The Panic Virus

Seth Mnookin’s upcoming book The Panic Virus couldn’t deal with more timely subject matter. The book discusses how vaccine opponents have used the media to spread their message of panic regarding the link between autism and vaccination, despite no scientific evidence to support them.

In 1998 Andrew Wakefield, a British gastroenterologist with a history of self-promotion, published a paper with a shocking allegation: the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine might cause autism. The media seized hold of the story and, in the process, helped to launch one of the most devastating health scares ever. In the years to come Wakefield would be revealed as a profiteer in league with class-action lawyers, and he would eventually lose his medical license. Meanwhile one study after another failed to find any link between childhood vaccines and autism.

However, just this week, the British study that linked autism to vaccines has been found to be a fraud.

Yet the myth that vaccines somehow cause developmental disorders lives on. Despite the lack of corroborating evidence, it has been popularized by media personalities such as Oprah Winfrey and Jenny McCarthy and legitimized by journalists who claim that they are just being fair to “both sides” of an issue about which there is little debate. Meanwhile millions of dollars have been diverted from potential breakthroughs in autism research, families have spent their savings on ineffective “miracle cures,” and declining vaccination rates have led to outbreaks of deadly illnesses like Hib, measles, and whooping-cough. Most tragic of all is the increasing number of children dying from vaccine-preventable diseases.

Read an excerpt here.

The Panic Virus is in stores January 11th.