Join getAbstract to access the summary!

Bad Advice

Join getAbstract to access the summary!

Bad Advice

Or Why Celebrities, Politicians, and Activists Aren’t Your Best Source of Health Information

Columbia UP,

15 min read
7 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

A physician dissects the antiscience sentiment fueling the antivaccine movement.

Editorial Rating



  • Scientific
  • Concrete Examples
  • Engaging


Following the lead of celebrities such as Jenny McCarthy, the antivaccine movement has spread the unfounded theory that certain vaccines cause autism. Activists’ success in persuading parents to reject vaccination has provoked dangerous consequences, including the first US measles outbreaks since 2000. With self-deprecating humor, Dr. Paul A. Offit, co-inventor of the rotavirus vaccine, recounts his battles with antivaxxers and explains how to counter them. Businesspeople, public officials and parents will welcome this refreshing antidote to the spreading disdain for expertise and scientific fact. 


The antivaccination movement is a symptom of a general antiscience sentiment.

Some people cultivate distrust of science and experts. The Donald Trump administration encourages disdain for expertise, and takes positions against science on climate change, evolution, vaccination and more.

However, it doesn’t take more than a little Googling on any topic to show that not needing science and experts is illusionary.

The movement demonstrates why hostility to science is dangerous. 

Some people, including celebrities like Jenny McCarthy (the mother of an autistic child), latched onto a notion that the combination measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine causes autism. Antivaccine activists launched campaigns urging parents to reject the MMR and other children’s vaccines. The movement, with its celebrity spokespeople and potent mix of fear-mongering and controversy, was catnip to the media.

Fear of the MMR vaccine persists in the face of multiple studies around the globe that found no evidence of any autism link. The movement has persuaded parents to delay or reject vaccination. Seemingly vanquished diseases such as measles are making comebacks...

About the Author

Paul A. Offit, MD, is director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. He is also the Maurice R. Hilleman Professor of Vaccinology and professor of pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

Comment on this summary

More on this topic