“Good science has won out”

The controversy over childhood inoculation came to Yale when audience members confronted an expert who declared that the anti-vaccine movement is “fraying at the edges.”

For 30 years news articles have blamed vaccines for serious defects in children, leading parents to refuse inoculations for their children, said Paul A. Offit, M.D., chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and author of the 2008 book Autism’s False Prophets. Though inaccurate, those articles are effective, he said, because “we’re very much moved by emotion.” But “the pendulum is swinging back,” said Offit, who delivered the Beaumont Lecture in January.

When anti-vaccine blogger Jake Crosby tried to ask a question, Offit accused him of stalking him and asked him to leave. After Crosby left, Mary Holland, co-author of a book questioning vaccine safety, told Offit he was “not willing to engage” with critics.

Offit said that “good science has won out.” A turning point occurred in January 2011, when an editorial in BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal) called articles by a British physician that linked autism to the MMR vaccine an “elaborate fraud.”

Offit urged vigilance to prevent the anti-vaccine movement—and largely forgotten childhood diseases—from re-emerging. “Never let anything go unchallenged,” he said.

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