I was one of a handful of bloggers invited into a conference call with Dr. Ari Brown, a pediatrician, a mother, and author of Baby 411 and Toddler 411. The interview was organized by Amy Pisani of Every Child By Two, an organization started by Rosalynn Carter as an advocacy group for vaccination. Naturally, the subject of the interview was about vaccine safety, and focused on the recent deadly outbreak of Hib in Minnesota.
I found Dr. Ari Brown to be extremely well informed on the science of vaccines, and the arguments against them. I was impressed with her depth of knowledge and her passion on the subject, but I was a little miffed that she kept using the term “skeptic” disparagingly. She was, of course, using the loose definition of skeptic, but some of the newspaper reporters might quote the term, which would be a shame because the skeptical community are some of the most tireless advocates for vaccines.
Dr. Brown started with an anecdote about how she was one of a few to receive the trial varicella vaccination in the 80s. Sadly, one of her young patients died of chicken pox during the time Dr. Brown was part of the vaccine’s trial. This tragedy happened only six months before the chicken pox vaccine was approved to be added to the schedule, and it’s one of the many reasons she is so passionate on the subject. Vaccine haters tend to trivialize chicken pox with pox parties, so it was nice to hear someone speak of the dangers of varicella.
The first question was by Autism News Beat. *All questions and answers are paraphrased, and the answers are framed in third person.*
There are 70,000 members of the American Academy of Pediatrics (with whom Dr. Brown is a spokesperson), but only a few choose to speak up and defend vaccines. Why is that?
They are speaking out, but they do it in the exam rooms on a daily basis with concerned parents. Not all of them have the access to the media such as Dr. Brown, but they are still tireless and passionate about the subject of vaccines. They are always receptive to Dr. Brown when she speaks about the topic, but they choose to make their opinions known professionally and not publicly.
Heather from the blog The Mother Tongue asked:
How can you combat this pervasive distrust of “Big Pharma” and corporate medicine?
Dr. Brown is from Austin Texas, the home of Whole Foods, so she sees this type of parent all the time. She wonders why it is that these parents feel comfortable listening to advice on lotions and herbs from the teens who work at Whole Foods, but they feel skeptical of professionals with degrees in medicine and science. She says that there isn’t much you can do because “birds of a feather flock together”, which you can notice in certain populations such as Oregon where a quarter of the parents fail to fully vaccinate their children in time for the start of school.
I asked a few questions that were on the same line of thought:
How do you feel about spacing out vaccines, like what Dr. Sears recommends? How about for the purposes of isolating side effects? How about parents that don’t feel comfortable jabbing a newborn on day one of life?
Dr. Sears recommends waiting until the fourth month for the Hib vaccine. Will he change his mind now that a child in Minnesota (and probably more to come) has died from Hib, a disease that could have been prevented by a vaccine? Dr. Sears publishes his alternative vaccine schedule with absolutely NO SCIENCE and with NO EVIDENCE behind it.
Parents don’t need to worry about isolating side effects because vaccines are tested for side effects by themselves and as part of the recommended combination doses. We know the side effects of vaccine combos, so parents don’t need to “do their own study”. MMRV was an example of a combo shot that was tested, and it was pulled because there were multiple adverse side effects (that’s just one example).
It isn’t a big deal if parents want to wait on that first Hep B vaccine. The reason they try to give it on the first day is because they don’t want children to slip through the cracks. The actual recommendation for when to give the Hep B jab is “birth to two months”.
Some parents argue that they are not at risk of Hep B because they were tested or they are positive that they don’t have an STD, but 1/3 of carriers of Hep B are non-traditional carriers (no std, no drug use) and (this next fact came from a fellow blogger) testing can result in false positives.
Will from Parenting Squad asked:
How can we convince these folks that “Big Pharma” isn’t out to get them?
She doesn’t know why drug companies are always portrayed as a conspiracy since they make products that improve our lives. These people don’t complain when their headaches are cured by Tylenol, do they?
I followed up on her answer with my standard response. Yes, drug companies want to make a profit, but can anyone tell me what is so profitable about making drugs that will damage children? Wouldn’t that open up litigation and bad publicity and affect their bottom line?
Heather played devil’s advocate and said that the antivaccine response would be that pharmaceutical companies are immune to prosecution because of the vaccine court, but Amy Pisani countered that it would still be bad for public relations and that parents have the option of pursuing traditional litigation against the pharmaceutical companies if they are unhappy with the results of the vaccine court. She also said that she liked my argument!
Are you ready to step up and speak out more publicly about vaccines. Jenny McCarthy’s and RFK Jr, and the like, are defeating the science advocates by being louder and more obnoxious.
Dr. Brown spoke about vaccines on Good Morning America, but there is only so much she can do when Oprah won’t let her on the show and won’t let Every Child by Two on the show. She is happy to speak out whenever called on to do so.
I followed up someone else’s question about whether there was a difference in the vaccination schedule in the European subjects of the recent Italian study:
What are the differences between the way Europe and America vaccinates?
She couldn’t speak on either question, but she noted that Japan seperated the MMR vaccine out of fear of autism, but the rates of autism continued to climb during that time.
I also asked:
Could you tell us whether the children who contracted Hib in Minnesota were parented at home or at daycare?
Their personal information wasn’t released, but she gets this argument all the time. ‘My kids don’t need vaccines because they stay home’. Look, even if your kids stay home, they don’t live in a bubble. You have visitors, you go to the grocery, you have a spouse who works, so just be safe and vaccinate.
That was pretty much the end of the interview because of time. THANK YOU to whomever recommended me for this interview. I hope to follow up with Dr. Brown in the future. And to my fellow bloggers who participated in the interview, thank you so much for asking such excellent questions and for defending vaccines in the name of science and/or common sense.