Monday, February 18, 2008

Facing Ignorance

How do you counter ignorance? Especially when that ignorance preys on the deepest fears of parents, and reels in parents with compelling anecdotes, pseudo science, and tales of government conspiracies?

Many parents, after getting a diagnosis of autism for their child, panic. They are confused, worried, and looking for direction. And rather than offer encouragement and hope for the future, many autism 'support groups', fueled by hope peddling purveyors of miraculous 'cures', tell these parents that their kids are autistic because of vaccines. That the government, doctors, and 'big pharma', all working together (both here and across the world) have all conspired together to suppress the fact that vaccines cause autism.

How do you counter the passionate beliefs of a number of parents that have bought into such nonsense, after spending thousands of dollars on supplements and possibly dangerous treatments, and who now see some 'improvement' in their children as they grow up and naturally mature?

With other parents.

Parents who have read the increasing number of dull and boring studies that show no linkage between vaccines and autism. Parents who finally say "Enough is enough", and come to see that there's no way the whole world is conspiring to keep them in the dark.

Years of dull, boring (but legitimate) scientific inquiry have not been enough to quiet the voices of the conspiracy mongers. So now the American Academy of Pediatrics (the AAP) is asking for parents to speak up and proclaim the truth. That even though we don't know all the things that cause autism, there is no linkage between vaccines and autism. That those who continue to support that argument are endangering public health. Whether it's measles outbreaks in Great Britain or San Diego, people's lives are being put at risk by the fear mongering that is causing people to reject vaccination.

The following is a letter from the AAP asking for parents to make themselves available for public comment. Please read the letter and consider offering your services. It may save a life.


As part of our ongoing response to media stories regarding autism and
vaccines, the AAP communications department is compiling a list of
parents who support the AAP and are available for interviews. We are
looking for two types of parents who could serve as spokespersons:

Parents of children with autism spectrum disorders who support
immunization and who do not believe there is any link between their
child's vaccines and his or her autism.

Parents of children who suffered a vaccine-preventable illness. This
could be a parent who declined immunization, whose child became ill
before a vaccine was available, or whose child was ineligible for

We are asking for your help identifying parents who would be good
spokespersons. They do not need to be expert public speakers. They
just need to be open with their story and interested in speaking out
on the issue. We will contact candidates in advance to conduct
pre-interviews, to offer guidance on talking to reporters and to
obtain a signed waiver giving us permission to release their name.

If a parent were placed on our list, we would offer their name and
contact information to select media. We hope to build a list of
parents from a wide range of geographical areas.

As the Jenny McCarthy and "Eli Stone" stories illustrate, this issue
is likely to recur in the national and local media. The AAP is
committed to doing all we can to counter such erroneous reports with
factual information supported by scientific evidence and AAP

The anti-vaccine groups often have emotional family stories on their
side. The ability to offer a reporter an interview with a similarly
compelling parent who is sympathetic to the AAP's goals is a powerful
tool for our media relations program.

Please contact me if you have any questions or to suggest a parent to interview.

Thank you,

Susan Stevens Martin
Director, Division of Media Relations
American Academy of Pediatrics

Those who wish to make themselves available can contact Susan Stevens Martin directly at .

It's time to stop wasting time and money chasing rainbows. It's time for right minded people to stand up and be counted.


kristina said...

Yes, the pot of gold is elsewhere---dull and boring will win out over splashy and celebrity-fied.

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Casdok said...

Very well put.

Marla said...

Very well written. I posted on this as well and e-mailed the AAP. I hope other families do this as well.

Matt said...

Thank you very much for posting this! I am very happy that the AAP is working to get the message out.

Daisy said...

I don't this often because, well, I don't look as good on camera as Jenny does. But I can speak in complete sentences, and my child can, too. Thanks for putting this up.

Niksmom said...

Off topic, Joe, I just wanted to thank you for your comment and the chuckle it elicited from me tonight. I had just come inside from looking at the eclipse (and freezing from standing in the new-fallen snow!).

Hopefully, our eclipse will end soon!