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Celebrity Mommy Wars Over Vaccines Rages On

Move over, Jenny McCarthy. The former Playboy playmate-turned vaccine basher has competition from a Hollywood newcomer, Amanda Peet. In a profile featured on the cover of this month’s Cookie magazine, Peet discloses that Dr. Paul Offit, inventor of an important rotavirus vaccine and public enemy-number one of the anti-vaccination crowd, assuaged her anxieties over vaccination after the birth of her baby in 2007. She has fully vaccinated the tot, is quite happy about it, and says that parents who don’t vaccinate are "parasites." Peet’s comment, and her decision to do a pro-vaccine promotional ad infuriated the vaccine skeptics, some of whom wrote menacing letters to Peet and her retinue. Has the public zeitgeist turned on the activists who, blaming vaccines for autism, urge parents to delay or avoid vaccinating their kids?

Recent reports indicating that we’re in the midst of the worst measles outbreak since at least 1997 haven’t helped. Some recent commentators (including me, in an upcoming issue of Mother Jones magazine) note that the decision not to vaccinate your kid has implications beyond the health of your own family. Also, while Handley and others are apoplectic at Offit for daring to stand up for vaccines while owning a patent on one (I’m shocked–shocked!–that someone is allowed to own their intellectual property!), fact is that Offit’s Rotateq vaccine seems to be doing some wonderful things for public health. A recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report shows that Rotateq, which Offit and his colleagues developed, and Merck produces, has prevented tens of thousands of cases of the painful and sometimes dangerous gastrointestinal disease. As a further annoyance to his critics, Offit has a book coming out in September that lays bare the legal, scientific and public relations campaigns behind the vaccines-cause-autism theory (full disclosure: I’m quoted in it).

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