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Dr. Paul Offit will be on The Colbert Report to speak about his new book, “Deadly Choices: How The Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All”.

The Colbert Report will air on Comedy Central, January 31st at 11:30 EST (Dr. Offit’s interview will take place toward the end of the program).

All of Dr. Offit’s proceeds for “Deadly Choices” will go to benefit the Autism Science Foundation.

“A medical crisis has come to America. Diseases of our grandparents’ generation are making a deadly comeback as more and more parents choose not to vaccinate their children. How did this happen? Who is responsible? And what can be done to reverse this unconscionable assault upon our nation’s public health? For the answers, provided in clear, common sense, page-turning fashion, I recommend Deadly Choices by Dr. Paul Offit—a timely and courageous call to arms by the nation’s foremost expert on pediatric infectious disease.”- David Oshinsky, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Polio: An American Story

Paul A. Offit, MD is the Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and a Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. He is a recipient of many awards including the J. Edmund Bradley Prize for Excellence in Pediatrics bestowed by the University of Maryland Medical School and a Research Career Development Award from the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Offit has published more than 130 papers in medical and scientific journals and is a founding board member of the Autism Science Foundation.

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CLICK HERE TO READ THE INTERVIEW

One quarter of American parents believe that vaccines cause autism in children. Despite overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary, many parents have taken the medical advice of celebrity activist Jenny McCarthy and disgraced researcher Andrew Wakefield. Why do so many parents continue to ignore the recommendations of their pediatricians, the NIH and the CDC, the people and institutions responsible for keeping children safe? The answers lie in The Panic Virus, where author Seth Mnookin masterfully untangles facts from fiction in the autism-vaccine debate. Mnookin’s objectivity— he has no previous connections to autism, pharmaceuticals, or the science of medicine— allows his voice to resonate over this increasingly vitriolic and heart-breaking medical controversy. The Panic Virus explains how and why the anti-vaccine movement grew to prominence, exposes the misaligned incentives of several anti-vaccine figures, and denounces the culpable journalists who failed to report the truth. The Panic Virus is not just another book about autism: it descends into a world of contradiction, lies and media manipulation, from which readers emerge entertained, informed and firmly on the side of science.

Highlighted Quotes:

“We are increasingly seeing the consequences of reporting news stories that reflect ideas that are not well researched or reputable.”

“You have the same anti-science going on here as with creationism. Creationists say ‘well this is what I believe, I don’t care what your data says, this is what I believe’. Ultimately this is what people who don’t believe in vaccines also say.”

“I think one of the tragedies of all of this is that on the most fundamental level, the goals of the ASF and the goals of Autism One are the same, which is to find ways to help families dealing with autism.”

“I know one of the things at the ASF is very focused on, and I believe rightly so, is the ways in which the focus on vaccines has meant that funding has not been able to go towards other possible environmental triggers, as well as other intervention efforts research to support ways to help adults with autism, and I couldn’t agree with that more.”

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CNN: Dr. Bradley Peterson and Alison Singer explain why the false autism report has impacted health in a significant way.

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How did we get to a place where vaccines are viewed with horror rather than as life-saving medicine? Why, despite dozens of studies exonerating vaccines as a cause of autism, do some individuals insist that immunizations are responsible for autism?  The answers are rooted in one of the most powerful and disturbing citizen activist movements in our nation’s history—a movement that, despite recent epidemics and deaths, continues to grow. Deadly Choices, by Dr. Paul Offit, is the story of anti-vaccine activity in America—its origins, leaders, influences, and impact—and is a powerful defense of science in the face of fear.  Paul Offit, MD is the Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and the Director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). He is the Maurice Hilleman Professor of Vaccinology and a Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Dr. Offit is a founding board member of the Autism Science Foundation, to which he is donating the royalties from this book. He is the author of five books, including Autism’s False Prophets and Vaccinate.
ASF staff member Jonathan Carter spoke with Dr. Offit about his new book.
 

For those who have read your other books, what differentiates this book from your previous works?

This book tells a much bigger story. Autism’s False Prophets told the story of the people and the forces behind the fear in the autism community. This book speaks more generally about the fact that vaccines save lives, they do not cause harm. It gets behind the science of vaccines, the erosion of immunization rates in communities and looks at vaccine usage dating back to England during the 1850s.

In an interview with pointofinquiry.org on February 12th of 2010, you stated that you wrote, Autism’s False Prophets for parents and to prevent them from making decisions that could damage their children. Did you write Deadly Choices for that same audience?

Actually, this book is for a larger audience. Unlike Autism’s False Prophets, Deadly Choices gets into the politics of this particular phenomenon – the erosion of vaccines and vaccine usage. At the end of the book, I try to look at solutions to try and turn this [the erosion of vaccine usage] around. Initially, I thought that it would turn around when children started to die as a result of not vaccinating. But I was wrong. Kids are already dying and something needs to be done.

I wrote this book for children; Deadly Choices is an attempt to stand up for them. A child’s vaccination decisions are made by his or her parents. If an adult chooses not to be vaccinated from Hepatitis B and she dies, that was her own choice to not be vaccinated. What bothers me is that children aren’t making that choice. Who represents the children? In the United States we balance the sovereign right of the parent to make a choice for the child against the right of the state to protect children. In some respects, we are far too slanted towards the rights of parents, and that is to the detriment of unvaccinated children and the larger community.

Do you think the Federal and state governments and public health agencies are doing enough to promote timely administration of vaccines? If not, what should they be doing?

I think the government should make it very tough to gain an exemption from a vaccination. To attempt to gain an exemption, a person should go through an educational program where they hear the information and the facts about vaccines and about the diseases they prevent.

What is the origin of the modern anti-vaccine movement? Is it Andrew Wakefield’s paper?

No, the origin of the modern American anti vaccine movement began on April 19th 1982. On this date, a one-hour documentary was shown locally on a Washington, DC NBC affiliate. The documentary gave birth to the notion that DPT vaccines could cause brain damage. In Deadly Choices I discuss this documentary at length, as well as the other factors leading up to the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986. I also discuss The National Vaccine Information Center, which was created in 1982, which does an excellent job at spreading misinformation and creating fear of vaccines, including the DPT vaccine.

Who are the thought leaders of the anti-vaccine movement?

People like Barbara Loe Fisher of the National Vaccine Information Center. And then there are anti-vaccination groups that focus on autism, led JB Handley, Jenny McCarthy and Generation Rescue. What bothers me is the degree to which these groups put forth information that is not science based. Unfortunately their opinions get much more publicity than they are due, as their contrarian viewpoints are sought out by Congress and the media in effort to be seen as being balanced.

What is the socio-economic makeup of the anti-vaccine movement?

If you look at who chooses to let their children go unvaccinated, it’s typically an upper-middle, upper class population. This goes against what a lot of people think [that lower socio-economic classes would be less likely to vaccinate]. In Philadelphia for example, the Hispanic population get vaccinated. This is because they trust their doctors and they trust doctors’ expertise. Not so with some within the upper class population. It is graduate school-educated, college-educated people who tend not to vaccinate, and that seems to be universally true.

Can you comment on the science, or lack thereof, of the anti-vaccine movement?
Yes. As an example, the polio vaccine used between 1962 and 1998, known as oral polio vaccine, could actually cause polio. Each year, around 6 to 8 kids were paralyzed or killed by the vaccine. This finding is proven by science.

The problem with current vaccine groups is that they are advocating for a problem that doesn’t exist. Vaccines do not cause autism, diabetes or other developmental disorders or diseases. If they did, we would have discovered this fact via the dozens of scientific studies looking at vaccines and autism.

Do you think that the anti-vaccine movement has influenced autism research?

Yes, a disproportionate amount of money has been spent to research the vaccine and autism connection. What is needed are groups like you [the Autism Science Foundation] which focus on the right issues. Many groups are still asking the wrong questions.

Has the anti-vaccine vitriol increased in the past few years?

I think that it has increased somewhat. The internet has made it easier to find like-minded people. So I think it’s better organized; it’s actually quite well organized. However, I sense that things are beginning to swing back. The recent pertussis [whooping cough] epidemic in California has killed ten people and the mumps outbreak in New York and New Jersey have actually been very well covered by the media. So I think that the erosion of vaccination rates have had a clear consequence that is being seen by the media and the public.

Do you find the media at fault for the rise of the anti vaccine movement?

Somewhat, but for the last 10 years the media have been much better at covering the story. Previously they would hide behind the journalistic mantra of balance of both sides. Unfortunately it is more work to gather facts and offer perspective than to tell a he-said, she-said story. I think that the mainstream media, The New York Times and Chicago Tribune for example, don’t do it as much anymore. They have a better perspective.

Your books have become a lightening rod of criticism. For Autism’s False Prophets, you couldn’t conduct a book tour because of death threats. Do you still get hate mail? Do you expect to get any more after Deadly Choices comes out?

When I wrote Autism’s False Prophets, I thought that a large amount of parents who had children with autism believed that vaccines caused that autism. However, that number was much smaller than I thought. When I wrote AFP, I received hundreds of emails and letters from parents thanking me and saying they were glad someone was finally representing their point of view. I received many, many letters of support. Parents saying thank you, parents saying that Jenny McCarthy doesn’t represent them. I think that will happen with Deadly Choices as well.

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ASF President Alison Singer speaking at IMFAR press conference

The International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR) officially gets underway tomorrow in Philadelphia, but already there is significant discussion about several studies that were presented at today’s IMFAR press conference.

Dr. Susan Hyman of the University of Rochester reported on her study that shows the gluten free casein free (gfcf) diet does not appear beneficial for children with autism.

“It would have been wonderful for children with autism and their families if we found that the gluten-free, casein-free diet could really help, but this study didn’t show significant benefits,” said Dr. Hyman

“The removal of gluten and casein from the diet of a controlled group of young children with autism did not demonstrate a change in sleep habits, bowel habits, activity or core symptoms of autism,” Hyman said.

Dr. Eric Courchesne of UCSD spoke at the press conference about his study showing a simple brain scan performed in infants and toddlers may be a biomarker for autism leading to early detection and early intervention.

The test involved using functional MRI to measure brain responses to spoken words in sleeping children.

“We discovered that autistic infants and toddlers displayed a pronounced abnormality of language activation and cortical development” said Courchesene.  “At each age studied from infancy to young childhood, most autistic subjects had greater activation on the incorrect side, namely, the right temporal cortex, compared to the left side and this incorrect activation pattern did not change or “normalize” even by 3 or 4 years of age.  The abnormal pattern was strong in a substantial percentage of autistic infants and toddlers suggesting that with further testing refinements, clinical tests revealing this abnormal activation pattern in individual cases could serve as a biomarker for risk for autism.”

Dr. Joseph Buxbaum of the Seaver Center at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine described a potential new treatment for individuals with autism who carry a Shank3 gene mutation (approximately 1% of the autistic population). “We have developed mice with a mutant Shank3 gene and observed deficits in the communication between nerve cells in the brain, which can lead to learning problems” said Buxbaum.  “Some changes we observed implicate a neurotransmitter for which several classes of drugs have been developed and we are now testing those classes of drugs in the mice. These changes, as well as other changes in the mice, indicated that the nerve cells were not maturing at the normal rate, so we gave the mice an experimental compound to help the nerve cells. This compound, which is formed as a natural derivative of insulin-like growth factor-1, is known to cross into the brain. After two weeks of injections, the communication between nerve cells was normal. Moreover, adaptation of nerve cells to stimulation, considered a key part of learning and memory, which is reduced in the mice, is restored following treatment. This indicates that similar approaches might be helpful in children with Shank3 deletions or mutations”.

Another study described today shows that divorce rates are similar for parents with and without children with autism, debunking the myth that families raising children with autism have a higher than average divorce rate.

Parents of autistic children often hear that the divorce rate in families with is 80%, but Brian Freedman of the Kennedy Krieger Institute reported that “there really weren’t any significant differences in terms of family structure when you consider children with autism and those without.”  ‘What we found is that children with autism remained with both biological or adoptive parents 64% of the time, compared with children in families without autism, who remained [with both biological or adoptive parents] 65% of the time.”

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In memoriam

All of us at the Autism Science Foundation mourn the loss of Caryn Schwartzman. Caryn was an amazing mother, wife and friend.  She was a trailblazing autism advocate and served as co-chair of the inaugural autism walk on Long Island.  

Our thoughts are with Caryn’s husband Marty and their children Alison and Robert.  May Caryn’s memory be a blessing.

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The award winning “Autism’s False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine and the Search for a Cure” by Dr. Paul Offit, was released today in paperback. 
 
Opponents of vaccines have taken the autism story hostage,” Dr. Offit says. “They don’t speak for all parents of autistic kids, they use fringe scientists and celebrities, they’ve set up cottage industries of false hope, and they’re hurting kids. Parents pay out of their pockets for dangerous treatments, they take out second mortgages to buy hyperbaric oxygen chambers. It’s just unconscionable.”
 
The paperback edition includes a great new preface by Dr. Offit in which he describes parent reaction to the book. “After publication-an event that I thought would only galvanize those who disliked me-I received hundreds and hundreds of letters and emails from parents of children with autism thanking me. Some had been on the fence and were now convinced by the science presented in the book. But many never believed that vaccines had caused their children’s autism and were angry at those who did. “Jenny McCarthy presumes to represent me,” one mom wrote, “but she doesn’t.” They were the Silent Majority of autism parents-a group that the media had consistently ignored.” 
 
If you haven’t read this book yet you need to! And if you have, order a lightweight paperback copy or give one as a gift, because Dr Offit, who serves on ASF’s board of directors, has generously agreed to donate all royalties from this book to the Autism Science Foundation.  Order yours today! 

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Dr. Paul Offit

Dr. Paul Offit

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) presented Paul Offit, MD, FAAP, with the President’s Certificate for Outstanding Service at the National Conference and Exhibition of the AAP earlier this week.  The award recognizes an individual’s outstanding service and long-term, personal dedication to the mission of the AAP and to the health, safety and well-being of children. Dr. Offit is a pediatrician, chief of infectious diseases and the director of the vaccine education center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. He serves as a board member of the Autism Science Foundation and is the author of Autism’s False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure. The AAP honored Dr. Offit in recognition of his ongoing commitment to promote immunization.

All of us at the Autism Science Foundation congratulate Dr. Offit on this very well deserved honor and thank him for his ongoing dedication to the health and well-being of our children.

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