Of Mainstream Media, Hate Mail, and Vaccines

Hannah called just a few minutes after the PBS Frontline “Vaccine War” ended.

“I can’t get the baby to stop crying,” she said.

“I’ll be right home,” I cried, saying a hasty goodbye to my friends and jumping on my bicycle.

Although I think the producers of “Vaccine War” did their best to present both sides, I was a little disappointed with the show.

Here’s why:

1. Although you would not know it from the episode, I am pro vaccine and my children are selectively vaccinated. I think vaccines may be responsible for saving hundreds of thousands of lives. But I’m against the current CDC recommendations and I have deep reservations about what the government is currently recommending for children. They are mandating too many vaccines against too many illnesses. I think they are wrong, for example, to give the Hepatitis B vaccine to newborns whose mothers do not have Hepatitis B.

If you do a risk analysis and you see that many of the vaccine-preventable diseases have been eradicated in America, it makes little to no sense to vaccinate against diseases that no longer exist in America because of the theoretical danger of these diseases being imported from other countries. Yes, Paul Offit is right that polio and diphtheria were once serious illnesses in this country. But now they are so rare that the risk of contracting them may be less than the risk of doing damage to your child’s body and immune system by getting the vaccines.

2. The PBS documentary concentrated on the question of vaccines and autism instead of presenting all the other reasons why some parents choose to selectively vaccinate. Whether vaccines somehow cause autism is only one reason to be wary of vaccines. There are so many more. Although downplayed in the documentary, we know that vaccines can cause serious side effects in some children. But there’s a bigger question about vaccines and the immune system: vaccines may have long-term negative consequences on a person’s immune system. An article in Pediatrics, for example, showed that people who contract measles are less likely to get allergies. What if one of the reasons that auto-immune disorders are on the rise is because we have co-evolved to get certain illnesses and without wild exposure our bodies turn against themselves? I raised this question during the hours of interviews but I guess it was too complicated for a mainstream audience? In general, I feel like the documentary dumbed down the debate.

3. PBS did not include any footage of interviews with any mainstream doctors who are against the current CDC vaccination guidelines, despite the fact that there are hundreds of mainstream medical professionals in practice in America today who disagree with the nation’s vaccination schedule. I’ve interviewed both doctors and nurses who do not vaccinate their children according to CDC guidelines and who disagree with how vaccines are being used today. For more on this, read How to Raise a Healthy Child … In Spite of Your Doctor, which talks about how many doctors administer vaccines to their patients because they are required to follow public health guidelines but privately do not use them with their own children.

4. I think it’s a disservice to the thinking public to talk about “vaccines” and not to discuss each vaccine individually. Again, perhaps PBS was dumbing things down for a mainstream audience. But you have to look at each vaccine on a vaccine by vaccine basis. If I decide not to vaccinate against tetanus, there is no way that I am putting any other child at risk by my decision. Tetanus is a bacterial infection found in the soil and contracted by doing things like stepping on a dirty needle. My child cannot give your child tetanus.

5. I wish the point that if vaccines really work, parents who do not vaccinate are not putting vaccinated children at risk was made a little more clearly. I’ll say it again for clarity’s sake: If vaccines work as well as public health officials claim they do, unvaccinated people do not ever put vaccinated people at risk for anything. Period. But vaccines do not always work. Some vaccines, like the one for pertussis, have more than a 20 percent failure rate.

6. No scientific studies have been conducted with a statistically significant group of completely unvaccinated children. That means that all the studies that have been cited as “proving” or “disproving” the autism connection (or any other vaccine issue) are inherently flawed. You need a control group. That’s Biology 101.

7. Paul Offit calls people interested in investigating the damage done by vaccines “pseudo scientists” because they keep looking for other aspects of the vaccines that may be causing autism. When you try a hypothesis and it fails, you try another hypothesis. That’s not pseudo-science. That’s the scientific method. Again, I wish PBS had interviewed a conventionally educated doctor or other health care practitioner to provide a counterpoint to Offit.

8. The producers chuckled when I made this point on camera (and did not use this footage) but I do believe that we all need to act for the greater good. More children die in traffic and car-related accidents than anything else in America. Our family has one (compact) car for six people and we drive it as rarely as we can. If Americans really care about keeping each other’s children safe, we would all dust off our bicycles, scooters, skateboards, and walking shoes. If we want to stop endangering children we need to get out of our cars.

I’ve heard back from several friends, including Peggy O’Mara, that the episode was more fair than almost any other mainstream coverage of the vaccine debate. This is a difficult and controversial topic fueled by enormous financial and political interests on the side of the vaccine manufacturers and the medical establishment. Though I’m sorry it wasn’t less biased, I guess PBS did the best it could. And, as an LA Times writer pointed out, the pro-vaccine side probably feels that too much coverage was given to the vaccine hesitant folks.

I’m already getting hate mail.

This email message (from someone who choses to loathe me anonymously) was titled: “You’re living proof…”

that brains are not a requirement to get a Phd in English Lit. I live in Ashland and I must say I was embarrassed for my community when I saw you make an ass of yourself on the Frontline special. I was also embarrassed to learn that almost 30% of the stupid hippie population of Ashland aren’t getting their children vaccinated for MMR and other childhood diseases. Please keep your kids away from mine.

“If you’re going to take a stand on controversial topics, people are going to hate you,” my husband says. “You should know that by now.”

By the time I bicycled home the baby had calmed down. A few minutes after Hannah left my son woke up and vomited all over the carpet in the hallway. I’m writing this in bed with the baby on one side snoring and her big brother on the other (and a bowl on the floor in case he gets sick again). This isn’t really a war. We are all parents. We all care deeply about keeping our children safe and healthy. Name calling and blaming each other are unproductive. Whichever side of the vaccine debate you come down on, we are actually all in this together.

You can access the full program on-line by clicking here.

Related post:
The Right to Refuse

If you watched PBS tonight, what did you think of the show? Which side are you on in the vaccine debate? Why do you choose to vaccinate your children? Why do you choose not to? What do you think we can do to help the two armies in the vaccine “war” stop fighting and find common ground?

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61 thoughts on “Of Mainstream Media, Hate Mail, and Vaccines”

  1. I thought you came off as very intelligent. I could see how they edited you to get your quotes to fit into their story line. That was sad for me, if only because I hold PBS to a higher standard. I would choose to selectively vaccinate as well if the school system here allowed that. Here it’s an all or nothing proposition. But I’m with you on the Hep and chicken pox. I don’t think the government should mandate vaccines for diseases that either are not deadly or that do not spread easily (example: sexually transmitted diseases).

    I also wondered about vaccinated children getting these diseases, as one of the parents was quoted as saying. They did not back that up with an expert and it made me wonder if it’s even true. If it is true, then the vaccines don’t work… which makes taking them even more questionable.
    .-= Alisa Bowman´s last blog ..The Story of My Journalism Conference =-.

  2. I have two children with autoimmune diseases and I have to wonder if all the vaccinations they received played a part in it. It is believed that their illnesses are caused by a gene which is turned on by a virus or environmental factors. Their Dr recommends against flu shots for them because anything that stimulates the immune system is bad. It makes me sick to think that when I thought I was doing the right thing for them by getting recommended shots that I might have been harming them.

  3. The points you bring up are very compelling. Frankly, most of what the report presented I was already aware of, I would be much more interested in a more in-depth analysis as you propose here. From the report, I figured you shied away from all vaccines–didn’t realize (and it didn’t come out)–that you did selective vaccines.
    .-= Kristen´s last blog ..Culinary Confession: Canned Tomatillos =-.

  4. Jennifer, I was not aware, either, that you selectively vaccinate. That is significant – you are not totally ANTI vaccine, you are anti certain vaccines. I was also not aware that newborns are being vaccinated against HepB – why??Perhaps I was in a fog 20-plus years ago when my own children were infants, or perhaps this is something new. At any rate, if your argument was around all those years ago, it would have given me pause about certain vaccinations, I think. Good for you for being brave enough to speak out on what you truly believe. People will always disagree; it’s the way they do it that makes a difference. Anonymous hate mail is just plain cowardly.
    .-= sheryl´s last blog ..The Secret Life of a Grown-Up Brain =-.

  5. I would say it’s just TV that doesn’t do nuance, but that’s not true. Every time you’re interviewed for print or TV or radio, you’re placing yourself in somebody else’s story and can end up with a fragment of your thoughts being featured, the rest discarded. Which is all the more reason you need to go on writing at length to explain your views; you do that beautifully. I thought you were excellent on the show, though. You have a great calm and measured presence to you that makes people listen.
    .-= Ruth Pennebaker´s last blog ..Barbara Weibel and The Albanian Chapter of My Life =-.

  6. I agree completely with you assessment of the vaccination situation and its sad that they couldn’t make more valid points on the side of us mothers who do selective vaccinations. I was just at a well baby visit on Monday and when I refused Polio the doctor literally said to me you know over 400 children a year die of Polio in Africa. I just wanted to say well if we go to Africa we will get the vaccine then.
    .-= Harmony Hoekzema´s last blog ..First Midwife Appointment =-.

  7. Dear Rob,

    Jay Gordon and Bob Sears, both of whom were interviewed at length for the show and then had their opinions cut from the final version, are nationally recognized and well-respected practicing physicians (and authors) who both share my vaccine hesitations.

    Please read Jay Gordon’s reply to the PBS show here: http://campaign.constantcontact.com/render?v=001SEg_mP6bgKQ8NtgGfwbLbdnPJErghO7FlfPxYAAX0CiAFVgkgRnLyPeHBeaLrY8S37SMaEL9zaqz8Se5M22esEixe0GI9MAzUZek73cXY8o%3D

    While I appreciate your expressing your point of view, I find it sad that so many parents are willing to blindly follow recommendations that are honestly more often motivated by financial interests than the health of our children.

    The bottom line is that, isn’t it? We all want our children to be healthy. I believe there are many other ways to boost a child’s immune system, including extended breastfeeding, eliminating toxins from food and the environment, not eating refined sugars or refined flours, making sure our children spend lots of time outdoors and that they get enough exercise and enough sleep. Vaccines absolutely can play and have played an important role in our nation’s health. But, like hundreds of thousands of other parents who are not on the “fringe” and hundreds of healthcare providers, I am concerned that they are being overused and that we are being misguided.

  8. Jennifer,

    I have read Dr. Sears’ take on this situation. He finds a middle ground, offering a different schedule only based on the fears of parents, not based on any sound reasoning or scientific evidence. He words this very carefully. It is clear that he wants to help children, so he is figuring out a work-around so that the irrational fears of parents do not harm their children or the community at large.

    “I believe there are many other ways to boost a child

  9. I’m sorry the experience didn’t live up to your expectations. I’m not a parent, but I do tend to be a “rule follower.” I can see how these decisions are difficult. Each parent has to do what they think is best. I know you do that for your family.

  10. Hi, I just wanted to say I appreciate you for giving the information that you give, doing the research and enduring the hate mail. This is such a huge and heavy topic. I also believe in selectively vaccinating, I also live in the Ashland area. I am shocked that other people don’t understand why a mother wouldn’t be suspicious- and cautious about vaccinating given the evidence. There are many aspects of western medicine that are questionable and what is wrong with questioning it? Just wanted to say thanks!
    .-= Amanda´s last blog ..I’m Moving!!! =-.

  11. Wow Rob I hope you don’t have kids, your close-mindedness and gullibility are alarming….sure the government wants what’s best for you….they have no hidden motives….keep telling yourself that….I for one will think and research for myself and protect my child. You should be ashamed for being so rude.

  12. Actually, Dr. Sears has a huge concern with the amount of aluminum in vaccines. A single round of vaccinations far exceeds the safe daily limit established by the EPA for parenteral injection. It is that concern that led him to establish a vaccination schedule that minimized the amount of aluminum received at one time, thus bringing it within the range that we believe the liver can safely detoxify. You should read the entire book before you cite it.

  13. Watching this show made all to obvious the blatant attempt by the director and producers to create a mass hysteria with what Dr. Jay Gorden stated, “a pseudo-documentary with a preconceived set of conclusions: “Irresponsible moms against science” was an easy takeaway from the show.”

    This show proved to me, yet again, how journalism in this country has transformed from honest people seeking truthful answers, to “tabloid journalism” and creating live drama out of serious situations just to make a buck (or get the viewers watching).

    If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.

  14. you’re brave and wonderful! i’m sorry you’re having to endure some backlash but please know that your voice is powerful and important and needs to be heard. you speak for many of us. it was a shame that pbs did not include other docs and professionals to support your views and/or offer views other than pure pro-vaccine — in my view it was YOU vs. mainstream medicine/ “science.” that wasn’t fair or helpful. great job anyway — what you did was not easy and should be respected (no matter your views).

  15. Has anyone ever bothered to look at the guidelines posted on the American Academy for Pediatrics Website for immunization & their studies done on the safety of vaccinations? If not, open your mind & view the website:


    I err on the side of caution due to my getting German Measles as a child & almost dying, along with my brother who contracted spinal meningitis & almost died, and my husband who almost died with Hep B as a 10 year old. And with the influx of illegals coming into this country, I wonder how many of them could carry contagious diseases a-la H1N1, SARS & others increasing within the last few years.

  16. As an adoptive mom of a child with Hep B, I think those against Hep B vaccinations are hiding your heads in the sand. What are you going to do when my child and your child both fall down on the playground, cross-contaminate each other and then your child comes home with Hep B and infects the rest of your household? Likely? No. Possible? Yes.

    Hep B is endemic world-wide. Yes, the percentages are higher in many third world countries, but it’s still endemic in the U.S. Alaska’s Hep B rates are as high as those of many 3rd world countries. We live in a global society.

  17. Jennifer…just wanted to lend my support and let you know that you did a great job with the interview. I’ve subscribed to Mothering since my son was born 3 years ago, and it has been an invaluable source of both support in my parenting ways and helping to weigh the real facts through obvious media bias. It’s scary for people to stray from the mainstream and my goal has always been to encourage people to do their own research and think for themselves. After all, even the CDC has research documents that question the validity of vaccination. Thank you for all your hard work and please don’t take the negative comments to heart – you are doing the right thing just by making people break out of their comfort zone and think!

  18. Wow, look a at the conversation you’ve sparked, Jennifer!!

    I thought you came across very well in the program. Unfortunately, I didn’t find there was any new information from either perspective. Before vaccinating my daughter, I went back and forth and talked to everyone I knew including doctors from both sides of the argument, but, regardless, I would have like to see some fresh perspectives like your concerns about allergies and autoimmune in conjunction with vaccines!! It’s a shame they seemed to cut the fresh takes.

    I have loads of family and friends who don’t vaccinate and loads of family and friends who do. I honestly believe in vaccination and I would hate to see my daughter get severely sick or die from something preventable. However, our closest friends believe that vaccines are more dangerous than the illnesses they prevent.

    I don’t know how we’re going to resolve this problem, but we need to because such fighting is destructive and it doesn’t lead to the answers we need to learn in order to protect our kids one way or the other.
    .-= Almost Slowfood´s last blog ..Tasty Side: Avocado & Artichoke Salad =-.

  19. I personally choose not to vaccinate, however, I believe it should be a choice for parents and those of deciding age to get any vaccine. I researched a lot when my daughter was born and I never felt right about giving her any of the shots. I have a history of auto-immune disorders and I don’t want her to deal with the same! Thank you for your insight on the show, albeit highly edited, and this article and the orginal article on vaccines I read a few months ago. It’s just nice to have a choice over my own health and my family’s.

  20. Jennifer, I think it’s fabulous that you will stand up -publicly- for what you believe in. Nowhere do I see you trying to push an agenda for *other people to follow – and yet people are angry. How strange.

    I did vaccinate my kids. If I had it to do over, I’d have done it differently. I’m happy that there are people like you making this a topic of conversation for new moms so that they can make a decision based on more than just “the doctor says so.”

    What bothers me more than anything is that it appears that PBS and Frontline have really skewed this topic without allowing for a complete conversation. The general public deserves better than that. Instead of creating vaccine wars, why not create a longer conversation with an ongoing discussion for a number of weeks? Clearly, there is much to be said!

  21. Sheryl, the HepB vaccine is “new.”

    I had two babies in Japan (of four), where the vaccination schedule is very different and where a number of precautions are taken when giving vaccines. The only vaccines an infant receives are DTaP and polio (though oral). Nothing else as far as I recall. And they start at around 3-4 months at the earliest. In the second year of there is no MMR although there are single vaccines (not all “required” however). Mumps and measles outbreaks have occurred when I was there.

    It really, really disturbs me terribly that PBS had information that they chose not to share because of their bias and desire to sensationalize this rather than treat it as the complex, nuanced issue that it is. For instance, that they did not include that you selectively vaccinate just shocks me.

    I’ve been in your shoes (as expert/mom-on-national-TV, on another parenting topic) and been shocked and saddened to see a mainstream news media show take comments utterly and wildly out of context, or not include them at all, to fit their agenda. It feels like a betrayal of trust on so many levels. But fortunately we have the power of social media now which helps us spread the truth.
    .-= Christine at Origami Mommy´s last blog ..Six months =-.

  22. More people agree with you than you will ever know….keep your head up….i wish they had portrayed you better and i think your reply was great. i vaccinated my 4 year old son and am now pregnant with my second and seriously researching the whole process. last nights show was an insult to somebody searching for some OBJECTIVE journalism on the topic…im hoping the articles and opinions im led to because of that will help me in my quest and just wanted to let you know that you have been a valuable source of info for me

  23. jennifer-

    rob has pointed out your logical flaw in point 3. nice response to him, however the follow up is disappointing. critical thinking is what allows us to make educated decisions, and the follow up from others shows a lack of understanding that your faulty arguments are supporting, although in general you’re helping by presenting (mostly) logical points.

    on 5- you’re over simplifying. it’s not necessarily a failure rate, but can be a milder cases, or loss of immunity over time. part of how vaccines work is through herd immunity. i.e. in 100 bodies, if 90 people are immune and the other 10 don’t happen to run into each other or 1 of them stays home when contagious, no one else gets sick. if only 50 people are immune suddenly this doesn’t work at all.

    if a high enough percentage of the population can not be carriers, transmission drops and the un-innoculated are safer too, those such as immigrants, or folks with a religious objection to vaccines (personally i’m allergic to eggwhites, so there are several i just can’t get). this relates back to your point 2, on hep b, if person A is a carrier, and B vaccinated, B’s immunity will decrease A’s transmission rate to others. this is not a linear progression of protection for society, but 100% vaccination is not required to have near 100% reduction in transmission. choosing which 8 in 10 people (what ever that % is) to gain herd immunity to hep b by lotto would be unfair, and not deal with non-native populations not required to be immunized, so the appropriate things is to require it for all.

    tertiary carrier infections have nothing to do with this, so your example of tetanus is not an example of what you’re trying to state. bad rhetoric.

    on 6- there have been some studies in other nations however it is unethical to with hold treatment from a group where it is available and can and will save lives. there are too many corresponding and impacting issues that could be related to autism to begin to statistically exclude vaccines, however the only claimed proof that they do cause it is that vaccines occur at the same point in life that autism is typically diagnosed, and as any scientist knows, correlation does not imply causation. shifts in vitamin d levels in the population correspond more closely to shifts in autism diagnosis and preliminary studies hold this true for diasparatic cultural groups with comparable vaccination rates, which may be the closest ethical study to what you’re asking for. (look at preliminary things on somali families in minnesota)

  24. Jennifer,

    I understand you supporting your show but I don’t agree that it was fair. It didn’t look at a lot of issues and it completely cut out interviews from renowned pediatricians. It also used Paul Offit as their main speaker, who was the maker of the rotovirus vaccine that caused a lot of issues , yet made millions of dollars. Of course he is going to speak for vaccines any chance he gets.

    To the mom who is speaking of Hep B and cross contaminating on the playground, I understand what you are saying but what is the chance that NEWBORN would come in contact with it? Why vaccinate a baby at an hour old? And you say it is not probable that would happen but it is possible. Well look at the vaccine insert, they say its not probable to have a serious reaction but it is POSSIBLE.

    Jennifer- From my understanding, I thought you only vaccinated for polio and tetanus and that was because you went abroad. I could be wrong but would like to know if your stance has changed since the mothering article.

    I think your interview was great and I think that they didn’t portray as a highly educated person who holds a Phd and I think that was wrong.

    BUT I think the show was very one sided.

    They show a baby with pertussis and then show a someone who was vaccine injured and then claim she was faking? I don’t think that is fair.

    At no point did they speak of all the adverse reactions on the VAERS database.

    To act as though parents are making their decisions based upon what Jenny McCarthy did and what we see on youtube was very insulting. They just can’t imagine that we would do the research and decide for ourselves what was best for our children. I’ve found parents who choose not to vaccinate are actually far more educated and have researched it much more thoroughly than those that just blindly use the standard vaccine schedule. obviously, if parents are against the mainstream doctors and do not take their advice, they aren’t just going to blindly take Jenny McCarthy’s advice either, or anyone else’s for that matter.

    I am not against vaccines but I am against doing so many at such a young age. I think they can be done when children are much older and spaced out. Not once in the show did it speak of all the issues of the vaccines, all they spoke of was thimerosol and autism in one vaccine. How the polio vaccine is created I think is revolting, it is

    made in culture of monkey kidney cells and nourished with calf serum

    (cows blood).

    Nor did it EVER discuss the fact that in European countries some of these vaccines are available without the majority of preservatives that are found in the ones they have here, they are much cleaner.

  25. You refer to Hepatitis B as a sexually transmitted disease, but that is not what it is. Hep B is a blood borne pathogen. These are not the same thing. I wonder, if a vaccine for AIDS or HIV were available, would you get it for your child? Hep B and HIV are transmitted the same way. Where do almost all children who develop Hep B get it from? Their family members. This is why it is given at birth. Yes, they test the mothers, but most of the fathers are not tested.

  26. I just wanted to say thank you so much for being the brave one and doing your best to educate the public. I’m sorry that you are receiving hate mail, that’s so sad to me. You have thousands of families behind you and we are thankful to you for being our voice. Good Job, Mommy!

  27. Sarah, did we watch the same show? The point on the cheerleader was not that she was making it up, it was that she may have had psychological causes and that is an example of how difficult adverse reactions are to identify.

    As for Paul Offit, my best friend’s 4 year old got rotavirus and was in the hospital for 7 days. She also had a 1 year old who had been vaccinated. Thank God, because if she would have been as sick, I am sure she wouldn’t have made it. He is a hero, and I don’t mind a bit that he received monetary compensation for it.

  28. If there were an HIV vaccine – No, I would not get it for my baby, because, like Hep B, my BABY has no chance of catching a blood-borne pathogen. Abstinence and condoms prevent HIV and Hep B. When my child grows up, if they want to vaccinate themselves for HIV, Hep B, HPV, etc, then sure that makes perfect sense. I, personally, see no need to vaccinate my babies for things like that. (Not that you were asking ME, just thought I’d interject.) 😉

  29. Hep B and HIV are spread the same way. There is no vaccine for HIV, but I have no reservations with letting my child play on the playground with an HIV+ child. If they fell and scraped knees, I highly doubt they’re going to start rubbing their bloody knees together enough to risk infection.

  30. I also think we need to be sending our comments to PBS and Frontline. Frontline has always been a show that I’ve enjoyed and trusted, but a few years ago they did a show on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. (I just happen to be Mormon.) I was SHOCKED at how one-sided and sensationalized the show was. They chose to interview very fringey people, they put ominous sounding music in odd places and phrased things oddly – like instead of saying how Mormons value family, they phrased the sentence: “The Mormon FIXATION on family …” My point is that when Frontline has covered things that I KNOW about; like my religion, or vaccines, I have been greatly disappointed in their one-sidedness and sensationalism, which makes me DISTRUST them as an unbiased source from which to learn about issues that I don’t know about. PBS and Frontline need to hear from us.

  31. Monica,

    The point about Paul Offit making money from the vaccine has to do with ethics. It is well-known that if one stands to benefit monetarily from what they are researching, it creates bias. There was no mention of the fact that Paul Offit is also on an advisory board that recommends vaccines for the CDC vaccination schedule (he recommended his own vaccine be put on the schedule, which is why he is believed by many to be practicing unethically).

    Just like any other product, safety and efficacy needs ongoing testing and research. Vaccines are not immune (pardon the pun) to problems with effectiveness and contamination, just because we think something is safe today does not prove that tomorrow a study won’t change our mind. Would you give your baby their milk in a bottle you knew contained BPA? You may have two years ago. I noticed that there was no mention of the discovery of pig DNA in one of the rotavirus vaccines very recently (this can cause serious secondary reactions). There was also no mention of lots of vaccine that have been recalled because they have found to not do what they were supposed to or have caused multiple reactions (called a “hot lot” by the CDC). The point is, vaccines have somehow slipped under the wire of accountability. We expect researchers to figure out whether other pharma products are safe (especially when given together), why not vaccines? Why have there been no studies? The answer is simple, people like Mr. Offit continue to reap financial benefit from a schedule loaded with vaccines. This is why he is so rabbidly defensive when the use of multiple vaccines is questioned.

    If you don’t think this is the case, you can take a minute to watch the senate hearing with the big banks as they vehemently deny wrong doing. Everyone else can see it, but they don’t figure they did anything wrong. Did many people benefit? Yes, but there were also many people who suffered greatly (many, but not 1 in 94, which is how many boys in the US have autism). Would they ever be willing to look into the ways that they might have caused harm, probably not…admit wrongdoing…probably not. Who is going to call them out on the carpet, then?

  32. The rotovirus vaccine also caused Intussusception in a lot of children. It’s very sad your friends child was in the hospital but they didn’t die , where as a lot of children with this condition from the vaccine did. And you are also assuming children who get the vax might not end up in the hospital with a severe reaction.

    Rotovirus is not deadly. There should more emphasis on breastfeeding which has proven to keep infants who get rotovirus out of the hospital and keep them hydrated.

    My son had rotovirus and he was fine, never at the hospital.

    Despite vaccinating for it, most children get it by the age of 3 anyway.

  33. I think you succeeded in bringing this up and out for the attention and research of evidence it deserves. I am thrilled that people are riled up about this. Good. You go,girl. That parents and doctors and everyone can’t weigh the pros and cons of this debate and see the obvious without needing to be right or wrong is disturbing to me. In that respect, I felt disappointed in parts of the program, too. “What about selective vaccines like you have done?”, I was thinking. And, Jenny McCarthy’s point about the over-scheduling and contents being the focus of her questioning, not all vaccination. Your best point here is that you are pro-vaccine! I know that would have been a clarification point had it not been edited out. And, last, the most obviously omitted point. Vaccinnated children, if this is so foolproof, won’t be catching the unvaccinated children’s diseases, if and when they resurge at all.

  34. Rob,

    I have a PhD and a postdoc in research science and I selectively vaccinate my daughter BECAUSE of my knowledge of how science works. The lack of properly controlled studies conducted in vaccine research shows that big pharma doesn’t really care about our children. It’s about the $. They think by continuing to tell concerned parents that they are wrong, they should just do what is recommended, there is no evidence to support their theories…. that everyone will suddenly listen and do what they’re told. This is not going to happen with the vaccine war. They need to listen to scared parents. They need to do PROPER research. They need to address the issue of vaccine safety properly.

  35. Rob,

    You show your own ignorance of the issues. You should be ashamed. Get off your high horse and do some research before you judge others.

  36. I, too, was surprised the show made it look like those who opposed were because of autism fears. I felt the show was very pro-vaccine and didn’t find a middle ground that many of us choosing to be in the anti-vaccine camp would rather be in. However, if we have to choose a side, taking a passive risk rather than an active risk seems more appropriate. Even if more accountability for vaccines (i.e. if you could sue directly the manufacturer) it would seems the manufacturers would feel more pressure to keep improving their concoctions. This show definitely makes me feel like it set up a crusade against the parents who don’t vaccinate their children.

  37. I have to believe Rob is just egging everyone else on, because his responses are laughably rude and closed minded… Good luck in the real world, Rob… I hope you don’t have a job where you have to interact with people!

  38. Saying we can choose our vaccination schedule would cause parents to do actual research into the individual vaccines. Its less sensationalistic. One doesn’t really question vaccinations until they do the indepth research which this show discouraged. Infact to question vaccinations, per this show, is to put our nation’s weakest members in jeopardy. Truth is, the only way to protect those genetically weak children is to close down our borders. No one is going to stop all the illegal immigration.

  39. Thank you for making those very informed points. I want my husband to read them as this show refueled his desire to vacccinate our children. My children 7, and 4 also have never had anything other then a cold or flu. I mean no ear infections, asthma, allergies, eczema, no hyperactivity, or disipline problems of any kind. They have long attention spans and are usually happy. I look at all the grumpy sick children today and wonder what will become of our nation. I don’t believe vaccinations are preserving our children, they are, along with our nations poor diet, contributing to their eroding health.

  40. Jennifer, I would love to see what your selective immunization schedule looks like. I have 2 children ages 3 and 1 and they have never received any immunizations.. but I do think there is some value in certain ones. Honestly I haven’t found a schedule that I really like. Would you mind emailing it to me…. [email protected].

    Now I would like to add my own thoughts on the matter. I loved what you said in #8! As a society I really wish we could focus more time and energy on issues that are effecting our children on a daily basis, like childhood obesity and children being killed in car accidents or being injured in crosswalks. TEXTING should not be allowed at anytime while driving, and phone calls should be very limited. I know this is off the immunization topic but honestly I know more people and children that are being injured in these ways than from immunizations.

    Children could avoid many visits to the doctor if their parents were feeding them health sustaining foods!!!

    I’m sorry you are receiving hate emails but I want you to know that I thought you did a great job representing Moms who believe the same way you do who do not live in Ashland.


  41. I would just like to make two points. One, our immune systems come in contact with literally thousands of germs, viruses etc. daily that they fight off, mostly with complete success. The idea that giving children small doses of these bugs in vaccines somehow overwhelms their immune system does not make sense. Thats akin to saying that when a baby eats something off a filthy floor they are in danger of overwhelimg their immune system. Secondly, regarding the chicken pox vaccine, I contracted this disease when I was seventeen years old and have never been so sick in my life. I required hospitalization,(where, nowadays you can come in contact with some seriously nasty germs,)spent the entire summer before my senior year sick in bed, and I have permanent scarring all over my body. Having first hand experience with this smaller disease sure made me happy to vaccinate my six kids. Since so many children are vaccinted for it these days, I would imagine that is lowers the chances for exposure while they are young, it would seem to me that increases the risk of children contracting this illness when they are teenagers or even adults when the risks are exponentially greater. Just my two cents.

  42. Hi jennifer-

    Thanks for all the work you do. I am the ad manager for Mothering and have 3 kiddies of my own. We had a major scare with our middle son, who is now 5. We had spent many hours/days, etc. over at CHOP testing/trying to figure out early on what was going on with him (as we are right over the bridge.) I am also a selective vaccinator. I send my kids to our public school system and need to follow guidelines there, but I have ALWAYS staggered the shots and whenever possible order blood tests/titers to see if in fact my children need additional boosters, etc. I am certain that the doctors have had enough of me, but they are still putting up with me! As parents we want to do what is “best” for our children. It’s so hard to know how that actually translates in general–but especially with vaccines. We want to keep them “safe” at all costs, so it’s no wonder there are so many of us wondering what we should do. I agree that vaccines have helped keep many deadly diseases from affecting our children, but at what costs?? Given the incredible stats on Autism diagnosis these days (I believe 1 in 100) I just don’t understand why there isn’t a race to cure this and/or even research it as vigorously as other terrible illness–like various diseases that we still vaccinate against.

    Anyhow, just wanted to say good job!


  43. As someone who has seen so many of these supposedly balanced TV shows on vaccines or vaccines and autism over the years, I would say that this one was truly unique. Yes, it was biased toward the medical side, but that’s not a surprise. It is impossible for the medical establishment to ever admit any adverse effects of vaccines, especially autism and vaccines, as this will bring the vaccine program down. What was a surprise for me was that both sides they chose to represent on the show were equally presented. The commentator treated neither side with contempt. And, the show ended on the side of choice. I have never before seen a show of this nature that did not end with the party line of the medical establishment. And, I don’t know if anyone else saw this, but to me the medical authorities ultimately seemed mildly hysterical and the parents calm, confident and articulate. Especially, you Jennifer! I think the show will help those parents who have questions and give them courage. I told you that this felt like the Walls of Jericho came tumbling down because after 35 years of advocating for informed consent regarding vaccines, there is finally a chink in the wall. Thank you!

  44. There was NOTHING fair or balanced about PBS’s Frontline show… even the title was ridiculous. It was a commercial to lead the sheeple, as they (the ones behind it) intended.

    Dr. Gordon is too middle of the road for my tastes.

    All I can say to those who are confused, RESEARCH THOROUGHLY and do not let anyones opinion make your decision. People today do more research on their refridgerator than what is being injected in the veins of their babies.

    Think for yourself, use your own brain, carefully evaluate the motives of the sources. What motivates Dr. Gordon? Is it money or greater prestige?

    The piece was nothing more than a “hit” piece. It was a big phat F U to a whole lot of people “they” hate.

    More children will be hurt, big accomplishment. How do u sleep at nite?

  45. Jennifer,

    I honor your courage and voice. We simply have a right to be informed, the right to refuse or accept medical treatment. Our doctor has never review the risks of vaccinations, even with our request to discuss the matter.

    He has however agreed to do an alternative schedule. WE have yet to choose to vaccinate but are exploring a selective few.

    Can you please tell me the vendor you used to purchase the tetnus vaccination as a single dose?

    Thank you

  46. Chris, the idea is that they add in aluminum compounds that have the function of stimulating your immune system to overreact to the small amounts of germs. Otherwise, your body might not think the threat was significant enough to react to.

    This concerns me. What other normal, usually-insignificant substances will our body overreact to? Food particles? Our own internal organs?

    I am very sorry that you were so sick with chicken pox. But I am also very sorry for the people who suffer every day of their lives from auto-immune diseases. So, I would love to see some rigorous investigations done on the possible side effects of these ingredients, and whether they correlate to auto-immune diseases.

    And I’d like to maintain the right to choose for myself which risks I would rather take. We aren’t all going to be willing to take the same risks, and we should be tolerant and supportive of each other’s choices.

  47. Your children were vaccinated with the patented virus that causes chicken pox, not the “wild” strain that is currently out and about. Vaccine induced immunity wanes with time and is not as lasting as getting the real thing. I hope they are getting boosters every couple of years ($$$) to keep their immunity up because, as you know, chicken pox later in life is more serious than when we are young.

    whats wrong with what we did years ago and many non/selective/delayed vax parents are doing – having chicken pox “parties” to infect children who were not vaccinated to gain immunity?

  48. Rob, the media reports pertussis deaths, but they don’t report pertussis vaccine deaths. There have been 11 reported deaths following pertussis containing vaccines this year.

    I hope that you will consider that your understanding on this issue, as are most of the people who backs the CDC’s vaccine program, are based on very incomplete information, as reported to you by shows like Frontline, whose bias is glaring to anyone who is really critically studying this debate.

  49. I thought you did a great job!

    The thing the story illustrated for me (which hadn’t sunk in yet) is how much it is a David vs. Goliath fight – you can really see big medicine and $$ in action.

    Also, I really wish they had talked more about the study of epidemiology and how when you study a single, isolated cause and effect, you could miss something that is caused by multiple factors. I felt like that was really buried. Also, it seems like epidemiology can take a really long time to ferret out a cause in the real world.

    I really liked your points about doctors needing to adjust so that the patient’s needs can be met! And about the ridiculous chicken pox vaccine and vaccinating NEWBORNS for hepatitis B. Don’t they also do gonorrhea routinely?

    Personally, I was offered a Hep B vaccine at work as an adult when I worked with developmentally disabled adults who had a higher incidence of Hep B (due to their previous institutionalization). That seemed like an appropriate time for a vaccination, not when I was born, and had no exposure to the disease. I elected not to get it, since the only person who had Hep B and bit people routinely generally bit men, not women. Lucky for me, huh?

    Excellent work!

  50. Tara your response is awesome. My issue as a new mom in my mid forties is the safety of vaccines. From what I have researched which includes all of your great points I am convinced that vaccines cause more harm than good. The heavy metals used as adjuvents, the way they are processed using cow blood, aborted fetal cells, and the history of contaminated batches is enough to turn me away from vaccinating.

    There is a more natural way to boost my child’s immune system and for me the current vaccine schedule doesn’t hit the mark.

    I wish the Frontline people would have spoken to other prominent professionals like Dr. Randall Neustaedter, Dr Sheri Tenpenny, Dr Mayer Eisenstein, Dr Russell Blaylock (neurosurgeon), Dr Rashid Buttar, Dr Rebecca Carley etc…. they all point to the fact that live virus vaccines and the adjuvants in vaccines can trigger brain inflammation and cause the immune system to go against itself.

    I have decided not to vaccinate and I respect all of my friends who have decided to selectively vaccinate or vaccinate completely. I just wish the staunch pro-vacciners would do the same.

    I would encourage everyone to purchase a copy of Dr Andrew Wakefield’s new book titled “Callous Diregard”. He shares his side of the story of the MMR controversy in London. In an interview he talks about how tainted batches of the MMR vaccine caused meningitis in children. This batch was taken off the market in his country only to be sold to Brazil.

    When you read about things like this happening it only makes one distrust the pharmaceutical companies who produce these vaccines.

    As parents we have to be on top of stuff and learn as much as possible before we make a decision as critical as vaccinating. This decision can be a life altering experience for our children and it could potentially alter their brain function forever or worse cause death.

    Love the discussion and to Jennifer you are awesome too and I respect your decision to selectively vaccinate.

  51. Jennifer, I want to say as background that I don’t oppose everything you said. For example, I was upset to be forced to give my newborn Hep B at birth, since my husband and I had both REPEATEDLY tested negative for Hep B (and Hep C and HIV and syphilis and I can’t remember what-all – our daughter was conceived via IVF and these tests were required). And I oppose any mandate to give girls HPV shots – for that matter, I oppose any mandate to give people shots for things that can only be transmitted sexually or through needles. Caveat sex partnor.

    But diseases that can be transmitted “casually” are a different thing. Yes, I think it’s absolutely your right to control medical decisions relating only to your own health, and I will defend a pretty broad right for you to make medical decisions that affect only your own kids. But unless you intend to quarantine your kids in your house 100% of the time (no travel, no attending public schools, no going to movies, no going to the Y for gymnastics, no playing outside on the sidewalk), your decision about whether to vaccinate them is not one involving only your own health, as you do or should know.

    You seem like an intelligent woman, so I don’t understand why you say,

    “I wish the point that if vaccines really work, parents who do not vaccinate are not putting vaccinated children at risk was made a little more clearly. I

  52. Dear Laurie,

    Thank you for taking the time to visit this site and write this long response. I am sorry that you are in the throes of painful shingles, that sounds awful. I am also sorry that you felt forced to give your child the Hep B vaccine. I think there is too much coercion in the health care system and that you fell victim to that.

    It may be that we don’t see eye to eye on some of these issues but I think we have a lot more common ground than you think.

    I can’t answer all of your questions here but I can tell you that I go into great detail in my article, “The Vaccine Debate,” in the July/August 2009 Mothering Magazine about all of the issues you raise (including shingles). If you haven’t seen it, you can read an excerpt and buy a copy of the article for under $2 here: http://www.mothering.com/health/vaccine-debate-article

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