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Vaccine Debate Acknowledged, Explained at Global Conference

In an impassioned talk about vaccines and public opinion during a major conference on disease prevention in Atlanta this week, science journalist Seth Mnookin offered a new perspective on why immunizations continue to be associated with autism, despite scientific evidence that roundly rejects such link.

At the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases, attended by more than 1,600 participants from 58 countries, Mnookin said the popular belief that vaccines pose health risks is due to poor communicaton between doctors and parents, vague parental insecurities, and a vocal opposition.

“The debate isn’t really about vaccines and vaccine safety at all, but about a series of other issues,” said Mnookin, who teaches science writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is the author of The Panic Virus: The True Story Behind the Vaccine-Autism Controversy. “When we talk about vaccine safety and effectiveness, most of the time we’re talking about anxieties parents have about not being able to care for their chidren. We haven’t found ways to adequately address some of these issues."

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