Editor's note: On Monday I got a polite e-mail. "My name is German Lopez. I'm a reporter with Vox.com. I'm putting together a story on the vaccine choice and education movement. I was hoping to talk to you about the movement, some of the thinking behind it, and what it seeks to accomplish."
We did the interview and it was published Wednesday. What could possibly go wrong? (Heh-heh -- perhaps the headline below will give you a clue.) German (pronounced Herman), is a Vox "writing fellow" whose bio says he "writes about stuff -- usually criminal justice, the war on drugs, health, and LGBT issues." Goodness, that's a much broader range of stuff than I've mastered in 40 years as a journalist (I mistakenly say 30 in the interview; time flies when you're having fun!). This is all the more impressive as German's bio notes that he graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2012. I commend the article to you. It is a time capsule worth preserving. -- Dan Olmsted
Understanding the fear of vaccines: An activist explains why he buys a debunked idea
Dan Olmsted is the editor of the website Age of Autism and author of multiple books that purport a link between vaccines and autism — a link that researchers have debunked again and again. In 2006, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) cited Olmsted's research in introducing legislation to direct the federal government to further study concerns about vaccines.
Olmsted has written in particular detail about his concerns over thimerosal, a mercury compound that used to be — but is no longer included — in routinely recommended childhood vaccines, with the exception of the flu shot. He argues parents should be wary of vaccines because of a supposed risk of autism, despite the overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary.
I spoke to Olmsted on Monday about his work, why he thinks vaccines cause autism, and how he views the current Disneyland measles outbreak. Something to notice in our conversation is that the fear of vaccines isn't evidence-free: Olmsted cited a slew of specific studies to support his stance. The problem is the evidence doesn't hold up. After the interview, I tracked down some of Olmsted's citations and found the underlying studies and examples to be disputed at best and outright false at worst. Those footnotes are detailed below this transcript.
German Lopez: What would you say is the goal of your work?
Dan Olmsted: My work is an effort to bring a journalistic perspective to this issue. I've been doing this for almost 10 years now, focused on the question of what's causing the autism epidemic and if it's real.
I came to the conclusion pretty early on that vaccines are a significant part of it. I have been looking into that ever since. I've been bringing attention to that and trying to counter the mainstream wisdom that all of this is debunked, disproved, anecdotal, and there's nothing to it.
Read the full article at Vox.com