NBC's Snyderman: Vaccine-Autism Link 'Not Controversial'
Rarely does a broadcast journalist passionately defend science and business. But NBCâs chief medical editor Nancy Snyderman did just that on the networkâs âTodayâ show Oct. 30.
Snyderman profiled Dr. Paul Offit, chief of infectious diseases as the Childrenâs
The alleged link between vaccines and autism is disputed, and has caused some confusion in the broadcast media. In June 2007, the CBS âEvening Newsâ reported a link between autism and thimerosal â a preservative used in vaccines. But in January 2008, the âEvening Newsâ reversed that position and reported research showing âno link.â
Snyderman was more forceful when she gave her âtwo cents,â telling âTodayâ host Matt Lauer it is ânot controversial. I mean, I really mean that. The science is the science. Weâre going to start to see outbreaks of polio and measles in this country if we donât start talking about the real problem. Itâs not controversial.â
Criticizing the emotion-based approach to the issue, Snyderman said the cause of autism research has âbeen hijacked, I think, by a lot of the celebrity aspect of this.â Former Playboy model and television personality Jenny McCarthy has become the face of the anti-vaccine movement. Her son has autism.
Snyderman said parents who are afraid vaccines will cause autism arenât educated on the issue. She said 16 studies have shown âno causal associationâ between vaccines and autism, and that the studies âcarry weight in the scientific industry. I think they haven't been very well explainedâ to parents.
She said doctors like Offit who deny a link are subjected to harassment, including death threats and âphysical ambush.â Offit has received threatening phone calls directed toward his children and Snyderman said she and other reporters around the country have been physically ambushed.
The report did mention Offitâs potential conflict of interest. âDr. Offit understands some of the criticism leveled at him,â Snyderman said. âMerck, the pharmaceutical company that manufactures some vaccines, endows his professorship at Children's Hospital. And he developed RotaTeq, a vaccine that is now part of the CDCâs recommended schedule for children.â
âYou have invented a vaccine, made millions of dollars, therefore, you have a vested interest in making sure that nothing hurts vaccines getting to the marketplace,â Snyderman said in her interview with Offit.
âNo, I have a vested interest in making sure that nothing hurts children,â he responded. âThat, that's why I do what I do. And, in fact, I would argue that no one cared more about the safety of our vaccine than me.â