As of early July, there had been 127 cases of measles in the United States this year, with incidences of the disease reported in 15 states, according to Reuters. That’s the most cases in a single year since 1997. To put that number in perspective, in 2007, there were just 30 cases in the United States in the whole year. It bears remembering that around the world, where many don’t have access to vaccines, measles remains a leading cause of death among poor children, killing about 250,000 annually.
Mieszkowski also notes that “we’d all be better off taking our medical advice from doctors and nurses rather than celebrities. Yet, everyone from the American Academy of Pediatrics to Salon columnist Dr. Rahul Parikh has tried to reassure parents that vaccines don’t cause autism,” which I guess means that Salon has finally repudiated one of the worst and most deceptive pieces of investigative journalism ever to appear in print since Walter Duranty wrote about the glories of Stalin’s agricultural policies: Robert F. Kennedy’s “Deadly Immunity,” which claimed the U.S. government covered up the link between vaccines and autism, and which appeared in both Salon and Rolling Stone. (RFK is a supporter of the Green our Vaccines campaign).