Four burning questions for Paul Offit

In advance of his presentation at the Lorne Trottier Public Science Symposium, Dr, Paul Offit, Professor of Pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, spoke to the Reporter about the controversy surrounding vaccinations.
Dr. Paul Offit
Dr. Paul Offit

Dr. Paul Offit, Professor of Pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, is this year’s keynote speaker at the Lorne Trottier Public Science Symposium on Monday, Sept. 28. Offit’s talk will address the current vaccination controversy with references to historical events such as The Philadelphia Measles Epidemic of 1991. He will also discuss the response to the public’s fear of vaccination as put forth by public health, legal, and religious communities. In advance of his presentation at the Symposium, Offit spoke to the Reporter.

Get more information about the Lorne Trottier Public Science Symposium to be held at McGill on Sept. 28 – 29.

Did the outbreak of measles at Disneyland have an impact on vaccination rates?

It is hard to know. Time will tell. Pediatricians in southern California have certainly reported an increase in parents seeking measles vaccine for their children. But the answer to this question won’t be clear until it is formally studied.

What do you think of California’s new bill that makes vaccination for schoolchildren mandatory with no religious exemption?

In a better world, vaccine mandates shouldn’t be necessary. Everyone would know the data – know that vaccines work and are safe – and would choose to get themselves and their children vaccinated. Unfortunately, we don’t live in that world. We live in a world where bad information is at your fingertips. As a consequence, some parents expose their children and those with whom their children come in contact at unnecessary risk. Sadly, mandates with only medical exemptions allowed are the only solution.

Andrew Wakefield, whose discredited study played a big role in triggering the anti-vaccination movement, is now engaged by a cruise line to give presentations to passengers. Do you think the cruise line is being irresponsible?

Yes, they are. No one should be encouraged (much less paid) to give bad information that has and will continue to do harm. The cruise line should be ashamed of itself.

The allegation that vaccines contain “toxic” mercury is still circulating on the Internet. What is the latest on this issue?

Seven studies have now been performed that have clearly shown that the quantity of mercury that was contained in vaccines before it was removed from those vaccines given to young children never did harm.

Get more information about the Lorne Trottier Public Science Symposium.

Q&As with other speakers at the Lorne Trottier Public Symposium

Geoffrey Kabat, an epidemiologist at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine talks about the lack of evidence linking cell phone use with an increased risk in developing cancer.

Dr. Kevin Folta, Chairman of the Horticultural Sciences Department at the University of Florida, says “fear mongers” make good living off of misrepresenting science.