Has Mayim Bialik changed her stance on vaccines?

I've written previously about Mayim Bialik, an actress previously on the TV show "Blossom" and currently on the "The Big Bang Theory." She has a PhD in neuroscience and is a brand ambassador for Texas Instruments. Sounds great, right?

She's also gone on the record stating that her family is "a non-vaccinating" one, and has promoted anti-vaccine literature on her blog. She apparently remains affiliated with the Holistic Moms Network, which includes anti-vaccine advocates Barbara Loe Fisher and Sherri Tenpenny as members on its advisory board, among others.

Because of the anti-science views she has expressed, and their chance to do real harm, I've noted previously that I'm very uncomfortable with Bialik being used as any kind of an ambassador for science and STEM education. And of course, anti-vaccine advocates have seized on her education and anti-vaccine stance as proof of their own correctness:

Now, she's wondering why people think she's anti-vaccine:

i would like to dispel the rumors about my stance on vaccines. i am not anti-vaccine. my children are vaccinated. there has been so much hysteria and anger about this issue and i hope this clears things up as far as my part.

...which is great, from my point of view. I'd really like to see Bialik advocate for vaccines, as she is firmly in the "crunchy" camp that all too often have a reputation as eschewing vaccines.

So did she really change her mind and her stance? If so, why? Or is she just jumping on the "I'm not anti-vaccine" bandwagon like Jenny McCarthy and others who claim not to be anti-vaccine, but at the same time spew vaccine fear and misinformation? Are her kids fully vaccinated, or did they only have the ones she mentioned previously (such as polio for international travel)? Is she walking back statements that are basically anti-vaccine talking points, and removing her support of anti-vaccine doctors like Bob Sears and Lauren Feder (or her own pediatrician, Jay Gordon)?

I really hope so. But I won't hold my breath, and take her statements that she's "not anti-vaccine" with a big grain of salt. After all, that statement, itself, is often an anti-vaccine talking point.

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Until she provides clarity that they are fully vaccinated and retracts her blog statement of the "too many too soon" it is insufficient, especially in the midst of outbreaks where anti-vax are (justifiably) taking heat.

By Harriet Huestis (not verified) on 11 Feb 2015 #permalink

Sounds like it's time to contact Texas Instruments and ask them.

If enough people do that, Texas instruments might contact her and ask her. Strongly implied: her status as a (presumably well-paid) brand ambassador will be on the line.

I'd like more information on her definition of "are vaccinated."

The version of her kids' vaccination that I'd heard revolved around her being unable to take them to Israel without being up to date. That she vaccinated them largely under duress, and only to the levels required by Israel.

By Richard Murray (not verified) on 11 Feb 2015 #permalink

This is a problem. I really feel that her "retraction" was a result of some professional or financial pressure in the wake of the recent measles outbreaks. She has consistently portrayed herself as "non-vaccinating." While she claims she doesn't want to talk about it, she did mention it specifically in her book. She also has pointed towards Dr. Sears' book as "research." Dr. Sears, who, judging by his recent Facebook posting, doesn't understand the difference between a childhood behavioral disorder and a communicable disease which can result in death or severe disability, has publicly stated that there is no evidence behind his alternative vaccination schedule.

By Lola Campbell (not verified) on 11 Feb 2015 #permalink

She has been taking a beating in the breast vs. bottle arena lately. Folks have been accusing her of being hypocritical for espousing a pro-science breastfeeding stance and an anti-science vaccine stance. Perhaps this post was an attempt to head that off.

By Steve Rhode (not verified) on 11 Feb 2015 #permalink

I'd like to know how she squares her latest statement with her previous statement on the People website that "We are a non-vaccinating family".

By anthrosciguy (not verified) on 12 Feb 2015 #permalink

I'm baffled.... I can't find anywhere in the links you included where Bialik actually says anything negative about vaccines.

I assume everyone here is a skeptic so, why are we jumping to conclusions about her position on vaccines?

By Justin Alexander (not verified) on 15 Feb 2015 #permalink

Sounds like her new statements are just a smoke screen because it might hurt her career and her ability to remain involved with Texas Instruments. She is putting out the minimum information to take the heat off of herself, which is purposely misleading.

Once she gets pressed more and gets caught by her deceiving statement, she will say that she never said her kids were "fully" immunized, etc.

If her own doctors she used for her kids are anti-vaccine, isn't that why she chose them?

If it walks like a duck...

By Roxanne Porozinski (not verified) on 15 Feb 2015 #permalink

Neither of those books are based in scientific fact. To use the vernacular of her wildly popular show, they are in fact complete and total hokum. Not one of them cite a single credible scientific source for any of their claims. (The ones they do cite are deliberately misrepresented in order to mislead their audience.) Since learning more about Mayim's personal life and choices I have lost all respect for her as a human being and feel a little sick to watch the show ever.
Despite being a "scientist" herself, she appears to have no regard for making life-altering personal choices for herself and her unfortunate children without even considering any scientific evidence. As a person who is a deserving or undeserving roll model for many she should be far more careful with level of personal belief she imparts. If she really wanted to remain silent on this issue she should have refrained from writing it. Period.

Please show us modern peer reviewed scientific studies detailing the damages caused by modern vaccination types, techniques, and schedules and you will have cause to speak. Otherwise advise unvaccinated people to build themselves
Hermetically sealed bubbles to live their lives in so that they and no one they can potentially come in contact with has to die.

By Anonymous (not verified) on 15 Feb 2015 #permalink

It seems that she is attempting to protect herself from backlash without addressing the issue which caused the backlash in the first place. I see her most recent statement as a "Make it go away" move, rather than a meaningful change of perspective. (Hi! I usually just read here, but she REALLY frustrates me. She is extremely pernicious.)

As a neuroscience "expert" she should have a firm grasp on the concept of cognitive dissonance.
this is the same weirdo that breastfeeds her 5 or 6 year old son because he enjoys the comfortable connection it produces.

She is full of contradictions...as are most of us. Reading all of her information she does not say anyone should live her life or follow her lifestyle. It's too bad more people don't follow her efforts in that area. She has had her children vaccinated regardless of reason or forethought, and has admitted trying to raise her children like people did 200 years ago, while devoutly attempting to follow Modern Orthodox Judaism, all of which would seem to contradict how she lives her life and how she is raising her children...or not. In so far as her breast feeding her six year old, experts can't agree on the benefits or disadvantages, but Bialik isn't alone in the practice and being part of a minority practice in any endeavor doesn't automatically make the practitioner a weirdo, but it does say a lot about labels and those who use them freely.

Wait! Just because she has a PhD in neuroscience and she is in the lime light because of her acting career DOES NOT MAKE HER INTELLIGENT IN EVERYTHING. Yrs, I am sure she is very intelligent. But would you have your orthopedist give you recommendation regarding your vision? Not all smart people are smart in everything. In fact few are. The vaccine is a medical and desease issue. Get your info from them.

Probably nobody thought to actually ask her. These days, checking a source is Pulitzer-level reportage.

By Guy Chapman (not verified) on 15 Feb 2015 #permalink

@ Sarah from Vermont

Since there are no vaccine-specific doctors, neuroscientists are actually the closest related branch to these pro/anti vax discussions. Specifically, autism, for example is a brain disorder. Please tell me how this is related to 'an orthopedist giving you vision advice'?

As a Brazilian, I find it very disturbing that Americans still choose not to vaccinate. We Brazilians, and I believe all tropical countries natives, cannot afford not to vaccinate, for it's almost a death sentence to our kids. The government has a program to vaccinate all kids under age of 5 and schools will not accept kids whose vaccination card is not updated. In a globalized world such as ours, I believe Americans really should rethink their thought on the subject.

Lucas, just, no. There is an entire specialty of infectious disease doctors who have training in this area. There are PhDs (some of them also with MDs) who study vaccines their entire lives, or study immunology, etc. And further, since autism has no relevance to the vaccine debate, even that point is moot. Bialik has no expertise here, period.

No, wait, there are immunologists, epidemiologists, biochemists, biometrics majors, etc who would have more vaccine expertise than Bialik.

The jury may be out on whether breast-feeding up to and after 6 has benefits immunologically/physiologically.. ..but it MUST have an effect psychologically since that is now moving in to the age where one can extrapolate, link cause and effect, consider consequence and hell, keep memories in to adulthood.

By coldfire@blueb… (not verified) on 17 Feb 2015 #permalink

she really is misleading people.i do not understand why any health specialist would want convince people not to get vaccinated. it is absurd...

By W.N Nyembe (not verified) on 17 Feb 2015 #permalink

The thing about this article that is the most concerning , is that in the modern age that we live in the opinion or actions of a celebrity about serious health issues or safety precautions spark more controversy then that of world leading experts in their fields of study . Even though she has an impressive resume with her medical background she is still not a specialist in the fields of medicine covering vaccinations and therefore her personal actions or opinions should not sway others to follow her choices blindly without talking to people who's actual profession covers the fields necessary to give an accurate , educated and valid opinion on the matter at hand

By Dewaal du Ples… (not verified) on 17 Feb 2015 #permalink

@ Charles, so your a weirdo because you are trying to give Breast Milk which is the Best Milk to your 5 year old, to keep a mother child bond till they are ready to break it,mothers all over the world are doing what you think is weird. and would think your the weirdo for not even trying to understand how beneficial doing this is.

By Green Parents (not verified) on 13 Mar 2015 #permalink

@ Charles, F.Y.I. Breast Mill has more beneficial antibodies than any vaccine you could stick in a child's arm. Research it and you will find this to be true!

By Green Parents (not verified) on 13 Mar 2015 #permalink

@Green Parents Before you start admonishing others for not doing their research, may I suggest you get your facts straight first? You are free to believe whatever you want about the benefits of breastfeeding, but you're absolutely wrong. No child will receive more immunological benefits from EBF than through vaccinations. Ever. That's not how this works. That's not how any of this works.


FYI, I breastfed and tandem breastfed for six straight years. Both kids were four when they weaned. I also have quite an education in immunology. The compounds present in breastmilk (such as secretory IgA, lactoferrin and oligosaccharides) provide a very different protection to those found in a vaccine/internally. To over-simplify it, the milk factors bind up or tag or attack microbes in the digestive system. They're a frontline defence. They don't help the child's own immune system recognise bad things whch enter through the nose or skin, and their effect does not last past weaning. My children at the age of seven were not immune to diptheria and measles becase I am immune to them, they were immune because they were vaccinated.

And another question you raise. If vaccines don't work, then why are you championing the vaccine-derived immunity my milk gives my kids? I've only had two of the vaccine preventable diseases, and odds are that as you're younger than me you've never had any of them.

Charles - breast feeding untill five is pretty normal in a lot of places. Breastfeeding at five does seem a little odd to westerners, but it is not globally. We didn't evolve to use a bottle.

I agree that, all other things being equal, breastfeeding is preferable, but we're lucky we have pretty good substitute and unlucky that a lot of us don't have the luxury of being able to breast feed for as long as we could. Being male, I'm pretty disadvantaged in that area :-)

If she is fortunate enough to be able to breast feed her kids untill five, good on her. Pity she chooses to leave them vulnerable to some pretty nasty diseases, though.

BTW Greenparents - if breast feeding protects children from these diseases, why were they ever a problem? They have been around a lot longer than bottles.