What I’d Say to the Latest Anti-Vaccine Celebrity

Those who know me know two things about me: I love the Chicago Bears and I love talking about the importance of vaccinations.

So when Kristin Cavallari, the wife of Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, and apparently a celebrity in her own right, declared in a recent interview on Fox Business with former MTV VJ Kennedy that they don’t vaccinate their children, I was intrigued. And by “intrigued” I mean appalled.

And by “appalled” I mean a little sick.

I don’t know either Cavallari or Cutler. Never met them, never met anyone who has. And what goes on in their home and with their children is none of my business. But as we know, not vaccinating becomes everyone’s business when it’s the cause of preventable diseases returning into the general population.

The CFR vaccine-preventable outbreak map. This should scare the hell out of you.

The CFR vaccine-preventable outbreak map. This should scare the hell out of you.

This map, hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations Global Health Program, shows clusters of diseases that would otherwise have been prevented through vaccination, listed year by year. What it shows is terrifying. Measles outbreaks have skyrocketed in the last few years, particularly in wealthy, educated communities that refuse vaccination thanks to parents who have “done their research.” Whooping cough is back with a vengeance around the country. Rubella is ravaging eastern Europe because of groundless fears over vaccine safety. Even the mumps is making a comeback.

And while it might not affect most people who have gotten their shots, vaccine refusal puts infants and toddlers too young to get their shots at risk. It puts the elderly at risk. It puts the immunocompromised at risk. And it puts at risk anyone who hasn’t gotten a booster, or got a vaccine that didn’t work for whatever reason.

What vaccines do NOT do is cause autism. They don’t cause autoimmune disorders. They don’t paralyze people. They don’t kill people – they save people. Many, many people. We know this not through frantic Googling and “mommy instinct” but by rigorous testing, clinical research and good, solid science.

But anyone reading this probably knows that already.

Like I said earlier, raising her children is not my job. But I do believe that ensuring easily preventable illness stay out of the general population is everyone’s job. So here’s how I’d have responded to Ms. Cavallari, based on the statements she made in her interview with Kennedy.

This is what the original exchange on Fox Business was:

Kennedy: Are you opposed to vaccines?

Kristin: Ahh…we didn’t vaccinate.

Kennedy: Really? You’re one of those communists?

Kristin: I’ve read too many books about autism and the studies.

Kennedy: No, no, there’s no links. Read the links that say autism and vaccines have no-

Kristin: Well, there is a pediatric group called Homestead, or…shoot…Homestead or Homefirst, now I have pregnancy brain I got them confused—they’ve never vaccinated any of their children, and they haven’t had one case of autism. And now one in 88 boys is autistic, which is a really scary statistic.

Kennedy: Well, my mom vaccinated us and she doesn’t have any cases of autism either. Isn’t that weird?

Kristin: The vaccinations have changed over the years, there’s more mercury and other…

And here’s what I would say, using the same responses.

Mike: Are you opposed to vaccines?

Kristin: Ahhh…we didn’t vaccinate.

Mike: Oh, that’s really unfortunate and puts a lot of people who can’t get vaccines at risk. What led you to not vaccinate your children?

Kristin: I’ve read too many books about autism and the studies.

Mike: First of all, I’d be curious to know what books you read. And what studies did you read? If it’s the Andrew Wakefield study, the one that first linked autism and vaccination, did you know it was later retracted and judged to be a “deliberate fraud?” Were you also aware that Wakefield was stripped of his medical license because of this deliberate fraud? The studies and books you should be reading (and reading is good!!!) are the ones that show no link between autism and vaccines – because no reputable one ever has. There are lots of good books, studies and blog posts on the subject, and I’m sure it won’t be hard for you to find them.

Kristin: Well, there is a pediatric group called Homestead, or…shoot…Homestead or Homefirst, — they’ve never vaccinated any of their children, and they haven’t had one case of autism.

Mike: Let me stop you there. I understand pregnancy brain. It can be kind of cute. But I would think that in this case, if you’re taking advice from a “pediatric group” you’d be familiar enough with their work not to get their name confused. I couldn’t find any information about a pediatric medical group in the Chicago area called “Homestead” but I did find a blurb about a pediatric group called Homefirst from the Chicago Tribune. It’s run by a figure of some infamy in the vaccination wars: Dr. Mayer Eisenstein. Here’s what the Tribune had to say about Homefirst:

“Homefirst Health Services, meanwhile — if that’s what Cavallari meant — is a Rolling Meadows-based pediatrics practice that embraces home births and shuns vaccines. Dr. Mayer Eisenstein and his practice were the subject of a 2009 Chicago Tribune investigation that shed light on the use of potentially dangerous alternative autism treatments. On the Homefirst website, Eisenstein maintains that “personal religious convictions, not scientific studies, are the main reasons, upon which to base your vaccination decision.”

Here’s a link to the Chicago Tribune story on Eisenstein. As you’ll see, he advocates for many dangerous and unproven treatments for autism, was sanctioned by the state of Illinois for illegally selling health insurance and has been implicated in the injury or deaths of several infants – all while comparing traditional pediatricians to Nazis. It’s pretty damning stuff, and I hope you take some time to read it. Anyway, it was rude to interrupt you. Go on.

Kristin: And now one in 88 boys is autistic, which is a really scary statistic.

Mike: It is scary. It’s also not entirely correct. According to the NIH, one in 88 children have been diagnosed with autism. It might seem like a pedantic difference, but accuracy is important. More importantly, autism diagnoses have increased while vaccination has decreased. Wouldn’t you say that puts the link between the two in question?

Kristin: The vaccinations have changed over the years, there’s more mercury and other…

Mike: No, there’s not “more mercury.” There’s almost none. In fact, other than in some flu vaccinations, there’s NO mercury in vaccines. So why don’t we just stop there?

Vaccination is seen by many as a personal decision. But it’s not. It’s a decision that affects others. It effects everyone the unvaccinated person will ever come into contact with, and everyone those people come into contact with. And while it’s every parent’s right to “do their research” on vaccines, that research is too important to do using anything other than sound scientific sources.

Which clearly, Ms. Cavallari hasn’t done.

Regardless, I wish her children a long, happy, disease-free life. For the sake of all of us.

About Mike Rothschild

Mike Rothschild is a writer and editor based in Pasadena. He writes about scams, conspiracy theories, hoaxes and pop culture fads. He's also a playwright and screenwriter. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/rothschildmd.
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40 Responses to What I’d Say to the Latest Anti-Vaccine Celebrity

  1. Walter Clark says:

    Is there a second order effect going on besides pseudo science? Why is it that certain pseudo sciences attracts celebrities? There’s vaccinations, and that novelist-invented religion. Perhaps insight there would reveal nutty ideas by other professions particularly those that seek power through their celebrity.

    • Kasey Chang says:

      Celebrities have a combination of halo effect, spotlight effect, and self-bias to make themselves think a lot more than what they are… esp. in areas where they have NO expertise in (that’d be ‘illusion of skill’)

  2. Barry says:

    This is the way I feel about this: people can be as stupid as they want, but I do not feel that they have the right to endanger other’s lives, especially their children with it.

  3. Stephen Propatier says:

    Her mercury connection has zero I mean zero credible evidence. If you follow the pattern of removal of thimerosol from vaccines you see an increase in autism not a decrease. In medicine we see an inverse dose response as consistent with no correlation. Meaning… We have good evidence proving that there is no link between mercury preservative and vaccines. There has also been data showing an increase of autism rates despite declining vaccination rates. The only research that still supports a link are small cherry picked correlational research. It just is not there despite a vocal minority insisting.

    I would also like to say that marrying Jay Cutler puts her whole ability to judge things appropriately in doubt.

    Mike Mike Mike, I can forgive a lot of things, but Bears fan……That is going to take a lot of soul searching:)

    • HonorinTruth says:

      This seems to say there is evidence:

      “Dr. Hooker, a PhD scientist, worked with two members of Congress to craft the letter to the CDC that recently resulted in his obtaining long-awaited data from the CDC, the significance of which is historic. According to Hooker, the data on over 400,000 infants born between 1991 and 1997, which was analyzed by CDC epidemiologist Thomas Verstraeten, MD, “proves unequivocally that in 2000, CDC officials were informed internally of the very high risk of autism, non-organic sleep disorder and speech disorder associated with Thimerosal exposure.”

      When the results of the Verstraeten study were first reported outside the CDC in 2005, there was no evidence that anyone but Dr. Verstraeten within the CDC had known of the very high 7.6-fold elevated relative risk of autism from exposure to Thimerosal during infancy. But now, clear evidence exists. A newly-acquired abstract from 1999 titled, “Increased risk of developmental neurologic impairment after high exposure to Thimerosal containing vaccine in first month of life” required the approval of top CDC officials prior to its presentation at the Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) conference. Thimerosal, which is 50% mercury by weight, was used in most childhood vaccines and in the RhoGAM® shot for pregnant women prior to the early 2000s.

      The CDC maintains there is “no relationship between Thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism rates in children,” even though the data from the CDC’s own Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD) database shows a very high risk. There are a number of public records to back this up, including this Congressional Record from May 1, 2003.”

      http://www.ashotoftruth.org/sites/default/files/exhibit_22_-_verstraeten_et_al_1999_abstract_risks_of_autism.pdf

      Too bad the CDC and FDA are so deceptive. That’s really what’s causing this so called anto vaccine movement. Pro vaccine advocates really should go after them for inciting so much doubt. It’s a shame.

      • HonorinTruth says:

        *anti

      • Christian says:

        The first thing that’s need from people who claim that mercury causes autism, is a chain of causality. Autism is not caused by anything post birth.

      • Ray says:

        That story about Verstraeten is a typical belief-based denial of reality. Why didn’t you do a little research on the subject before you made up your mind? All you had to do was an internet search and you would have come up with the following from Forbes.com:

        http://www.forbes.com/sites/emilywillingham/2014/02/22/is-the-cdc-hiding-data-about-mercury-vaccines-and-autism/

        It is a detailed analysis of the situation and a stellar refutation of what you’ve posted. In summary, the CDC and the FDA are not deceptive – your sources are the ones who are deceptive. The study in question was a preliminary study, not a final conclusion. I’ll bet your sources never mentioned that fact.

        It’s followed by other articles that you’d do well to read as well.

        There’s a nice summary at Wikipedia, also:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2000_Simpsonwood_CDC_conference

        • HonorinTruth says:

          Thanks Ray…(Charles is it?) How about this: http://mercury-freedrugs.org/docs/071001_PR_Mercury(Thimerosal)InVaccines_FDA&CDCGuiltyOfMisconductb.pdf

          See how this works is; I have read multiple accounts where (not only vaccine related) the CDC and FDA have been found to have been deceptive, and kept deadly info from the public in order to protect the pharmaceutical companies, tobacco companies, medical equipment companies, Monsanto… take your pick, so I no longer take their word for it. I am not alone and rabid pushers like you and your ilk cannot change our minds by trying to comment shame us. Sorry, the jig is up. CDC and FDA are going to be held accountable for their past, present, and future actions, and I and many others say: “It’s about time!”

          Don’t bother commenting back, unless you get paid per comment, I don’t give a flying fig what you have to say. I don’t know you, you have zero credibility with me.

          • BobM says:

            Let me ask you this question. I’ve asked this a lot, and not got much by way of answers. But – I know what would change my mind on the relationship between vaccines and autism. A properly conducted peer-reviewed study that showed a causal link. What would change yours? If your answer is ‘nothing’, you should probably review not only your data, but the way you think.

          • HonorinTruth says:

            Actually reading the vaccine inserts changed my mind about the so called safety of vaccines.

            Have you heard: Global cancer rates could increase by 50% to 15 million by 2020

            http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2003/pr27/en/

            Then there’s this: (link at bottom)

            Carcinogenesis, Mutagenesis, Impairment of Fertility
            Tripedia vaccine has not been evaluated for its carcinogenic or mutagenic potentials or impairment of fertility

            Adverse events reported during post-approval use of Tripedia vaccine include idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, SIDS,
            anaphylactic reaction, cellulitis, AUTISM, convulsion/grand mal convulsion, encephalopathy, hypotonia, neuropathy, somnolence
            and apnea. Events were included in this list because of the seriousness or frequency of reporting. Because these events are
            reported voluntarily from a population of uncertain size, it is not always possible to reliably estimate their frequencies or to
            establish a causal relationship to components of Tripedia vaccine.2

            http://www.fda.gov/downloads/biologicsbloodvaccines/vaccines/approvedproducts/ucm101580.pdf

            Oh and I also did something “fun” today… Google CDC and FDA guilty. Wow now ther’s a Summer reading list!

          • Ray says:

            Honorintruth wrote:
            “Don’t bother commenting back, unless you get paid per comment, I don’t give a flying fig what you have to say. I don’t know you, you have zero credibility with me.”

            That says it all, doesn’t it? Your mind is closed and nothing and no one could ever convince you that you’re wrong. And you absolutely refuse to read what I’ve linked to, telling me very clearly that you have no interest in the truth. Your personal beliefs are much more important that the truth.

            You tell me that you’ve read multiple accounts and that it all supports your beliefs but have you ever stopped to question those sources? Could your mindset ever allow that? Not likely. You remind me of the creationists who read all sorts of creationist tracts – while never even touching any material that promotes evolution – and yet they are quite sure that they have a lock on reality and don’t need to venture beyond the emotional safety of their beliefs. Their opponents are bad guys anyway so there’s no reason to hear what they have to say anyway, right? Well, that’s you, too. You’ve been manipulated into thinking along certain lines and anything not along those lines is wrong – and the work of some corporate/government liars who are out to hurt people (for the creationists those people are the heathen atheists/secularists who are doing Satan’s bidding). I’m sure you like to think of yourself as a free-thinking person who only follows the evidence but nothing could be farther from the truth.

        • Christian says:

          Cancer rates ARE growing, because of vaccines. Because vaccines have eliminated a lot of things that used to kill a lot of children, they are living to old age, and now they are reaching old age, they have to die of something, and cancer is not cured yet. IF you want to lower cancer rates, stop vaccinating so lots of children die.

          • BobM says:

            Thank God for some sense, I tried to say this but it keeps rejecting my email address. I would much sooner die at 103 with prostate cancer, than 7 from smallpox :-).

  4. Sarah says:

    Even if vaccinations did cause autism, I’d much rather have an autistic child than a horribly sick and possibly dying child! People think that these illnesses don’t exist anymore, and for a while they basically didn’t but only because of vaccinations! Now that these thick headed people are refusing to vaccinate, I’ll have to keep everyone away from my child when it’s born until it’s old enough to be vaccinated, sounds like an exciting first two months of life, huh!? This is exactly the reason why I think people are stupid >…>

  5. Christian says:

    You all need to read this: http://howdovaccinescauseautism.com/

  6. Aren’t you at least a little encouraged that Kennedy attempted to insert a bit of reason by suggesting she read other stories, that autism and vaccines aren’t linked, and reminding her that annecdotes go both ways? That’s more than a lot of tv interviewers do.

  7. Melody RN says:

    As long as these anti-science celebrities have an audience, and a soapbox to stand on, they are dangerous. Promoting the illogical idea that vaccines is harmful.

    There was a study done that demonstrated celebrities have an influence over parents despite lacking the proper credentials. According to a TIME article, a quarter of parents blindly trust the statements of celebrities (http://healthland.time.com/2011/04/26/jenny-mccarthy-vaccine-expert-a-quarter-of-parents-trust-celebrities/) When a celebrity such as Kristin Cavallari promotes dangerous misinformation, it is a legitimate public health threat.

  8. Excellent post. The thing that gets me is the anti-vax mantra that they’ve ‘done their research.’ Really? Did you go to medical school for 8 years, treat patients, study diseases, causes and treatments, go to medical conferences, and read medical journals and clinical studies too? Nope. Apparently, a diploma from the University of Google is all that’s required to ‘debunk the big pharma vaccine conspiracy.’

    Alison Agnew
    Nancherrow

  9. Bea says:

    Where is the evidence that vaccines works? Why are none vaccinated persons a health risk for vaccinated people when the vaccine works?

    • Christian says:

      The evidence is the trail of people who didn’t die in childhood from diseases controlled by vaccines. And the answer to your other question is in the article, so I recommend reading it. :0)

    • The evidence that vaccines work is plentiful. One quick example: there were over 500,000 cases of measles in the US in the years before the vaccine was introduced – but that number that dropped to double digits in the years after vaccination was available.

      And just because the vaccine works doesn’t mean it’s impossible for anyone to get the disease being vaccinated against. Some people can’t be given vaccines because they’re too young or immunocompromised. Those people depend on the vaccination of the general population (aka, herd immunity) to keep the disease at bay. That’s why it’s so important for as many people as possible to be vaccinated, despite what the natural cures industry says.

    • Sharon says:

      Not everyone has the luxury or ability to be vaccinated. Immuno-compromised people, infants, and the fetuses growing in pregnant women can all be harmed when an unvaccinated person gets sick and spreads the infectious diseases. Herd immunity is a necessary component in a healthy society.

    • BobM says:

      Have you never heard of smallpox, diphtheria, polio? All these diseases disappeared after vaccination began. I might be drawing a long bow here but I would say that there is some causation there.

  10. Martin says:

    These ‘celebrity’ anti-vax thickos deserve to be publicly mocked, humiliated and shamed. When their children start to suffer from the adverse effects of these easily preventable diseases it should be made public knowledge and promoted widely, backed up by a good-old-fashioned fear of God public health campaign.

    • Christian says:

      Martin, what should happen is that people should realise that while a scientist may not have the sex appeal of a playboy bunny ( although with apologies to any scientists, I admit they MAY do ), that just because someone is famous, does not make them an expert. People should learn who is a reliable source of advice and that being reliable in one area, does not make you expert in others. Why should I care more about someone famous having an uninformed opinion, than the guy who lives next door ?

  11. TorchWood says:

    Perhaps we should leave the anti-vaccine enthusiasts alone to win their Darwin Awards in peace. If they choose to edit themselves out of the gene pool by destroying their childrens’ health or letting them die, who are we to interfere?

    • A Ward says:

      Not vaccinating compromises herd immunity and anyone that, for myriad reasons, cannot be vaccinated is in danger of getting sick or dying because some anti-vaxxer moron is willfully ignorant.

      I get your point. I’d like nothing better than to round up the lot of them and dump them on an island together. While we still have to deal with their presence and their stupid choices though, we’re pretty much screwed. The ones that get screwed the worst are the people that get sick because of these whackjobs.

  12. Dave says:

    Bring uit on Truth. Are you listening Rothschild???? I agree that Cutler and the Bears is questionable. I agree with her stand on Vaccines however.

    • Christian says:

      Dave, have you read the article ? Why are you posting here, it’s clear that people who read this, agree with science and not witchcraft. Here’s some more information for you

      1 – there’s more mercury in your body from eating fish than from vaccinations
      2 – no expert in autism believes it can be caused out side the womb, you are born with it
      3 – symptoms tend to become evident around the time of vaccination, but correlation is not causality, nor can your brain rewire itself at the rate claimed by anti vaccination crusaders. There are people who have sued on the claim that vaccinations caused autism and it’s been proven from their own family videos that the child was autistic before
      4 – the reason for the ‘explosion’ in autism numbers is the widening of the definition, not least to include anyone with Aspergers, but also very mild cases where the diagnosis is almost academic in the sense that it has nothing to do with autism as we think of it. There is no explosion in the number of kids who are autistic per se, rather there’s an explosion in the number of kids being diagnosed who would not have been before.

    • A Ward says:

      Adding to Christian’s #1 point here:
      The teeny bit of mercury that can be found in thimerosal is ETHYL mercury. The mercury found in fish, and that is considered to be toxic, is METHYL mercury. The difference is pretty significant and also applies to ethyl alcohol and methyl alcohol. If you were to drink some ethyl alcohol, you’d get drunk. If you drank methyl alcohol, you’d go blind or die. (if you were to ingest enough ethyl alcohol, you’d probably die but the point is, they’re different.)

      It continues to baffle me that humanity has this incredible tool that can be used to learn so much about so many things by reaching people that are specialists in their chosen fields of study and yet ignorance and stupidity abounds!

      • Christian says:

        Ah, yes, that little detail slipped my mind, thanks for including it. People hear ‘mercury’ and think it’s terrible, but, they are not the same, as well as the doses being tiny. And, the mercury in fish accumulates over time, so you have a finite number of fish dinners in this world, whereas the one in vaccines doesn’t, I believe.

        • JerryA says:

          In addition, the dosage is considerably different, and dosage matters! Your body can handle a certain amount of chemical safely, but higher levels can be dangerous- even table salt or plain water. There is more mercury in a tuna sandwich than in all of your vaccinations combined, since thimerosal is no longer in most vaccines any more (since ~1999). There is a hundred times more formaldehyde (another toxic compound feared by anti-vaxxers) in an apple than in any vaccine, but we still survive apples, thank you.

  13. Ray says:

    HonorinTruth writes:
    “Have you heard: Global cancer rates could increase by 50% to 15 million by 2020

    http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2003/pr27/en/

    Unlike yourself, I read the article you’ve linked to. Perhaps you should have done so because had you read it you would have seen this:

    “Vaccinations could be key to preventing these cancers.” Now how did that get in there???

    Further, there’s nothing in that article that contradicts anything the CDC and FDA have been saying for years.

    You also wrote:
    “Oh and I also did something “fun” today… Google CDC and FDA guilty. Wow now ther’s a Summer reading list!”

    Well, there you go again. You cough up the usual and standard internet sites that support your belief system and you pretend to yourself that you’ve actually done some critical thinking when in fact all you’ve got there is the same emotional masturbation that has kept you away from honest critical analysis in the first place.

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