Should kids be vaccinated? 'Frontline' and science say 'yes'; Jenny McCarthy and a lot of selfish Gen X'ers say 'no'

Tonight on Frontline, “The Vaccine War” presents both sides of the controversy over whether young children should be vaccinated for diseases such as measles and polio, and in a rare display of TV-news common sense and independence, one side is shown to be — sorry — wrong. Frontline‘s documentary will, I hope, leave any sensible viewer feeling that you’d have be deluded or selfish not to have your kids vaccinated.

On one side, you have what the show politely calls the “vaccine-hesitant” but what I’ll call the vaccine-deniers, people who resent government laws that compel parents to have their children vaccinated by a certain age. These folks, who include Jenny McCarthy (shown here in happier days with Jim Carrey,  as she makes a specious connection between vaccines and autism), take the government-off-our-backs position to an extreme. Their argument boils down to: So what if my kid gets the measles or chicken pox? It’s better than the wee ones absorbing the impure ingredients contained in vaccines (such as the so-called “MMR triple-shot” for measles, mumps, and rubella).

On the other side, you have rational people — scientists who’ve conducted studies like the one proving that, based on tests of a half-million children, there is no connection between the MMR and autism. “The Vaccine Wars” certainly doesn’t deny the anguish that parents such as McCarthy (whose son, Evan, has been diagnosed with autism) endure. But the hour distinguishes between emotion and fact. And history.

Because what becomes clear in “The Vaccine War” is that the current debate about vaccination has arisen primarily from the post-baby-boomer generation, which was the last generation that knew and saw first-hand the damage done by polio and measles outbreaks. The Gen-X parents are the first generation to live in a world without polio, and they make an absurd leap: I don’t see it, so it can’t be that bad. They depend on what’s called “herd immunity” — the notion that a majority of other parents will vaccinate their children.

And thus the vaccine-deniers can pursue their dangerously self-righteous agenda, secure in the knowledge that their little un-needled Jane or Johnny, should they contract a contagious disease, won’t cause a pandemic… because the rest of us are keeping such diseases at bay. Frontline suggests that some of the post-boomer generations believe in research they do themselves via Google, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter is as valid as independent scientific studies. I’d laugh at this if it weren’t so dangerous, leading to things like the Desiree Jennings hoax.

Frontline points to Ashland, Oregon, where about one quarter of the town’s children are not immunized. The town, a wealthy community filled with health-food stores and overflowing with yoga mats, is a hotbed of vaccine-deniers. And, scientists say, a dreadful example of what could happen, because it’s far more likely that, should measles or whooping cough enter that community, it would spread much faster than in a town where citizens are thinking beyond the walls of their own houses, and of the public good.

What makes this Frontline — “The Vaccine War” is written, produced, and directed by Jon Palfreman — so compelling is seeing the smugness of the vaccine-deniers contrasted with the facts and figures of the historical record and current studies being down about the efficacy of things like the MMR triple shot.

Watch it tonight and tell me what you think. Thanks.

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  • Alex

    Vaccine deniers are stupid. Period. They should be arrested when their children get sick and possibly die or infect other children whose parents are also stupid.

    • really

      I thought journalists are suppose to be neutral and report the facts? In the title alone, Ken is calling Jen McCarthy et al “selfish” LOL. Stick to reviewing TV shows and stay out of the news.

      • The Obvious

        really, you are an idiot.

      • Kristen

        Ken is a critic, NOT a journalist. If we relied on him being impartial then we would miss his scathing reviews of crappy pop culture. Frontline is journalism. And they conclude that vaccines are safe and necessary. Jenny McCarthy is a waste of humanity. I feel bad for her son who will be held up in front of the cameras everytime her career takes a dip. There’s a parent that makes Jon and Kate look good!!!

      • whatevs

        Kristen, I don’t think any parent makes Jon and Kate look good..

      • jen

        yeah, see, i like my journalists to know and declare the difference between truth and lies, not just be referees in a “who can write the best soundbite” contest

      • Andrew

        Baring the fact that Ken isn’t a journalist, the facts inherently give one side far, far, far more credibility than the other. If this were “flat earth society vs scientists”, you’d find the same thing, the facts overwhelmingly support one side so strongly that impartiality is virtually impossible. The media has a responsibility to present evidence, not to pander to every crazy idea out there. There’s no reason why any journalist (of which Ken is not) should treat the anti-vaccine crowd as though they have a legitimate position. Should we treat people who believe the world is 6000 years old like they’re talking sense? Should we treat people who believe there is a giant pink butterfly on the moon that generates rain as holding a viable stance? If the evidence massively overwhelmingly absolutely supports one side, then why should journalists be requested to feign impartiality? Why legitimize the position of insane people?

      • Brian

        Josepf Fritzl makes Jon and Kate look great!

      • Laura

        Ken Tucker is my new hero. He is absolutely correct in calling these people vaccine-deniers.

      • He’s not a news journalist . . .

        He’s a TV critic.

    • Honey

      Vaccine deniers aren’t just putting their own children at risk – but other children, who cannot be vaccinated because of their youth or other good reasons. If a parent refuses to vaccinate their child and another child dies because of that – it should be first degree murder. It’s no different that a compulsive drunk driver – arrogance and stupidity and narcissism leading to innocent death.

      • Don Rowe

        While I agree in concept, Honey, I fear you would have trouble proving premeditation to charge anyone who kills via superstition with first degree murder.

        Manslaughter is about as good as you’ll get.

      • Jayne

        another consideration – when everyone is vaccinated, the diseases have no chance to mutate and change, so the vaccinations provide the needed immunity. When the diseases have outbreaks – even small ones – the diseases can mutate and grow resistant to treatment. Then 100% of the community is at risk to the new strains.

    • Shiny

      Drug manufacturers used mercury in vaccines for years as a cheap preservative. Eli Lilly has manufactured mercury-laden Thimerosal since the 1930’s, and it is still used in adult vaccines. I can’t fault parents for being concerned; US drug companies don’t have the greatest track record.

      • Hudson

        There is no evidence of a causal link between thimerosal and autism. In fact the study in the Lancet which led to this bout of autism and vaccine hysteria has been debunked.

      • Kim

        Thank you for knowing this. This should be a concern. If we have to call the EPA when we break a light bulb containing Mercury, why is it OK to inject it into children? “Mad hatters” went mad because of mercury treatments used on hats at the time. Mercury is bad for humans, that is a fact. It should not be anywhere near vaccines. But it still is. There are trace amounts in most vaccinations today even. I am not against vaccines, I am very much for them in most cases. But I do support a better safe than sorry approach about the Mercury part. most are available without it, but you have to ask for them.

  • CleverShrew

    Ken, I frequently appreciate your columns. But, in this case, are you reviewing a show, or providing your opinion on something that is outside your expertise of entertainment. This column seems to be the latter. You’re entitled to your opinion of course, but I do not feel it should be forced down my throat with such comments as “deluded” and “foolish”. Please stick to what you know. TV. Thanks!

    • JD

      However, the vaccine-refusers are “deluded” and “foolish.” Saying vaccines cause autism is comparable to saying that the world is flat. It’s been proven time and time again to be false, and unfortunately, children are dying because of it.

      • Vince from NYC

        So it has been proven time and time againg that Vaccines don’t cause Autism? I’m all for a MMR, Miesels, Mumps and Rubella are terrible and the shot has been given for 30 years. Chickenpox vaccine however hasn’t been around all that long, and is the vaccine that was suspected to cause autism in particular. Chicken Pox is not so dangerous for a child. I was born before the vaccination days and pretty much everybody I know has had them at least once.. So while I agree its ignorant to totally dismiss vaccinations, I do agree that they should be avoided for less serious disease..

      • kate

        Chicken pox kills almost as many people each year as influenza because those people believe exactly what you just wrote – that it’s a ‘less serious’ disease. The reason we think that is because, like you said, our childhood memories consist of an entire class of students getting the disease, missing school for a week and then returning with no harm done. In small children and adults especially, chicken pox can be extremely deadly.

      • LogopolisMike

        Vince from NYC et al

        Chicken pox can be a very serious disease, especially to an adult and very especially to an adult with a compromised immune system. We’re not talking about spots and a little itching. We’re talking about it could kill me.

        So to not originally vaccinate your kids, when it has been proven again and again that the original studies that said vaccines may cause autism are irrefutably false and to continue to not vaccinate kids because of bad science and selfishness, you’re lucky that name calling is all you get.

        And as far as what’s appropriate for Ken, as a television writer to talk about, it is absolutely ridiculous to think that TV, something that drives and shapes our culture — at both the lowest and highest levels — should be regulated to a certain box that doesn’t touch the rest of the world.

      • really

        Actually, Jen McCarthy et al were all over MMR causing their children’s autism. Switching it to the varicella vaccine is a new trend. I know the research clears MMR, but I dont know what is being said about Varicella/chicken pox. I do know that the Varicella vaccine was created to increase productivity b/c the vaccine was cheaper than having a million parents miss a week of work when their kids got the chicken pox. That is something to think about.

      • jem

        @Vince from NYC — There is also the fact that people who have had the Chicken Pox as children are much more prone to getting Shingles later in life. Chicken pox is a virus, meaning that once you get it, you’ll always have it in your body. So you may say that chicken pox is “not serious,” but tell that to those suffering from painful and sometimes debilitating bouts of shingles.

      • ani

        well, even moreso, the varicella zoster virus that causes chicken pox (varicella) is the one that causes shingles (herpes zoster). therefore, no chicken pox, no shingles. btw, shingles is a terribly painful experience. i have never had it, as it typically doesn’t occur until you are much older, but i am very scared for if/when I get it.

      • @Vince from NYC

        First the anti-vaccine crowd claimed that the MMR vaccine caused autism, then just the thimersol(sp?), and now it’s the chicken pox vaccine. When the tests prove them wrong again, it’ll be something else.

      • V

        A friend of mine just had shingles…he had to be on Vicodin for the pain, it was so bad…

      • Kaye

        Read the signs… it says “Green our Vaccines”… not avoid them! The media, including you Ken, need to stop making this an argument of vax or not… that’s not really the argument at all! Instead, many parents are looking for vaccines to be manufactured with the safest ingredients, and to be given on the safest schedule… gee, how selfish and insane of them!

      • Lace

        While these scientists were in school for 10 years Jenny McCarthy was lying around the Playboy mansion. Who am I going to listen to? So hard…

      • Mike


        “Green our vaccines” is a meaningless phrase. McCarthy et al want vaccines to go away PERIOD, so they started a movement where they demand that vaccines be made perfectly safe.

        There is no such thing as a perfectly safe medicine.

      • JD

        Many vaccine refusers or people who want to split up the vaccine schedule do so because of the concern regarding aluminum overload. Children actually get more aluminum in breast milk, and an even larger amount in formula, than in all of the vaccines combined.

      • Hudson

        According to the CDC most of the adults who die from chicken pox were otherwise healthy and got chicken pox from their unvaccinated children. All of the chicken pox deaths in children were in unvaccinated children. It isn’t just children who are at risk from their unvaccinated peers but all of us.

      • Hudson

        And, as others have said, chicken pox leaves behind a virus that causes shingles later in life. My brother and I both had chicken pox when we were children and we’ve both had shingles and (I had it twice) and I can say that this is not something you should wish on your children. Extremely painful and long lasting.

      • Chiquita

        If the anti-vaxers keep changing their minds about which vaccines cause Autism and how, money that could be used to find the actual cause of and treatments for Autism will continued to be wasted. It’s time to focus our energies on actually helping autistic children rather than promoting hysterie.

      • some dude

        ani, I got shingles once, and yes, it is extremely painful. It felt like the flesh was going to explode.

    • bjackson

      It is obvious what your opinion is, likewise. There is one aspect of this discussion that is not being addressed. My child could not get the DPT shot because of an allergic reaction to the pertussis (whooping cough if you don’t know) component. My ped now calls me anytime there is a whooping cough outbreak in the area(which have become far too frequent due to people neglecting to vaccinate) so that I can keep my child out of public areas until it passes. This is a necessary precaution because children that cannot handle the shot, are also the ones with the highest possibility of death should they contract the disease. So by choosing to not vaccinate your child, you are endangering the life of another. It amazes me that those who typically oppose vaccination, also typically support programs and funding for “the common good.” Why don’t you make that same connection to vaccination?

      • CleverShrew

        Actually I am on the side of vaccines. but I am not shoving my opinion down soemone’s throat and calling names. But that was not my point. Mine was that Ken should stick to what he knows, reviewing TV shows, instead of opining on a topic he does not have the same expertise in.

      • Cas

        Technically, he’s reviewing “Frontline,” which is a TV show. It’s just not the type of show he usually covers.

      • Ken Reibel

        A one=month-old girl died of pertussis in South Bend, Indiana in January. The baby was too young for the vaccine, and enough parents in the area had rejected the vaccine for their own children that the disease gained a foothold.

        Thanks, Jenny!

      • Mike

        CleverShrew: Regarding “I am not shoving my opinion down soemone’s throat and calling names:” If someone holds a belief which is patently contradicted by the facts, they are, by definition, wrong and delusional.

      • J

        @ CleverShrew
        Opinion: that’s the problem with these kinds of debates. People think that both sides propound a sort of “opinion” that’s their right to hold “you have your opinion and I have mine” and therefore one side is no more right than the other. But it’s not opinion vs. opinion. It’s FACT vs. an opinion.

      • Lynn

        I started exploring this topic after reading an article in the paper today (Aug 1, 2010): “Seventh baby diest in (California) state’s whooping cough outbreak.” All seven were less than 2 months old and killed by *other* parent’s willful and, yes, selfish ignorance.

        re: “those who typically oppose vaccination, also typically support programs and funding for the common good.”

        Yes, I was wondering about how anti-vaxers break down demographically, too. My impression is that a fair chunk of them are also “pro-family, anti-abortion,” which is also ironic. According to the talking points, it’s supposed to be wrong to kill babies for selfish reasons.

    • Josh

      I have to agree. I mean I think kids should be vaccined but this article just seemd a bit…rude. I apperciate your opinons but once you do name calling you just degrade yourself to behaving like some of the people in the comment section.

      • Andrew

        I don’t understand what’s wrong with being ‘rude’. Why legitimize people who have no legitimate position? Why should people who ignore overwhelming amounts of evidence, to endanger the lives of others recklessly, be treated with any kind of respect?

        After all, “Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions.” -Thomas Jefferson.

      • Honey

        There’s nothing wrong with being rude about people committing negligent homicide. More than one infant has died because stupid, ignorant, selfish morons with children old enough didn’t get their kids vaccinated and the infants caught a preventable disease.

      • Michael

        Must agree with Andrew: what’s wrong with a little well-placed rudeness? Willfully ignorant people, by virtue of choosing to ignore the evidence, deserve nothing less. Our responsibility to their children should be enough of a reason. Even though we probably won’t change their minds, we may have an effect on the young minds they’re currently warping by equating their opinions with what translates to lifetimes of research by scientists.

    • Kay

      By that same vein, Jenny McCarthy should stick to what she knows: acting.
      Vaccines save lives. Period.

      • Nessab

        Acting? She doesn’t know that either.

      • ew

        You’re right – Kay meant to say “posing nude for Playboy”

      • BLM

        Ha! Jenny doesn’t even know acting. She know nude modeling and game-show co-hosting. That’s about it.

    • joblo

      Just FYI, Ken does that a lot, CS, if you’ve been paying attention. He’s become quite the opinion-man on political issues here at EW these days.

    • Stan

      Okay, But, those vaccine-deniers (including you if you are one) ARE deluded and foolish. AND are lucky that some government doesn’t attempt to force the issue as a legal one down some target parent’s throat.

      • carlijean

        My brother almost died because he was vaccinated, and became allergic to everything. Everything means he had to have water fed to him in a eyedropper. Does that make my parents stupid for not having my other sibling not vaccinated? No, because the same thing would have happened to my sister. That does NOT make them deluded and foolish. If the government tries to make it a law I will fight it.

      • @carlijean

        It must have been horrible for your parents and brother to go through that. Some people are allergic to vaccines … but very very few. I can understand why your parents made such an emotional decision. Did your brother turn out okay in the end, I hope?

      • Debbie

        carlijean: I am sorry to hear that your family had to go through that experience. I hope that things became easier for your family.

        There is a government fund set up to help people who have severe reactions to vaccinations. Vaccinations may help keep viruses at bay, but they are not 100% safe, and that has to be acknowlegded. My husband and I have both done research on vaccinations and have chosen to hold off on doing them for our children. If they are sick we will keep them home, and once they are old enough we will discuss doing vaccinations for them. If there is ever an outbreak of something, we will get them vaccinated. I don’t think that we are being selfish, foolish, or deluded, nor would I ever deride someone who chooses to get their child vaccinated. Enough children have been hurt by vaccinations, and vaccinations still contain additives that aren’t safe for anyone, and I really believe that each parent should be able to make the choice to vaccinate or not without being insulted. The vaccination schedule that they recommend for children now is a little too much for me to feel comfortable giving to my children, and I know I’m not alone.

    • jen

      and that’s the problem with “you people”. everything is not an opinion. some things are facts. it doesn’t stop being a fact jsut because you’re too dumb to believe it.

      • Kaye

        jen, so you think thousands of parents who believe their children were harmed, in some way by vaccines, even if it was not the cause but the trigger,… you discount all of those parents’ experiences? Look I’ve read the studies too, and my own kids were vaxed, although on a sane schedule, but I could never look at all those parents struggling to make sense of what happened to their children, and tell them their experiences were invalid.

      • Mike

        Yes, you can discount their experiences, because there are no FACTS behind their beliefs.

      • Honey

        Absolutely, Kayne. I reject unproven beliefs. Because scientific data does not lie. Anecdotal evidence does – it’s based on skewed perceptions.

        One corrupt, discredited scientist kicked the ball rolling on this – he was paid by a law firm to “prove” vaccines caused autism so the law firm could so the companies. His results have never, ever been able to be recreated. As as if a bunch of people kept insisting Cold Fusion is real.

        It created a bogey-man for parents who are rightfully frustrated because there is no identified cause of autism.

        But their “perceptions” have been proved wrong – over and over again.

        The facts show a small number of children have bad reactions to vaccines. Researchers are working on how to anticipate and prevent that based on facts, not fantasy. Because they are responsible and recognize truth. The Vaccine hysterics reject truth.

    • Jillian

      This is not a matter of opinion, however. No one’s debating whether Jenny McCarthy’s haircut is awful — that’s opinion. The *fact* that vaccines prevent diseases that until a generation ago killed or crippled thousands of people is not debatable. Nor is the *fact* that there’s no reason to link them to autism.

  • Hillary

    good article Ken, will definitely be watching this episode of Frontline.

  • **

    Whoa, can’t tell your opinion on this topic at all.

    Though, that said, I can tell you right now that any children I have will be first in line to be vaccinated for anything. I was given a bad batch of an MMR and ended up being exposed to and getting the mumps as a teenager, which was awful. No one around me will ever have to suffer that because of a decision I made. Also, crack a history book at some point, people! There is a reason we vaccinate against these things! They are horrible diseases that maim, kill, and spread rampantly.

    • Sam

      I have vaccinated my kids, but I still don’t understand how chickenpox has become so dangerous since I was a kid.

      • kate

        Chicken pox has always been dangerous. It’s just that the vast majority of cases are NOT dangerous, so the ones that do cross that line are few and far between and therefore don’t make too many headlines. Those who suffer from more severe chicken pox end up with pox in their throats, noses and chest cavities which causes breathing problems and can cause death if not treated. This is why it’s considered dangerous.

        Chicken pox is also significantly more dangerous in small children and adults who have never been exposed to the virus.

      • Kelly

        yeah, I had chicken pox when I was a kid and was told that it is healthy to actually get them (oppossed to when you are an adult)- good question, when did it become so serious.

      • Sam

        and vaccines can cause side effects too, like seizures. That is on the CDC pamphlet. So, which is worse? The chances of ‘bad’ chickenpox (kills 100 year), or the chances of a ‘bad’ vaccine reaction? I don’t know the answer, just asking.

      • kate

        @Kelly – It was the healthiest option to get them when no vaccine was available simply because getting them as an adult could be far more deadly. Now, with the vaccine available, it makes more sense to vaccinate children so the children cannot contract the disease and THEN spread it to adults who have no immunity towards it. The fear here is that the adults will be the ones affected by the dangers of this disease.

      • JLI

        Serious question here: I’ve had my kid vaccinated, but I’ve heard the argument before that with the advent of the Chickenpox vaccine (which I didn’t have as a kid, but I did get the chickenpox) the next generation will be a generation of adults who have never had chickenpox. The argument is that an outbreak of chickenpox among that type of population could be devastating. (Like someone said above, chickenpox is most harmful to adults that haven’t had it before.) We all know that some vaccines just mitigate rather than fully prevent their diseases and that some diseases evolve. Does anyone have any insight on this aspect of the chickenpox situation?

      • ani

        it is better to get chicken pox as a young child because older children and adults are much more likely to have verryyy serious side effects from chicken pox and have a greater risk of death. younger children recover faster from it. but given the choice of the vaccine vs a chicken pox party, i’d suggest the vaccine.

      • ani

        oh, i just reread your post and realized i didn’t really answer it. i actually wonder about that myself. your immunity will wane as you age and you might be at risk, but i think we rely on herd immunity. if all children are vaccinated, then you, as a vaccinated adult, should be ok. i think that’s why it is a big concern when there are children NOT getting vaccinated. but again, i’m not positive as to how our immunity to the vaccine changes as we age. or perhaps they’ll come up with booster shots? but definitely a good question..that my relatively useless post is not answering.

      • Laurie

        I am 32. I had the chicken pox twice at 2 (very mild case) and at 8. My parents intentionally exposed my little sister so we both had it at the same time. Two incredibly itchy people one room. No fun. It was uncomfortable and unpleasant, but nothing compared to a friend of mine who had it at 18. For all of you that say you dont know anyone who had a bad time of it let me volunteer her story. our senior year of high school she contracted it having never had it before. She ended up missing 3 weeks of school, 1 week spent in the hospital. She got it in her eyes and ears and had to be monitored. She ended up with horrible scars on her face where they burst. Young skin recovers better as well. I wouldnt wish it on anyone.

      • Ken Reibel

        Varicella can also open the door to flesh eating bacteria disease.

      • Kaye

        Chicken pox has not become more dangerous, bean counters decided it was more cost effective and convenient if the disease was shortened. Those of you touting the benefits of the chicken pox vax, seem entirely unaware that like the flu vax, it does not eliminate the possibility of catching the disease, just hopefully shortens it and lessens the severity. You still can get shingles too! Oh yeah, and the vaccine has a 10 year efficacy, which means if you follow the schedule, and vax at age one, your child will be vulnerable during their teens!

      • Mike

        Sam: “So, which is worse? The chances of ‘bad’ chickenpox (kills 100 year), or the chances of a ‘bad’ vaccine reaction? I don’t know the answer, just asking.”

        Maybe rather than revel in the mystery, you should educate yourself and stop sounding proud of your ignorance. Because the numbers are quite disparate; there are FAR more fatal cases of chickenpox than there are responses to the vaccine that get anywhere near fatal.

      • JD

        Since there is more antibiotic resistant bacteria such as MRSA, people who get the chicken pox are at risk of getting secondary bacterial infections that are more difficult to treat. Children who’ve had certain types of transplants cannot receive live virus vaccines, such as MMR and varicella, due to the immunosuppressive drugs they need to take to prevent organ rejection. If those children were to get one of these diseases, they could die. They have to rely on others around them getting vaccinated since they can’t themselves.

      • JLI

        Hey ani, thanks for the insight. Rather than wondering about myself, though, I’m more wondering about all the kids who are being vaccinated now (including my son). What will happen if there is an outbreak of chicken pox when my son is 60 and everyone his age and younger has never had them due to the vaccine? Some say that would have a devastating effect on so many unprotected adults… Just curious if anyone knows if that scenario has been addressed at all…

      • JLI

        sorry, I shouldn’t have said “unprotected adults” but rather adults who have never had chicken pox

      • Leah

        Kaye, doctors are now suggesting that you get a second varicella vaccine at age 7-8 to boost the vaccine you got as a 1 year old. It’s the same thing as an MMR booster that you are supposed to get as a teen or a tetanus booster. I am not sure if there is an option to get the varicella vaccine again as an adult, but I’m sure if there isn’t already there will soon be one. So yes, the vaccine is only good for about 10 years, but they have planned for that.

      • LynneB

        There is also a varicella booster available to over-60s, which protects against shingles.

        But here’s the thing — as chicken pox vaccination as a child spreads, shingles will disappear, as each generation ages. Shingles is the result of chicken pox infection as a child, since the virus takes up permanent residence in the central nervous system, and then resurges later in life. By not getting a chicken pox infection in the first place that is also prevented.

        The hope is that eventually this becomes like yellow fever, the disease will be eliminated from the population at large and people will only need to get the vaccine if they are travelling to a part of the world where it still exists.

      • WayBeyondSoccerMom

        What a lot of people in the US tend to forget is that other countries have been a lot more aggressive in creating and using vaccines prior to the US embrace of them. Japan was using the Chicken Pox vaccine for over 20 years before it was available in the US. Widespread use of the vaccine in Japan was in the 1970s, with a different version becoming popular in 1981. Go google: “japan chicken pox vaccine”. It wasn’t available in the US until 1995. In 1996, insurance wouldn’t even cover the vaccine, so I paid out of pocket almost $200 to give my child the vaccine.

      • kmgardner

        I had chickenpox as a kid, back before the vaccine was available. I was horribly, miserably, painfully ill. I missed three months of school, got pneumonia and a host of secondary infections, and couldn’t run and play for months afterward. Even as an adult, my torso is covered with chicken pox scars. I was a healthy kid beforehand, and I recovered eventually, but it’s not an experience I would wish on anyone who is not Jenny McCarthy.

  • Bethie

    My daughter was victim (sort of) of one of those vaccine-deniers. She got all of her vaccines when she was supposed to. But because one of her classmates did not get vaccinated, the entire class was exposed to measles. My daughter had to take a full cycle of antibiotics “just in case”. I was furious – I had done my duty as a parent and responsible citizen but because another “chose” not to, my daughter had to deal with the consequences.

    If these deniers don’t want to vaccinate their kids, fine. But lock them up inside and keep them away from the rest of us. Can’t wait to watch this program.

    • Kelly

      Bethie, what happened to your daughter is what scares me most about vaccine deniers. I would be scared if a kid who cut him/herself in gym class or sports practice and started bleeding and there were kids who hadn’t been vaccinated present. The measles outbreak in San Diego described in the piece was sobering and scary.

    • Edward

      You get measels from a virus. Why were they giving antibiotics that are used to treat bacterial infections?

      • Shiny

        I know; that story about the giving the daughter “antibiotics” to prevent Chicken Pox sounds fishy.

  • Not Moby

    @ CleverShrew. . . Obviously Ken’s piece is from a particular biased point of view, and I can appreciate the fact that you might want a less biased take on tonight’s Frontline special; but this topic IS within my area of expertise, and I think Ken may be spot on.

    • Cas

      Not Moby, your screenname is awesome.

  • John K

    While I have my kids vaccinated, let’s be honest here, the “science” proving vaccines to be completely (or nearly completely) safe isn’t exactly the most thorough undertaking. People don’t make a lot of money off of vaccines, so they don’t put tons and tons of time into the “science” of it. I think a lot of the vaccine deniers are off-base, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t question the science behind saying there is no danger. I’m an engineer, and questioning science to prove or disprove it is a good thing to do.

    • Ryan

      Did you even read the article? As an engineer, wouldn’t you know that a test using 500,000 children is a good indication that the MMR vaccine is safe? Or the years of use of vaccines for something like polio?

      People put a ton of time and money into vaccines. Or did you forget that little bout of swine flu that just swept the nation?

      Obviously it is good to question things in science, but it’s not that important to overly question a vaccine for something like polio or MMR

    • Excuse me?

      Uhh- Big Pharma makes HUGE amounts of money off vaccines. You are “deluded” and “foolish” if you don’t question who is funding these “studies”

      • daisyfly

        “Big Pharma”? That’s usually the sign of a denier, which I’m guessing you are.

        Here’s a tip: Most pharmaceutical companies LOSE money on vaccines. You know where they rake in the money? Through antibiotics used to treat the very infections that vaccines help prevent. It is in their best interest to NOT provide vaccines, but they do. They spend billions in research, and then lose millions afterward.

        To use the “Big Pharma” excuse is just asinine and proof point that you’re simply parroting the idiocy that is this movement and not doing any research at all.

      • Jessica

        You gotta love the old argument that vaccines don’t make money.

        Here’s the reality, and it’s in the billions.

        “The global vaccines industry was valued at $24 billion in 2009 and is expected to reach $52 billion in 2016 at a Compounded Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 11.5%”

      • daisyfly

        Jessica, perhaps you’ve failed at reading comprehension, but that article refers to ALL vaccines, including those that children aren’t required to take, such as Gardasil, and Cevarix, as well as taking into account the vaccines that have yet to be released, such as Stimuvax and Provenge.

        When combined, the number of vaccines out there multiplied by the GLOBAL usage amounts to pennies. The number seems huge, $24 billion, but when each one only brings in on average less than $1 billion a year, after billions spent in R&D, the total isn’t large at all.

      • JD

        Big Pharma also donates a lot of vaccines to developing countries as well.

      • Shiny

        Big Pharma blocked HIV drugs from being given free in Africa and Latin America. They only relented after public pressure.

    • nat

      Ken just said that one of the vaccine studies had a sample size of 500 000. That’s an extraordinarily large sample…so to say that the studies on this subject aren’t thorough simply doesn’t make sense.
      This compared to Dr. Wakefield’s study that started the vaccine fears…he looked at only 12 kids, and he purposefully manipulated the data to suggest a vaccine-autism link.
      This is the investigation that revealed the fraud of Wakefield’s research:

    • Sara

      There was really only one study that linked vaccines to autism, and it has been proven summarily false and denounced by those that once agreed with it. I know plenty of scientists, none of whom work for pharmaceuticals, and they all resoundingly agree with the “science” (quotes yours) that shows there is no relation between vaccines and autism. Those that insist otherwise in the face of all reason are dangers to society.

    • Joe

      John K, you are completely wrong. Because of all of the vaccine deniers a huge amount of autism research money has to go to proving that vaccines are safe instead of actually researching the cause/finding a cure for the disease. It is sad that one research article finding a link between autism and vaccine that has since been discredited and retracted from the journal has warped autism research due to public fear. No matter how many scientific studies come out that show there is no link people will still cling to the false belief that vaccines cause autism because it seems to make sense.

    • V

      as another engineer…there’s definitely a lot of interest in autism research, so I’d be willing to bet that A LOT of universities and research organizations jumped on the possibility of a connection between vaccines and autism (just think of the papers one could publish!). If they couldn’t find anything, I’d trust that it’s just not that likely.

    • Mike

      “I think a lot of the vaccine deniers are off-base, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t question the science behind saying there is no danger.”

      I think we should definitely question anyone who says there is no danger. Then again, the fact that a list of potential adverse reactions is provided when you get the vaccine proves that you’re arguing against fiction, not reality.

  • Ryan

    Well hopefully none of those diseases will have an outbreak in Ashland, or those parents will be very sorry for being so naive.

    • Val

      No they won’t. They’ll get mad at the government for allowing them to be so stupid. People like that never accept the blame for anything.

      • DC

        Spot on Val. Spot on.

  • J

    I’ll watch it tonight, but I don’t need to see it to know that vaccine deniers are incredibly dangerous and self-righteous. So what happens when my five year old nephew (who is vaccinated) goes to school and carries home whopping cough to his (not vaccinated yet) baby sister? He’s not at risk, but she is. I have a friend who’s 2 year old almost died from complications from whopping couch. This whole debate is nothing more than evidence of how selfish my generation has become. I’m ashamed to be a member of generation x.

    • Cat

      The majority of vaccine deniers are Gen Xers, not most Gen Xers are vaccine deniers. I actually believe it’s quite the opposite. Any unvaccinated child is a danger to other vaccinated children.

      • V

        yeah, but it was the unvaccinated kid at school who spread the germs to the poor vaccinated boy (who gets to be a carrier)…it’s just an illustration of what happens after the vaccinated child gets exposed.

    • Kaye

      And in our school, every year some uneducated parent sends their child to school with chicken pox, because they never bothered to read the vaccine literature, they just said sure go ahead and inject my kid with whatever you got.
      The point being, all parents should educate themselves, and make their decisions, about their child’s health, with their own pediatrician.

  • Val

    Ohhh, Jenny McCarthy. She has done so much damage because she just can’t accept that there was no external cause for her child’s autism. Sometimes things like that just happen. Kids are born sick, and there’s nothing that anyone could have done to prevent it. My own daughter was born with a serious heart defect for no other reason than the fact that it’s just how her genetics lined up.For her to champion placing all of the children in the world in danger of illness because she needs something to blame is ludicrous.

    Science wins. Science will *always* win, because it’s solid. Way more solid than Google and mommy chatboards.

    • Kelly

      I can’t take her seriously as an advocate. She’s just another has been celebrity looking for a way to stay in the spotlight.

      She claims her kid had autism, but it’s now cured. That’s very unlikely, if he ever had autism in the first place. More than likely it was another neurological disorder, Landau-Kleffner syndrome, that can be misdiagnosed as autism.

  • Lynn

    Thanks for giving this review. This whole area is one that has been inflamed by the media who, in trying to be neutral and objective, have pitted wacky opinion against proven scientific fact and made it seem equal. That has to stop, and thanks for holding the line.

    • Q

      This is a good point to those who would criticize Ken’s strong opinion here: the fact that the anti-vaccine argument has been treated with such respect is a result of too many in the media fearing taking a strong position. If I make a bunch of signs and write a blog about how pickles are dangerous, I do not deserve to be given credence against decades of research and practical experience.

  • Sara

    I’m not a parent, so I’m not especially well-informed on this. Please forgive me if this is a silly question. I was under the impression that “vaccine deniers” objected mainly to the frequency and quantity of vaccinations, not to all vaccinations period? In other words, as medicine improves, more vaccines are recommended for children, and one of the speculations was that so many vaccines can cause autism. (Of course, I’ve also heard that the preservative or whatever they use is a culprit, so who knows.)

    When / if I have a kid, they will definitely be vaccinated for many many things, especially the “biggies” like MMR and polio. There may also be some I choose to pass on, it’ll depend what the vaccine is. I don’t know what all they give kids these days!

    • nat

      There are some people that object to the frequency of vaccinations, and thus choose not to vaccinate for some diseases. But the vaccine deniers, as a whole, believe that the mercury in all vaccinations is the cause of their childs autism.
      Many studies have proven that the mercury connection is false. The mercury fear goes back to one study in 1998 that looked at 12 children. Last year the study was found to have been manipulated.
      Before you make important decisions on your childs vaccinations, take a look at the studies. If the studies don’t convince you, thats your choice. But its a bad situation when alot of parents make this decision not to vaccinate without looking at the research and without getting informed.

    • Dan

      The vaccine deniers don’t really have a consistent story. Sometimes it’s MMR. Sometimes it’s thimerosal. Sometimes it’s “too many too soon.” Sometimes it’s aluminum. Sometimes it’s aborted fetuses.

      Their advantage of not having one consistent story is that it’s hard to prove them wrong. When the MMR link was discredited, folks who had been claiming that the link was ironclad insisted that MMR was never the problem.

  • Mandy

    I believe all parents have the right to educate themselves and make their own decisions for their children. Unfortunatley “educating themselves” means different things to different people. Alot of people buy into panic and gossip.
    I don’t think following the herd is the answer, but neither is blindly ignoring the facts.
    I don’t know which side is right, but I do know that I plan on doing plenty of research before I have children.

    • Bridget

      But where are you going to be doing your research? The point that KT and Frontline are making is that you have a group of people that have a fringe belief but are considering themselves ‘experts’ on the subject based on basically google searches and chatroom info. In fact, if you try to begin a dialogue with your pediatrician, they’ll tell you one thing: get your kid vaccinated. It’s the best thing you can do, and it shouldn’t need a great deal of research or thought.

      • Mandy

        I am a college student and I recently did a paper on Autism and I did alot of research on both sides, including reading Jenny’s first book. The greatest thing I took away from all I read was that there are scientists and doctors supporting both sides. There is also a different vaccination schedule that spaces out the vaccines and guidelines to ensure your child’s health and safety when getting them that I will likely follow.
        Doing anything for or to your child without giving it a great deal of research or thought sounds like lazy parenting to me.

      • LynneB

        @Mandy — there are things you seem to be missing, here.

        There aren’t a lot of scientists or doctors supporting the Jenny McCarthy camp — in fact, I can just about count them on my fingers. Supporting vaccination, however, there are ~200,000 doctors and life scientists in N. America alone. Not equal.

        In the Jenny McCarthy camp, there are a few small, poorly designed studies, and a great deal of lying and misrepresentation about what is in vaccines, how vaccines and immunisation work, and biological plausibility — which people who study biology would be able to spot, but they rely on the fact that everything that sounds “sciencey” is equally plausible to a non-technical public to maintain an air of credibility. (And I say this as a biologist.)

        On the vaccination side, there are studies of thousands to hundreds of thousands of children, which stack on each other, which examine different vaccination schedules, which track side effects, which investigate mechanisms of action, and more tellingly, are also consistent in every country, from hundreds of different institutions. (You are supposed to believe that this is a “world-wide conspiracy”, not robust results which are the way they are because reality is what it is.)

        The “different schedule” which spaces out vaccinations was invented by a single doctor, based on nothing but his “gut feelings” and his memory, subject to personal bias. On the other hand, the official vaccination schedule is the brainchild of hundreds of pediatricians and immunologists to examine what can be give safely and when. On the “alternative schedule”, the only benefit gained is less arm-soreness and crankiness each time, but on the other hand there need to be *more* visits, which many parents find difficult to get to and shots end up being skipped — and there is a hugely increased vulnerability to infectious disease in the interim. The youngest children are extremely vulnerable to fatal infections diseases, that is *why* they are protected as early as possible.

        On the anti-vaccination or “green our vaccines” side, there is a bunch of handwaving about how it “overwhelms” an infant immune system to have so many vaccines. On the side of reality, we have the simple historical fact that babies evolved to survive environments rich in animal waste and poor in plumbing and covered sewers, and they still manage to have a tendency to investigate the world by eating as much of it as possible. How much of an antigen load an infant immune system can handle at once without being overwhelmed has actully been calculated — and it is multiple orders of magnitude larger than even the most aggressive vaccination schedule in the world.

        Basically, both sides are not equal — but this piece is absolutely correct, it is easier both to find and to understand the inaccurate and scaremongering information, which gives people the false impression that it is. You need to have some cognitive tools to sort out the noise.

    • Mike

      Saying “I don’t know which side is right” in this case is like saying you’re not sure whether the geocentrists might have a point.

      • Honey

        I’m a college professor. And if someone cited Jenny McCarthy as a source in an academic paper turned in in my class – I would fail them.

        In college, you are supposed to learn to properly vet sources. Did you also write a paper on whether the earth revolves around the sun because you found some sources that say otherwise?

      • maryjblog

        I teach college and I agree with Honey – what kind of source is Jenny McCarthy? What are her credentials? Why would anyone quote her book, except maybe as some kind of pop curiousity? Mandy, any parent who would make decisions re: her child’s health based on McCarthy’s advice is exhibiting the worst kind of negligence.

  • Kate

    I love that people are surprised to find opinion on a site called “Ken Tucker’s TV.” Think he’s more than right to add his two sense to such things.

    • Kate

      hahaha, cents, not “sense.” Oh brain, you’ve failed me again.

    • Maggie25

      Right on, Kate. This is Ken’s blog. People need to understand that he isn’t attempting to be neutral in his entries, and nor should he. He’s not acting as a journalist in this article, he is presenting an opinion.

      • DC

        Exactly. The number of complaints that state something to the tune of “as usual Ken” or “that’s the way Ken is” or “Ken is always politically opinionated” mystifies me. If you know he is going to voice an opinion you probably aren’t going to like, why do you keep reading his articles? Move on already.

  • Anitamargarita

    I have to agree with the clever shrew. I know that at Entertainment Weekly you are not held to high journalistic standards, and this is a review, therefore you are supposed to give opinion, but I couldn’t beleive the tone of this article and went through about three or four paragraphs thinking that you were being ironic. I am also a little concerned that a program that is presenting itself as “news” is coming across as so completely one-sided. Granted I don’t normally watch Frontline so calling it a news program might be ambitious. However, all that being said I sure as hell vaccinated my kids and “smugness” as you described is a surefire way to get a petulant, “well I’m not gonna ’cause you can’t make me” response from me. However, surely these smug bastards have a point that we shouldn’t just take vaccinations because we’re told we have to. Maybe there really is some reform needed there and the smug bastards need to look at how they are presenting their message.

    • Maggie25

      One of the really good points I thought Ken was getting at was that it is not the media’s job to always present two sides to a story. If you write an article about how a rain storm happens, you don’t have to be sure to include a quote from someone who thinks it happens when “the gays make God cry”. There are a ton of studies showing vaccines to be effective and there was only one study, now discredited, linking them with autism. The thing about science is that once enough data begins to add up to a conclusion, it’s hardly a matter of opinion anymore.

      • Anitamargarita

        Yes, but from what Ken was describing it sounded like the Daily Show’s take on the vaccination war. If there are communities filled with significant portions of unvaccinated children in public schools, then like it or not they are a legitimate group of detractors who need to be presented fairly. NOT nutbags who blame the gays for everything and protest at military funerals. Where I live you can’t be enrolled in school without proper vaccinations. I thought that was a federal thing, but I guess it must be a state thing.

      • The Obvious

        Maggie’s right. Sometimes a side is a right and a side is wrong. This is especially true in the sciences (much less so in politics).

        Sorry, not all views are equal. People don’t like to be told they are flat out wrong. Well tough.

      • The Obvious

        “then like it or not they are a legitimate group of detractors who need to be presented fairly”

        They are presented fairly. The conclusion? They are DANGEROUSLY wrong on the science. Even if an entire town chose not to vaccinate their kids, doesn’t magically make them right on the science.

        Science is not a popularity contest.

      • Anitamargarita

        Sometimes a side IS right or wrong. But it is not the news show’s job to determine for us which side that is. Maybe they didn’t. But from Ken’s review it sure sounds like they did.

      • Maggie25

        But it is their job when it comes down to facts. It is not their job to say one politician is better than another. It is not their job to say one idea to fix health care is better than another idea. But it IS their job to give us the facts, and if the facts show that autism and vaccines have nothing to do with each other, then it is not their job to be fair and unbiased towards the people that are disagreeing with fact. If they discover a new dinosaur from 70 million years ago, they don’t have to say, “just so you know, a large number of people think that is impossible because the earth is only 6000 years old”.

      • Luddite

        Precisely. Not all points of view are equally valid and frankly, some are worthy of being mocked. And just because there are a large group of people that subscribe to a certain opinion doesn’t make it valid. It just means there’s a large group of people who doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

      • V

        umm…reporting is about being fair and unbiased, as you present THE FACTS. The research linking autism to vaccination was discredited, and this is a FACT. People are forming a point of view around something that was proven wrong, and this is a FACT. I’m confused as to how Frontline is failing as a news program…

        And Ken has the right to mock…even when I wish he wouldn’t (reviewing Psych, for example).

    • Sara

      The news SHOULD be one-sided. It should be on the side of fact. Somehow we have gotten so far away from this that now people think it’s actually wrong for the news to present actual scientific facts without an opposing viewpoint of some radical group (and I include the anti-vaccine crowd) claming the sky is green. “Equal time” pertains to political debate and editorial content. The NEWS part of the news should be just the facts. It’s the muddling up of everything into editorial content that has this country so divided and mis-informed.

      • Anitamargarita

        Maggie 25, Sara – point taken. I agree. Facts are good, raving smug bastards who have no facts to back them up are bad. But how can there be an hour’s worth of content if the issues are as simple and straightforward as vaccinations: good. Vaccination deniers: crazy, foaming at the mouth lunatics? If the issue is that straightforward? Why are they acknowledging the debate with an hour show?

      • Anitamargarita

        Because you are right. They don’t really acknowledge the large percent of people who think that the earth is no more than 10,000 years old. They don’t really acknowledge the large percentage of people who think that global warming is a hoax.

      • Anitamargarita

        And finally – if this documentary ends up being “just the facts” as you say news should be (and I agree), then I will be very happy with it. But from Ken’s write up it doesn’t sound like it is. Maybe I’m reading that wrong.

      • Val

        AMEN! *Facts* have only one right side. *opinions* have 2 sides that should be heard. The news deals with facts, therefore, they’re only required to give voice to one side: the factually correct one.

      • Mike

        If someone holds a belief that is contrary to the facts, then it is a fact that they are delusional.

        Telling an anti-vaxxer that they are wrong is factual.

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