Posted by: Ticktock | February 5, 2009

Interview on Vaccines with Dr. Ari Brown, author of Baby 411!

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!

I asked:

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.


  1. Here’s part of the GMA segment with Ari Brown:

  2. Thanks for posting this. I am looking forward to the posts about this on the sites you linked to, as well. Where does Oprah, who has no children, get off squelching this discussion?

  3. […] that scary that parents feel that the better alternative is a week of painful nasty blisters – and as Dr. Ari Brown will tell you, the risk of death or […]

  4. […] few months ago, I was selected to take part in a teleconference interview with Dr. Ari Brown, author of the helpful parenting guide Baby 411.  Dr. Brown is a well-informed pediatrician from […]

  5. Don’t listen to Dr. Brown! ivillage had the audacity to release a piece called “The TRUTH about vaccines and autism” with quotes from Brown and pictures of “normal”, happy vaccinated children. They claim vaccines are perfectly safe and we’re all just a bunch of nervous mommies. Do your research about vaccines and make an informed choice about what is best for your child. Don’t let the “experts” bully you or make you feel like a bad parent.

  6. It is time that we demand precise effective long term studies of combined vaccines. Being a new parent, I am trying to absorb both sides of the argument. It is clear to me, however, that Dr. Brown should NOT be considered a good source of information for the pro-vaccine argument. I have read her sophomoric account in “Clear Answers and Smart Advice About Your Baby’s Shots”, and it is clearly tinged by her passion on the subject, which makes the article completely nonobjective and dangerously misleading. It is polluted by incorrect information and conclusions.(She claims MMR are deadly diseases!!!) A high school level biology teacher would give her a failing grade!!! Frankly, I am amazed she had the courage to write such drivel. It’s an embarrassment to her professional career. Bottom line, use common sense when vaccinating your child. There is nothing wrong with delaying shots and asking for monovalent dosing when available.

    Magna Cum Laude???!!! Would love to see your transcript Dr. Brown.

  7. MMR stands for measles, mumps, and rubella, all of which are diseases (or viral diseases) that can be deadly, especially measles. If you’re going to make arrogant statements about Dr. Brown’s intelligence than please try to be factually correct.

    Common sense should not be a guide when it comes to medicine. We should use proven treatments that are tested by science and recommended by a consensus of experts.

    Please don’t come back here if you can’t form an argument without an ad hominem attack.

    • Dearest TickTock, I believe I indeed used the plural (diseaseS) when referring to MMR, indicating that I recognized the acronym. Please read carefully before you rebut. My dispute with Dr. Brown is her use of credentials to intimidate parents into vaccination without understanding the current debate. With such a vast array of credentials after her name, who would have the courage to question her judgment?? Well, anyone who does some proper research. “In reality, mumps is a mild childhood illness for which death is extremely rare in recorded literature. Rubella is such a trivial, harmless disease in children that vaccination is given not to protect the child, but rather to protect child bearing women from exposure by creating herd immunity. Measles is rarely fatal in developed world children. In the US, as in other developed countries,measles mortality was falling long before vaccination was introduced.
      Extrapolation of the US mortality trend indicates that even in the absence of vaccination, measles mortality in the US would have fallen to vanishingly low levels by 2010” All of what I just cited is backed by valid studies. There is nothing ad hominem about my comments. As I write, we discover that the 1/100 children have some form of autism?? New labeling criteria, as the learned Dr. Brown would again defend?? I still affirm that Dr. Brown enjoys the exposure and to hear herself pontificate. I will vaccinate my child, but I will not over vaccinate my child. I notice you like latin, TickTock: Aegrescit medendo. Go look THAT up.

      • Your ad hominem directed at me was deleted because I don’t allow unsupported insults. I should have also deleted your comments about Dr. Brown, when you said “sophomoric…drivel…dangerously misleading” in reference to her without backing up any of those claims, except for one example that was false.

        If you recognize the acronym, then you surely understand that they are all diseases that can cause death. The premise of your argument was that Dr. Ari Brown was wrong when she made the claim that MMR are deadly diseases. Forgive me for explaining the acronym as if you didn’t understand, but I was forced to define the words so that you could be properly corrected.

        You can trivialize these diseases, but that doesn’t mean that they are unworthy of being prevented.

        I enjoy learning new definitions, but I despise your condescending tone and arrogance. There’s a way to get across your point without being an ass. Admittedly, I have to constantly remind myself that my posts and comments can also seem pretentious, but I sincerely hope I don’t sound as pompous as yourself.

    • I have returned as you suggested with some evidence to my argument. You provide no counter argument accept calling me a pompous ass, which is certainly more offensive than being called sophomoric. You repeat your elementary assertion that MMR could be deadly diseases, but you fail to see how Dr.Brown exaggerates the point to instill fear. Bee stings could be deadly, using that argument. Also, I do not have enough “space” here to counter almost every single point Dr. Brown has made. Such a passionate voice, as Dr. Brown’s, needs to be countered just as passionately. She pulls no punches when she criticizes the cautious vaccination advocates. Good day to you.

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