Are you talking to me … about vaccines?
The Doc Smitty responds to actor’s claims about vaccination
Robert De Niro couldn’t win on his decision to screen “Vaxed: From Cover-up to Conspiracy.” Once the anti-vaccination film was placed on the list for the Tribeca Film Festival, he was going to get severe backlash either way but he was forced to make a choice.
Leaving it on the list would have drawn the ire of the overwhelming majority of the scientific community who believe that vaccines are safe and one of the most effective medical ideas ever. If he decided to pull it, he faced the backlash of a loud, but passionate few who sympathize with Andrew Wakefield and his ideas regarding vaccines and autism.
De Niro pulled the film from its single screening at Tribeca.
It went on to be shown in limited screenings, starting in New York. The turnout wasn’t great and the discussion about the film faded almost as fast as it started.
I thought it was over. I was wrong.
Autism is an issue that breeds passionate responses. Robert De Niro, who has a child with autism, is clearly personally affected by them. Many others are personally affected and passionate. Reporting a study that shows no link between autism and vaccines is difficult to do with passion. Science and truth are not always emotionally compelling but passion and emotions do not prove anything.
This morning, on the Today show, De Niro was asked about his decision to pull the movie. He had a lot of things to say … below are some quotes I pulled from De Niro and my response:
“I think the move is something that people should see … there’s something to that movie.”
If a movie came out that said cigarettes are safe and don’t cause cancer, in fact they are good for you, would we insist that everyone should see it? No, and those who did would only do so to see the absurdity of the claims. I will see the movie when I can and I’ll have a better feel for the content. But the bottom line is, Wakefield has worn his credibility thin over the years and doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt. His study has been discredited due to his falsifying evidence and unethical means of collecting data.
“To shut it down, there’s no reason to. If you’re scientists, let’s see. Let’s hear. Everybody doesn’t seem to want to hear much about it. It’s shut down. You guys are the ones who should be doing the investigating. Do the investigating.”
“There is a link. The obvious one is thimerosal which is mercury-based preservative. I don’t know, I’m not a scientist but I know because I’ve seen so much reaction about it. Let’s just find out the truth.”
Scientists want truth also. Scientists have done the research. Scientists continue to do research.
Multiple studies looking at vaccines have shown that they are safe. Continuing to research these same topics steals time and resources of our most intelligent scientists who might actually get to more answers about autism. We desperately need help in our understanding of the real cause, how to get an early diagnosis and best treatments for autism. We don’t need another study that disproves the link between MMR and autism.
“There’s something there that people aren’t addressing. And for me to get so upset, here today, here on the Today Show with you guys means that there’s something there.”
Finally, “I am not anti-vaccine. I want safe vaccines.”
I can partially agree with this statement. I am not anti-vaccine either. The difference is that I believe we have already found safe ones.
Justin Smith, M.D., is a Cook Children's pediatrician in Lewisville . View more from The Doc Smitty at his Facebook page. He attended University of Texas, Southwestern Medical School and did his pediatric training at Baylor College of Medicine. He joins Cook Children's after practicing in his hometown of Abilene for four years. He has a particular interest in development, behavior and care for children struggling with obesity. In his spare time, he enjoys playing with his 3 young children, exercising, reading and writing about parenting and pediatric health issues.