NBC's Snyderman: Vaccine-Autism Link 'Not Controversial'
Rarely does a broadcast journalist passionately defend science and business. But NBCâ€™s chief medical editor Nancy Snyderman did just that on the networkâ€™s â€śTodayâ€ť show Oct. 30.
Snyderman profiled Dr. Paul Offit, chief of infectious diseases as the Childrenâ€™s
The alleged link between vaccines and autism is disputed, and has caused some confusion in the broadcast media. In June 2007, the CBS â€śEvening Newsâ€ť reported a link between autism and thimerosal â€“ a preservative used in vaccines. But in January 2008, the â€śEvening Newsâ€ť reversed that position and reported research showing â€śno link.â€ť
Snyderman was more forceful when she gave her â€śtwo cents,â€ť telling â€śTodayâ€ť host Matt Lauer it is â€śnot controversial. I mean, I really mean that. The science is the science. Weâ€™re going to start to see outbreaks of polio and measles in this country if we donâ€™t start talking about the real problem. Itâ€™s not controversial.â€ť
Criticizing the emotion-based approach to the issue, Snyderman said the cause of autism research has â€śbeen hijacked, I think, by a lot of the celebrity aspect of this.â€ť 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 arenâ€™t educated on the issue. She said 16 studies have shown â€śno causal associationâ€ť between vaccines and autism, and that the studies â€ścarry weight in the scientific industry. I think they haven't been very well explainedâ€ť to parents.
She said doctors like Offit who deny a link are subjected to harassment, including death threats and â€śphysical ambush.â€ť 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 Offitâ€™s potential conflict of interest. â€śDr. Offit understands some of the criticism leveled at him,â€ť Snyderman said. â€śMerck, 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 CDCâ€™s recommended schedule for children.â€ť
â€śYou 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€ť Snyderman said in her interview with Offit.
â€śNo, I have a vested interest in making sure that nothing hurts children,â€ť he responded. â€śThat, 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€ť