Amanda Peet on Why Vaccines Are Vital for Child Safety
Advocacy Actress and Every Child By Two Vaccine Ambassador Amanda Peet weighs in on the vaccination decision facing parents today, and how we can make vaccines more accessible to nations in need.
Mediaplanet: How did you come to the decision to vaccinate your kids?
Amanda Peet: My sister is a doctor and my brother-in-law is an infectious diseases researcher and pediatrician at CHOP [the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia]. I would've been banished from the family if I hadn't.
MP: What inspired you to speak out as an advocate for vaccinations?
AP: I thought maybe I could help. Several high profile people in my industry were speaking out against vaccines. There's a long tradition of social activism in Hollywood—some substantive and effective, some not—and a tradition of actors supporting those persons or groups who are willing to buck the system and stand up against corruption. It's beginning to change now, but some media outlets presented the anti-vaccine movement as an example of the preyed-upon consumer waging an ethical battle against the money-grubbing corporation. That's an appealing framework for people in entertainment, and for rich, left-leaning people in general, but it actually doesn't apply in this particular case. And those who still insist that it does do so at the cost of children’s safety around the world.
MP: What advice would you give to a new parent deciding whether or not to vaccinate their kids?
AP: It's not just about your child's safety. During the measles outbreak I read Dr. Tim Jacks' blog post about his daughter, who is battling leukemia. She was exposed to someone with measles and had to get the shots and be quarantined—while going through chemo. She's four years old. It was heartbreaking and makes you realize how hard it is to sell parents on the science of vaccine safety without a salient, human story.
"Here in one of the most privileged countries on the planet, where we had all but eliminated measles entirely, we voluntarily brought it back."
Giving parents epidemiological data is like giving someone who is petrified of flying the statistics on airline safety; it doesn't penetrate and it feels too general. Parents need to understand that anecdotes have to be backed up by population studies; there is no other way to guard against biases and confounding variables. If any doctor tells you—as a couple of pediatricians here in LA do—that anecdotes either trump data or are equally important, I would say you are dealing with someone on the fringe of the medical profession.
MP: Can you discuss your work to make vaccines accessible worldwide?
AP: Every 20 seconds a child dies from a vaccine-preventable disease. I went to Kenya to participate in a polio vaccination campaign with the United Nations Foundation’s Shot@Life campaign. Americans can make a huge difference for children in the developing world by advocating to their Member of Congress, fundraising in their communities or using their social media accounts to raise awareness about the need for vaccines.
MP: As a parent, what are your main concerns regarding people who are anti-vaccines?
AP: My concern is that infants or people whose immunity is compromised will die or get very sick.
MP: What was your reaction to the outbreak of Measles at Disney earlier this year?
AP: In the developing world, measles is one of the leading causes of death among children. In 2013 there were 147,700 measles deaths globally—about 400 deaths per day. And yet here, in one of the most privileged countries on the planet, where we had all but eliminated measles entirely, we voluntarily brought it back.
MP: What advancements do you hope to see in the future for vaccines?
AP: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are hoping to roll out the rotavirus vaccine to all kids in the next five years.