Thanks again for all of your comments. I’ll try to address a few of your excellent suggestions and criticisms.
Regarding my characterization of children with autism: I think one of my limitations in writing this book is that I’m not a neurologist, psychologist, or developmentalist. I’m an infectious diseases specialist with an expertise in vaccines. So I don’t come in contact with many children with autism. As a consequence, my characterization of children with autism in AUTISM’S FALSE PROPHETS came exclusively from what I read in newspapers, which no doubt slants descriptions to more extreme symptoms, or to descriptions from a handful of people, like Richard Grinker, Peter Hotez, Kathleen Seidel, and Camille Clark. I think that the limited number of descriptions of children with autism failed to include children on the milder end of the spectrum.
Regarding my comment that vaccine introduction into developing countries decreases family size: The commenter is correct in assuming that families get smaller because parents decide to have fewer children, realizing that not as many will die from infections.
Regarding the culture of celebrity: I was speaking at a statewide immunization conference in St. Louis last week and a physician asked what I thought about Amanda Peet’s entry into the debate about the importance of vaccines. My sense is that in a more perfect world the media would look to clinicians, public health officials, and scientists for information about science and medicine. But we don’t live in that world. It’s not only that entertainment television hosts like Oprah Winfrey and Larry King seek out people like Jenny McCarthy for healthcare advice, Sanjay Gupta on CNN does the same thing, recently interviewing Aidan Quinn and Matthew McConaughey on their concerns about the safety of vaccines. So, I think Amanda Peet represents an important counterpoint to actors like McCarthy who unnecessarily scare the public about vaccines. And, given the amount of hate mail that Ms. Peet has received, I think it’s very brave of her to do it. She defends vaccines simply because she thinks it’s the right thing to do, without any apparent direct benefit to her or her career.