Liar, Liar: Jim Carrey and the Misinformation About Vaccines and Autism

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54 Responses

  1. Dan: Thank you for this informative and accessible piece. The inability of science, and really any discipline requiring a high level of expertise, to be accessible to the masses is probably the biggest reason why clowns like Carrey and the Discovery Institute are able to sound so credible to so many people even though they are ultimately just snake oil salesmen. I can’t remember where I saw this (might have been Julian Sanchez, but I could be wrong) but the problem often seems to be that people like Carrey and the Discovery Institute who obviously have their own political agendas know just enough to sound like they know what they’re talking about, but nowhere near enough to actually know what they’re talking about. The average layperson can’t tell the difference, though, and so it’s natural that they often side with the position that best fits with their preconceived notions of the world.Report

  2. greginak says:

    Great post. The forces of ignorance are powerful and, it feels like, growing. Scientific literacy is clearly not a specialty of many Americans. But at least we are good at conspiracy theories.Report

  3. Jaybird says:

    Post hoc ergo propter hoc is one of the most wicked fallacies out there. It just sinks its claws in and won’t ever let go. Hey, you saw it with your own eyes, right? This happened *AND THEN THAT HAPPENED*!!!


  4. lebecka says:

    Thank you for your care and dedication to our kids. I have a hard time even being civil to parents who have not had their children immunized. I wish you and your colleagues in this battle against ignorance the greatest success– I will certainly save this post and forward to any and all who need it.Report

  5. Dan Summers says:

    I don’t know if there’s a protocol for this, but just wanted to say that it was a pleasure to contribute the piece, and to offer my thanks to the Gentlemen for the opportunity. This is an issue that surfaces at regular intervals in my practice, and is of immense personal and professional frustration, so I’m really delighted to have been able to write about it.Report

  6. Randall says:

    Vaccines = Autism is useful science in much the same way that Intelligent Design is useful science.

    Which makes me think: Shouldn’t Creationists/IDists be opposed to vaccines on religious grounds? After all the Germ Theory of Disease is only a theory – not a fact, right?Report

  7. Will says:

    I just wanted to chime in echo everyone’s compliments – this really was a thorough, well thought-out peace.Report

  8. Will says:

    piece* – whoopsReport

  9. E.D. Kain says:

    What Will said. This is a great piece, and we’re delighted you decided to guest-publish here, Dan. I know a lot of people who really buy into this vaccine scare, and I’m not a doctor or anything, but I worry about their kids not being vaccinated. I worry about the potential (public) health consequences.Report

  10. William Brafford says:

    Unless I am greatly mistaken, there was no discussion of the long chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase enzyme in “Dumb and Dumber.”

    It’s in the deleted scenes, as part of an extended version of sequence where they’re riding the tiny motorbike up the mountain. (Just kidding, of course, but I kind of wish it were true.)

    Thanks again for contributing! This was a great guest post.Report

  11. EngineerScotty says:

    The obvious question is: Why does anyone give a flying f*ck what Jim Carrey thinks about vaccines and autism? Or what Tom Cruise thinks about psychiatry? Or what Mel Gibson thinks of Roman Catholic theology?

    Obviously, celebrities have the ability to command more attention to their pet causes and beliefs than do ordinary folk–but with a few exceptions (some of Bono’s work on hunger comes to mind), most of them are no more informed than any of the rest of us. Indeed, quite a few entertainers are confirmed halfwits–great at acting or music or sports or whatever–very deep on their field of performance, but shocking lacking in depth.

    Jim Carrey is probably about as well-informed on the subject as the commenters at NRO–but because he’s a celebrity, he gets taken seriously on a topic well outside of the scope of his fame or expertise.Report

  12. Peter says:

    In regard to Dan Summers rebuttal to Jim Carrey, all I can ask is “What does it hurt to space out the vaccines.” Carrey may offend him on some scientific points, but the amount of vaccines a child gets is staggering. Why not just space them out. Nobody knows everything yet, so if this makes parents feel better, then let them do it. Does a child need to be protected IMMEDIATELY from these rare diseases when they are a such a extraordinary developmental stage. All the vaccines sound like pouring water on a very sensitive computer. There are lots of things we cant prove yet, but who does it hurt the wait. It sounds like doctors and scientists dont like being told what to do, but who does it hurt to wait.Report

  13. Lisa says:

    To be fair, I think that it’s more the fault of his girlfriend Jenny McCarthy. She’s the real campaigner against vaccines, ever since her son was diagnosed with autism following his vaccination and she “cured” him with healthy living and started a school for other autistic children. Jim Carrey is just a follower on this one. Admittedly, a vocally misinformed and misleading follower, but I think the far greater danger is the devoted mother who is apparently being given a major and regular platform by Oprah. That’s a lot scarier than an article in Huffington Post.Report

  14. Our kids our 7 & 3 so we had to wade through this lunacy; both of our kids are inoculated. The Kaballa like ponzi schemes of the Hollywood intellect and bullystick is funny until guys like Carrey start to influence parents medical choices for their kids… it’s like he’s become Dr. Rush Limbaugh for the snowbiz setReport

  15. Edward Shaw says:

    We are only now, very gradually, emerging from an era in which science has been misrepresented and abused by people who think faith is just as firm a basis for a conclusion as methodical testing, observing, analyzing, hypothesis proposal, followed by more testing, et cetera. Carrey (and McCarthy) are merely a mirror image to the pseudo-science of intelligent design, rooted more in the conclusions faith permits you to draw than the conclusions suggested by hard data. It’s really no wonder we’re rapidly losing the edge in education. My son, for one, will understand the difference between science and faith and I can only hope that the social environment when he hits high school and (perhaps) college, is one that respects and supports that understanding.Report

  16. This is a great piece, Dan. Thank you. It’s exciting that Andrew Sullivan linked to your post – we need to get the word out, especially to mainstream media, how anti-science advocacy groups are undermining the public’s confidence in the vaccine schedule.Report

  17. Shelly says:

    As a mom of an Autistic child it scares me when celebs like Carey start filling people’s heads with what they’ve concluded to be the “cause” and “cure” for Autism. I flatly don’t agree with either Carey or McCarthy. I have a tendency (and I’m not in the medical field) to believe that Autism was just ignored for too long. Only a couple of doctors even cared to understand the disorder, most were fine with telling parents to just institutionalize their child and forget them. Now we have one group saying it’s caused by this and another saying it’s curable. My son has made tremendous progress but regardless I can still see the Autism in him, it is a part of who he is.Report

  18. marta says:

    As a mom who departs from many of her crunchy, attachment-parenting friends on precisely this issue, I have come to believe that one of the biggest disconnects between pro- and anti-vaccine folks is an understanding of and commitment to public health. Most people don’t understand public health at all, and some parents don’t care any way. Any risk to their child is too much of a risk — but of course, the reason they can afford not to take the “risk” of vaccinating is because enough of the rest of us have, so that the risk of the actual disease is now even smaller. And maybe their kids would survive measles and mumps — many anti-vax parents are also folks with access to health care, and are generally quite well-informed, and will not hesitate to take full advantage of Western medicine when needed. But in order to protect the kids who *will* die from mumps and measles — and there will be some if the diseases come back, and there will be more of them than are harmed by the vaccine, and many of them will be poor, and without access to healthcare — in order to protect all of those kids, we need to vaccinate *everyone*. That’s public health. It’s sort of like paying property taxes even if you don’t have kids in public school, to me it’s just part of living in a village, as opposed to a hermitage. But some folks don’t like paying taxes either…..

    For what it’s worth, I do know many thoughtful folks who question aspects of our vaccine program, or the U.S. schedule, which differs even from other developed nations, and I do think there’s gray area in the vaccine discussion, and the AAP is not flawless (let’s talk about the AAP and breastfeeding, for example), and there is certainly room for thoughtful, reasoned discussion around issues of vaccination. But the all-vaccines-are-evil-and-we-have-the-science-to-prove-it folks are simply a menace.Report

  19. Oregon Perspective says:

    A better end might be …

    “It is as though Jim Carrey were pontificating about the Lincoln Memorial, all the while gesturing toward the Grand Canyon. And suggesting our children climb the steps.”

    Thanks for the article. Ideas should be tested against evidence – that is the essence of science. But at times, and for some, the simple explanation that is wrong is more appealing than the complicated explanation that is probably right.

    We can understand the tactic of the class clown who fears the test. Or of the parent who prays their child might fly, while fearing they can’t walk.

    Keep insisting on seeing the evidence that tests the idea, and insisting they turn around to look.Report

  20. Daley says:

    I enjoyed the article, however, I’d say Mr. Summers bed side manner leaves something to be desired here. His main beef is that Carry’s claims of the existence of evidence are not well supported, and further (I assume) that the evidence in general is weak. I’ve seen Carry’s appearances on CNN, and they acknowledge that for some people who aren’t convinced, spacing out vaccines is a fair precaution. What exactly is the harm in that, except that is probably less convinient for your practice? Additionally, a little acknowledgement of the worry new parents have over the fact that no one knows the cause of the spike in autism cases in the US wouldn’t have killed you. To that point, cause and effect speculation is all there is at this point, with attempts to prove theories following; I’d imagine that weak or indirect evidence of a cause (not necessarily vaccine-related) will precede and possibly lead to the rock solid evidence. A little humility in the face of what we do not know wouldn’t hurt. By the way, my daughter skipped her Hep B shot while she was getting a ton of others, because I don’t expect her to be working directly with the blood products of sensitive populations until she goes to med school (I never got it). The highly idiosyncratic epidimiological history of the Hep B vaccination starting in CA would make anyone wonder about the others.Report

  21. Daley says:

    By the way, Mr. Summers, thank you for wading through all the “evidence” cited in the HuffPo article for the rest of us. Sounds like quite a grind.Report

  22. truthynesslover says:

    Have vaccines been tested in the combinations they are given?NO!
    Why not?
    If doctors really cared about the health of their patients they might just ask these sort of questions.
    I wont hold my breath theres no money in that now is there.
    Most “honest” vets will admit that the vaccines you give your pets especially older ones will cause tumors to grow.Which is what happened to my pet and why I demand only one vaccine at a time.Shouldnt we demand the same for our babies?
    Just sayin…Report

  23. Jamie says:

    As a parent, I am grateful for knowledgeable voices of reason like yours. This anti-vaccine hysteria started with SIDS in the 1980s, when some parents insisted that SIDS was caused by the pertussis vaccine. We all know now that that assertion is patently false, but for years a lot of parents hesitated to give their children that vaccine. There were spikes of pertussis in children as a result.

    Part of the problem in dealing with young parents today is that they have NEVER seen what it was like to live in a time where there was no protection from these disease. I am 48 years old. I have siblings in their 60s. They can remember well the polio epidemics of the 1950s, and I had a case of severe case of measles myself during an epidemic in 1970. Measles is a terrible disease, and I was lucky to survive through the complications. My in-laws lost their two-year old daughter to diphtheria in the 1950s as well. These are things that today’s young parents simply have no experience with.

    Those of us who were fortunate enough to have survived so-called “childhood diseases” during the epidemics of decades past were grateful for the vaccines that spared our children such exposure. Mr. Carrey and other non-scientists who are spreading this hysteria are going to cause a great deal of harm if they are not challenged.

    Thank you for your article. It was well-stated.Report

  24. David says:

    Great post. What I’m curious about is the broader tendency to believe yahoos like Carrey on subjects like this. Vaccines, Intelligent Design, Global Warming, 9-11, even dieting (like the Atkins diet) are all subjects on which experts weigh in and often come to consensus, and yet a substantial portion of people – sometimes right wingers and sometimes left – disbelieve the experts on the basis of personal experience or purported understanding of the “facts” which they seem to believe are overlooked by biased experts. In fact, the expert consensus is evidence itself of something smelly. Was it always like this? Were people always following quacks and morons like Carrey and we didn’t notice simply because science was less institutionally established? Or is the lack of deference a symptom of newfound distrust of the establishment?

    So how do we fix this? Can we improve the public’s understanding of these issues through better explanation of the scientific process? I think it might help – and I don’t just mean the scientific method, which is taught in schools but is probably insufficient because its so basic — rather, do we need to teach schoolchildren about debates in the scientific community and how those debates get resolved? I’d also like to see basic statistics become a more standard part of school curriculums: now, its generally an elective math course taken by lazy seniors. A basic understanding of stats should be necessary for all high school grads, as well as an understanding of when people should trust scientific consensus and when they should be suspicious of new scientific claims.Report

  25. Kerfuffler says:

    I am so glad you wrote this, but I wish it had greater visibility. Would Huffpo consider running your post for the sake of educating the community? People need to understand that Carrey and the anti-vaccine folks are the ones ignoring the evidence.Report

  26. Charly says:

    My wife & I are both nurses. When it came time for our now 3 yr old daughter to start her vaccinations, my wife asked our pediatrician to space them out a little. While she’s smart enough to know there’s no science behind the vaccine-autism scare, she was still concerned. Our pediatrican spaced the vacinations out over a couple of extra months; Mom was happy, daughter was protected, public health was maintained.
    Maybe if the non-vaccinated children were forced to wear some sort of identifier, thus warning the rest of us of their non-protected status, their parents would think twice about what they’re doing. Sex offenders are required to register with the community to ‘protect’ those around them. Why not these potential threats?Report

  27. Martin says:

    I can’t believe I’m going to defend Carrey, but I take issue with the comment regarding molecular biology papers: “It strains credulity to imagine that a highly-paid movie comedian could make heads or tails of them.” Why is that? I realize molecular biology is highly specialized, but there’s no reason a dedicated amateur could not decipher a paper–at least enough to make heads and tails and say to an expert, “This looks interesting. Are you aware of it and could it be relevant?” (Carrey is going a lot further than that, which I agree he has no business doing.) I’m no lawyer, but I can read a legal decision and, with some reference books and the internet, understand it. No, I won’t know the decision’s precedents or be able to predict all its implications, but I can certainly discuss it with a legal expert. As schmaltzy as Lorenzo’s Oil was, the film’s premise is valid: Dedicated parents can synthesize studies and contribute to scientific advancement.

    The tone of this blog suggests that unless you’re a professional scientist, you have nothing to add to a scientific discussion. It’s analogous to old-school medical practice where patients were expected to shut up and follow doctors’ orders without asking any questions or even trying to understand their own conditions. That attitude doesn’t encourage scientific literacy, it prevents it.Report

  28. Stan says:

    As a father of two young girls, I recently had to make decisions about vaccines. In the end I went ahead, but I did do quite a bit of research first and what I found was that the pro-vaccine powers-that-e are often less than upfront about the risks involved.

    For example, a specific vaccine might have a 1 in 10,000 change of a fatal side effect. The chance of the child getting the disease that the vaccine is protecting against is 1 in 100,000. So, the chance of dying from the vaccine IS greater than getting the disease. This is true in some cases, but this type of information is suppressed. Why? Because the fear is that if people knew, they wouldn’t accept the vaccines and then the risk of catching the disease would be greater.

    So to get the public to accept vaccines en masses, the powers that be, understate the risks involved. That’s just a fact. And when you learn this fact, you can’t help but wonder what else do they underplay.

    There’s a huge vested interest on the part of the public health establishment to play down any risk posed by vaccines for the reasons just stated. If there’s a perceived risk, and parents refuse, disease levels go up.

    Knowing this, I look at all the studies with a lot of skepticism. There’s also common sense that makes you question the studies. How can they know what causes autism when there are so many vaccines involved. There would have to be a huge pool of kids with autism, who didn’t have vaccines, to compare agains those who did, to have valid studies. It’s highly unlikely there were large enough numbers to definitely prove that there isn’t a relationship, but there are so few objective people who can look at these studies, and those who do — again — have an enormous vested interest in their not being a link.

    I’m suspicious of both sides of the argument. In the end I decided to go with the vaccines, but it wasn’t an easy choice.Report

  29. marta says:

    But Stan, the only reason that the vaccine is more dangerous than the disease is because the disease has been almost entirely eradicated — by the vaccine! So yeah, you can hedge your child’s bets by opting out, but if everyone does that, then we’re back to the disease killing more kids than the vaccine. The fair comparison is the risk of vaccine vs. the risk of the disease in a completely unvaccinated population.Report

  30. Stan says:

    I think you just helped demonstrates my point as to why parents should be skeptical. This idea that you posited — which most doctors and public heath officials follow — that you should compare vaccine risk to risk in an unvaccinated population — is the same as saying for the public good, you shouldn’t tell parents the truth.

    The risk the parent must consider is the real risk — not one in some imaginary world — which says what is the risk of my child dying or getting sick from this vaccine compared to the risk of them actually getting this disease.

    This is especially true with all the vaccines they push on you for diseases that don’t seem that dangerous. Do I really want to give my kid a chicken pox vaccine? Is that necessary?

    Yes, I know that this can result in lower vaccination rate and higher disease rate, but I’m sorry, it doesn’t excuse keeping the truth from people.

    This is not to say, that the risk of the vaccine should always be less than the risk of the disease. You have to weigh in the greater good also. I decided to go with the vaccines (except Chicken pox and one other which didn’t seem necessary) because I felt a certain amount of risk is acceptable for the greater good.

    But my point is that any parent that tries to educate themselves about this issue, will that it’s hard to trust the “statistics” and test, because there is a huge incentive to underplay any risk.

    If indeed there was a link between vaccines and autism, the standard of proof to get that information out there would have to unrealistically high.

    I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it turns out there really is a link — but the odds are stacked against that link being “proven.”

    (and web person — any chance you can make this comment box a little bigger so I can see more than 3 lines of my comment at a time — thanks)Report

  31. Julean says:

    Hi Dan-

    First off; I’d just like to congratulate you on a great article. Your research and your method are clear and distinct; respectable. You’ve written an article that is both accessible to the non-molecular biologist and their collegiate counterparts.

    Now for the meat of my comment. In essence, Dan, I’d have to point out that you respect your “now” a little too blindly and without question. Science is a method, not a faith. It is not to be, nor does it need to be, protected. Let us never forget Antoine Lavoisier and his meteorite. The Science of Today is just that; the science of today. An “attitude concerning Science that places it only within the context of existing constructs is much closer to these loons and conspiracy theorists than you may think. New theories, at least in the ideology of Science, however ‘crackpot’ they may seem at the time, are only to be examined. They aren’t to be criticized and deconstructed for the sake of ‘protecting science’ from ‘pseudo-science’.

    The only pseudo-science that exists is, by all measures, that which calls itself science and isn’t. And since science is *method* and *not* ideology, it is *not* linked to a set of pre-existing or currently concepts or structures, and it is *not* categorized based on the accepted or rejected nature of the theory itself. Science can’t afford to be pompous. It should be far too busy evaluating the boring and tiresome new questions to spend any extra time in an arrogant defense zone. No offense intended. Science is / was intended to be critical and logical; not emotional. Attempting to debunk a new theory in your field — probably due to the fact that it destabilizes your area in particular, or the trust of your patients or the patients of others — is more of the type of knee-jerk reaction you would expect from a religious zealot. And in fact, I think I know priests who are more open to examination these days. And I wouldn’t be caught dead in a church.

    Third, it is *aaaaabsolutely* ridiculous to attempt to disarm Jim Carrey based on his chosen occupation and earning power. What is that, exactly? Do they teach logic along with Pediatrics these days in medical schools? Most of us have very literally *no clue* what Carrey was doing before be became an actor/comedian, and those of us that do may or may not know what his fields of interest were before that. And while we may know that he didn’t go to school to learn about this field in intensive study, it is impossible (and unreasonable) to undermine a man’s logic or knowledge based on yet another faithful clinging to a pre-existing present-day construct. I truly hate to be the one to break it to you guys, but most of your predecessors in many of the sciences never went to school to learn the fields they were remembered for. They were far too busy creating them. I don’t think Sigmund Freud was a medical student. Wilbur Wright built bicycles. Sure, Francisco Redi studied philosophy and medicine in school, but I’m pretty sure it’s not the medicine *you’re* probably thinking of. But who knows what anyone is thinking of, really?

    And finally, are you trying to tell us that there are *no* pediatricians or medical practitioners *anywhere* that *agree* with Carrey? I think ignoring *them* goes far beyond the slipshod pseudo-science you guys are trying to accuse Carrey of. Just my honest opinion.

    I personally cannot have a strong opinion in this matter. Yet. But I can easily take a few steps back and see that that what these people are saying is far from the superstitions of avoiding ladders or cats on a pregnant belly. It *could* make sense, and in all honesty would fit quite neatly into the heap of medical mistakes of the past century *alone*.


    Science is fun and exciting…but it is also often boring, monotonous, and without answer (in your lifetime). If you wanted a firm ending you could always refer back to and a good story…maybe try the bible?Report

    • Justin in reply to Julean says:

      Julean, I appreciated several of your points. They made me come up with some musings of my own: Questioning the safety of vaccination is not a public danger, as many seem to imply, but a healthy part of debate that may lead us to find real answers. Medical science, while amazing and a tool for so much that is good in this world, is not infallible. Its advancement is dependent on people asking questions. Is it not by asking a question and turning it into a hypothesis to be tested that the scientific process begins?
      For my own part, I am not dead set against vaccinations, but I do have some questions about the health of vaccinations based on my own experience of processing into the Army. Part of medical inprocessing includes receiving a vast array of vaccinations in the space of about 20 minutes. I don’t know what vaccinations they were, or recall exactly how many, but it was somewhere close to 10. Within about 2 days, almost all of us in my company were sick in some form or other, and remained so throughout most of the next 9 weeks of training. This of course had something to do with the stresses involved in the training, but I am reasonably certain that the vaccines had something to do with it as well. I don’t believe I have suffered lasting harm from these vaccines, but it seems plausible that over- vaccination could have negative effects on an infant or small child whose body mass is many times smaller than an adult’s. I am sure that the Army medical community would claim that there is “no scientific evidence linking illness among basic trainees to multiple vaccinations,” but that could simply mean that none has yet been fully documented. The process of documentation quite often starts when someone asks a questions such as why so many recruits get sick after being vaccinated, leading to further study and hopefully some scientific answers.
      Like them or not, people asking questions like those represented on Jim Carrey’s website, are an essential part of public debate.
      While it clearly is true that Jim Carrey’s commentaries on science are not any more valid because he is a celebrity, it is equally true that they cannot simply be dismissed because he is a celebrity.Report

  32. Julean says:


    Sorry. Goofy correction here. I meant to say that “I don’t think Sigmund Freud was a Psychology student.”

    It’s what happens when you cook and type at the same time. 🙂Report

  33. JackofallTirades says:


    Thanks for the great article – I too, was appalled that Huffington Post bothered to print such a misleading and poorly researched article.

    With regard to everyone else talking about spacing out vaccines – will you ever get your stories straight? First off, it was talking about mercury in vaccines via thermisol. When it was no longer used in vaccines, you would think you would see an attendant drop in autism cases. Unfortunately, no such luck – reported cases of autism continued at the same rate.

    Now, the new cause celebré is ‘spacing’. Why do you keep moving the goal posts? First off, let’s disabuse you of some notions – doctors do not make money from vaccines – they perform them as part of their vocation – providing healthcare for the public.

    If you’re truly interested, set-up a double-blind, peer-reviewed study and then get back to us. Stop getting your information from Oprah and Jenny McCarthy.Report

  34. Scott says:

    Having treated a case of tetanus, I would never wish the ravages of vaccine-preventable illness on anyone, adult or child. The comments above re CDC and AAP deliberately witholding evidence of adverse side effects of vaccines is patently false. When the known and measured risks of vaccines exceed the risk of morbidity from the illness prevented, the vaccine disappears from the recommended schedule.

    This is why the original Salk killed virus polio vaccine has replaced the live virus oral Sabin polio vaccine given for years in the US: the oral vaccine began to cause more polio cases due to reversion of the vaccine strain to wild type polio virus (still a rare event) than there were cases of polio. In the third world, however, the risk/benefit of the oral vaccine is strongly on the side of continuing it, as innoculated kids shed vaccine strain virus and result in substantial community protection.

    The same risk/benefit analysis is applied to each vaccine added to the US schedule (notice how smallpox went away?).

    Obscurantists who continue to deliberately mislead the public into believing that there has been any observational link between vaccines and autism achieve only two ends: (1) promote an ever-expanding pool of unvaccinated children who place us at risk for vaccine-preventable illness morbidity and mortality (2) slow the pace of real autism research while resources are diverted to investigate what has been a repeated dead end.Report

  35. Daley says:

    jackofalltirades- I didn’t move any goal posts, am aware of the thymerisol studies, never implied doctors make money off new patients, and don’t get my information from Jenny or Oprah. Anyone with a reasonably analytical mind would note the uniqueness of US vaccination schedules and autism rates would be open to the possibility that there is some causal relationship between the two, however elusive. Your own attempts to characterize all people who are still open to this connection as irrational is, well, not a rational form of argument. And new parents don’t commission double blind studies because they are new parents, not medical institutions, you douchebag. Yes, I’m aware that last remark was ad homenim.Report

  36. Daley says:

    Oh, and I forgot to repeat the question you ignored: what’s the harm in spacing them out? Avoiding the 6 in one day bit demonstrably lowers risk of fever following as a side effect.Report

  37. Stan says:

    Re Scott’s comment “The comments above re CDC and AAP deliberately witholding evidence of adverse side effects of vaccines is patently false. ”

    I’m not sure if you were referring to my comments, but I never said they deliberately withhold evidence. What I said is that they understate the risks. They also make it very difficult to evaluate the risks.

    It took me forever to find out some basic facts. It should be very easy to look up facts for disease X and vaccine Y

    For example:

    – risk of death from vaccine y
    -risk of serious side effects from vaccine y
    -risk of getting and dying from disease x when vaccinated by y
    -risk of getting and dying from disease x when not vaccinated by y
    -risk of getting disease x when vaccinate by Y
    -risk of getting disease x when not vaccinated by Y

    That’s all that I set out to know when I was faced with the decision. I found it almost impossible to come by these statistics. I don’t think public health officials suppress this, I just think they go out of their way to make it difficult to come by, because they don’t want parents looking at those statistics and deciding not to vaccinate.

    By the way, I understand why they do that, and I don’t think there are any easy answers here.

    But it does seems that a lot of the defenders of vaccination are offended that people even question the scientific establishment. However, this is the same science establishment that supports medicating kids who show slight behavior problems, so you don’t have to be an extremist to question the conventional wisdom.Report

  38. Dennis says:

    My son has autism and is nearing 13 years old. With all the money and effort toward autism research, no treatment has been advanced during that time and nothing significantly new learned. There isn’t even a decent definition of this condition.

    Mock Jim and Jenny if you wish but I don’t any accomplishments regarding autism from anyone else to merit them. Certainly not from Dan Summers.Report

  39. DLP says:

    @Stan: “This is especially true with all the vaccines they push on you for diseases that don’t seem that dangerous. Do I really want to give my kid a chicken pox vaccine? Is that necessary?”

    Depends. If you don’t wish to decrease their chance of contracting shingles later in life – don’t give ’em a chicken pox vaccine. Your choice. I’ve known two adults that came down with bad cases of shingles – sounded like months of living hell to me.Report

  40. Lisa says:

    I agree with Stan that the answers are not obvious, and the conclusions aren’t self-evident. Though I am a science person myself, I find that issues come up for me that I can’t easily set aside.

    For example…

    It wasn’t until I started writing about autism that I learned about the existence of the Vaccine Court – set up specifically to compensate parents for vaccine injuries without penalizing the pharmaceutical industry.

    The existence of the court proves nothing at all – and I assume it was created in support of the public health. But learning of it did raise my eyebrows. Medical doctors aren’t protected from malpractice. Corporations aren’t protected when Vioxx or thalidomide turn out to be riskier than anticipated. So… why are the vaccine makers exempt from lawsuits?

    Then there are my friends, well-educated individuals with as much faith in science as the next person – who swear up and down that their child was fine until the MMR. The day they received the shot, they say, their child became ill – and literally never recovered.

    These friends could be wrong. They could be liars. But then again, they could have seen a reaction that’s poorly documented but real. After all, kids do have negative responses to vaccines from time to time, as evidence by the existence of the vaccine court.

    Jim Carrey, of course, is by virtue of his sweetie a part of the Green Vaccine movement and (as P whipped mentions) has his own reasons for doing what he does. I don’t think he’s the right guy to be speaking for the science of “green vaccines.” But that doesn’t mean he’s 100% wrong, either.

    When parents consider vaccinations and other medical procedures/drugs, they’re thinking about their own child, not the public welfare. From that point of view, I think it’s helpful to provide good information that relates NOT to the public welfare but RATHER to the risks to the individual child. Maybe that’s wrong, but it’s human.


  41. marta says:

    Stan, if you want to weigh the risk of your child being harmed by vaccine x vs. your child being harmed by disease x that has been virtually eradicated by vaccine x, then what you are saying is that you want to hedge your kids’ bets on the backs of all the kids who do get vaccinated. Under that scenario, the only way your unvaccinated kid is safe (and I’m speaking hypothetically here; I know you choose to vaccinate) is if most kids are vaccinated.Report

  42. Julean says:

    Right; or most rats and pigs.

    One could also say that he was “hedging his bets on the backs” of other kids whose parents made the choice to go with a vaccine.

    “1,000 parents want to go with the vaccine? Great. Tell me how it works out…”

    This is different than what your post implies, which is:

    “Great, I’ll decide vaccinate 1,000 children *for* their parents, and then let’s study the results.”

    There’s nothing wrong with getting the information on the outcomes of situations chosen by others. Or did I miss something, here?Report

  43. Thanks for all the fantastic comments on this piece, folks, and the wonderful conversation that has been generated. There were; however, a couple of comments that I had to delete because they simply had nothing to do with the content of the post.

    Should you have any questions, please feel free to visit our commenting policy for the very basic guidelines we request commeters follow on the site.


  44. Dan Summers says:

    Wow. Take a long weekend, and Andrew Sullivan links to your piece. Figures.

    Thanks to everyone that’s commented so far. I have a couple of follow-up comments of my own, then I’ll fade out again.

    1) It does not particular harm if individual, reliable parents choose to space out the vaccines. Sadly, a great many parents are not reliable. The current vaccination schedule is designed to maximize the protection for all children as efficiently as possible to prevent the return of numerous illnesses. Many pediatricians (myself included) accommodate parents who wish to space vaccines (which is no inconvenience to me… I have to be in the office, one way or the other). However, while spacing the vaccines does no particular harm, neither does it accomplish any particular good. Vaccines don’t cause autism, and all that is accomplished by spacing them is allaying the fears about non-existent harms spread by the likes of Jim Carrey.

    2) Of course it is possible that Mr. Carrey is facile with complicated molecular biology, its jargon and its analysis. It strikes me as singularly implausible, but perhaps he’s done a lot of studying between films. What is not possible is that he understands the science and believes that it supports his claims. As I said in my original post, the vast majority of the science available at the website he directs you to has nothing to do with the vaccine question at all, and much of it isn’t even related to autism. Mr. Carrey either misunderstands or misrepresents the science. No other explanation is possible.Report

  45. Stan says:

    Mara wrote “Stan, if you want to weigh the risk of your child being harmed by vaccine x vs. your child being harmed by disease x that has been virtually eradicated by vaccine x, then what you are saying is that you want to hedge your kids’ bets on the backs of all the kids who do get vaccinated. Under that scenario, the only way your unvaccinated kid is safe (and I’m speaking hypothetically here; I know you choose to vaccinate) is if most kids are vaccinated.”

    All I’m saying is that I want to simply know the truth, which is what is this risk of this vaccine and how does that compare to the risk of getting the disease today.

    You seem to be saying that if I know the truth then I am going to hedge my bet and not go with the vaccine, and that therefore it’s necessary for the public health establishment to keep the truth from people so they don’t hedge their bets.

    This is exactly what I suspect the public health establishment does.

    But once they do this, then you have to ask, what else do they keep from you and how can you trust them? Seriously, with this mindset of worrying that people are going to hedge their bets and opt out, it creates a situation where is a vaccine really is harmful there would — in all likelihood — be an enormous, if not unrealistic, burden of proof required for that information to go public, which is why, I am skeptical of these autism studies.

    I’m not saying there’s a conspiracy. I just think the interest of the greater good isn’t always inline with the interest of the individual, and in cases like those, those who work for the greater good often have an incentive to downplay individual risk.

    And that makes me nervous.Report

  46. Lisa, you wrote “… why are the vaccine makers exempt from lawsuits?” They are not exempt. The US Federal Court of Claims was set up in the early 1980s to make it easier for parents of vaccine injured children to receive fair and prompt compensation. But parents who sue vaccine makers directly waive their rights to be heard in Vaccine Court, where the standard of proof is much lower than in civil court. In the last few years a Maryland court heard two well publicized vaccine cases: Sykes v. Bayer, and Blackwell v. Wyeth.Report

  47. Sara says:

    I really appreciate these kinds of articles. It is very hard to know who to believe these days! With Carrey and McCarthey just on Larry King with doctors supporting their claims, and many others against them, it’s hard to know which ones to believe. All of the doctors/pediatricians are supposedly credible, so what do you really do about your children and their health concerns? I’m starting to believe in spacing out the vaccines, but still making sure they are all given. I very much rely on information and articles like these with the comments and links after them to help make up my mind, because sometimes doing research yourself isn’t enough…there is so much information that seems credible on both sides, who do I believe? I hope this can be figured out soon!Report

  48. Julean Rai says:

    Hey Justin…

    (Sorry for those who spent a good deal of money for the, but…)

    -Who cares of your credentials?

    Good thinking. 🙂


  49. Jennifer says:

    While I agree that celebrities do not have all of the information and should not necessarily be dispensing medical advice, I think your piece is one sided. The CDC just released a statement from an internal memo that indicated that this year the incidence of vaccine induced injuries out-numbered the diseases they seek to prevent. While some would say that the diseases are down because of the vaccines, but at what cost? Vaccine injury, whether that is autism or other dissorders, does exist. Recently an MD on the board of the NIH stated that the vaccine and autism/spectral dissorders link should be further investigated and that it is not yet fully understood. The most dangerous thing in the scientific world is the right answer to the wrong question. The problem with vaccines is that we have just that, the wright answer, but the wrong question. Yes, these diseases are greatly reduced. That is the right answer. However, when vaccine research began, the wrong question was posed. And that was how do we reduce the incidence of disease? WRONG QUESTION!! The right question would be how do we improve the host tolerance to the disease and thereby reduce the damaging effects of the disease without impairing the host? Better Question. To date, we have no answer to this question. At least not one that makes billions of dollars for drug companies and millions in governement tax revenue. And until we do, I will not vaccinate my children and risk injury or long term impairment of their full potential.Report