Autism and Vaccines – Entertainment Is Fueling A Dangerous Fire

By now you’ve all heard about the upcoming “Eli Stone” premier tomorrow on ABC/Disney. At the core of this show are a number of important issues:

1. Responsible journalism
2. Entertainment and ratings
3. Autism

I would think that entertainment and ratings issues aside, ABC would not want to air a show about such an important topic as Autism without fact checking over and over again. This is not a topic where stretching a truth or omitting important scientific evidence is in anyone’s best interest and is certainly not worth the entertainment value. In fact, I would argue, it 100% detracts from that value but going for the cheap, gratuitous, emotional hit.

Why bother pushing ABC to pull the show? Because it impacts the lives of kids directly. That is why the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the March of Dimes (together with seven former CDC directors) and the Immunization Action Coalition have all sent letters to ABC since last week asking ABC to either pull this episode from the air or add a strong disclaimer with factual information on autism for the families viewing the show.

According to Reuters, ABC has decided to air this episode of Eli Stone “but would run a disclaimer at the opening of the show stating the story is fictional. A message at the end will refer viewers to a CDC Web site for information about autism.”

Reuters further reports that “the show’s two creators, Greg Berlanti and Marc Guggenheim, disputed the notion that their show would frighten parents away from vaccines.

“‘We actually share the concern of the American Academy of Pediatrics. We believe that children should be vaccinated,’ Berlanti told Reuters. But he also said, ‘We hope that people do watch the episode and draw their own conclusions.'”

That is where the ABC team is missing the point and refusing to hear the advise of all the countries leading physicians. This is not about “drawing conclusions” because science has already concluded that there is no link between autism and vaccines.

So, if you watch Eli Stone tomorrow night, and I hope you do not, remember that. This show is 100% fiction. ABC would not have agreed to a disclaimer at all if they didn’t realize they dropped a collective ball.

And, before someone asks, the entire medical community (AMA, AAP, IAC, and March of Dimes) is not banning together for a financial reason or to blindly support vaccination. The only thing any of us have to gain is ensuring the safety of children. It really is that simple. In fact, the only folks with any financial gain here is ABC.

You can learn more about autism – the facts – here.


  1. I’m the mom of a beautiful four year old with autism. I would love it if ABC would do a show on the lack of insurance coverage for evidence based treatments recommended by the AAP. I would love it if ABC would run a show on how IDEA compliance is a huge problem across the country. I would love it if ABC would run a show that talks about quality research about what autism really is and the best ways to help those dealing with the diagnosis…

    Wishful thinking on my part.

  2. Thanks for this excellent post, Dr. G. It’s pretty hubristic of ABC to suppose that they know better than the entire medical community about how parents will respond to having vaccines demonized in dramatic fashion, and to demonstrate so little concern for the very real effect of their fictional program.

  3. IntelligentLayPerson says:

    They can’t prove that autism is linked to vaccinations, but they most certainly can prove that not being vaccinated can lead to the illnesses prevented by various vaccinations.

    The only vaccine that really bothers me is for chicken pox. Time and time again I have seen children who are vaccinated still catch the chicken pox plus miss days from school.

    Is the vaccination weak, or is it unstable? Or is the virus mutating so quickly that it will render the chicken pox vaccination useless. That’s the question.

  4. Hello, Dr. Gwen — thanks for the great post.

    Did you know that AAP has launched a counter-offensive to the mercury-causes-autism public-relations juggernaut?

    The media relations division is looking for

    Parents of children with autism spectrum disorders who support immunization and who do not believe there is any link between their child’s vaccines and his or her autism.

    Parents of children who suffered a vaccine-preventable illness. This could be a parent who declined immunization, whose child became ill before a vaccine was available, or whose child was ineligible for immunization.

    To serve as spokespersons.

    A number of science bloggers and bloggers who are parents of children with autism have been spreading the word.

    You can find the complete text of the email, plus a list of the aforementioned bloggers, at my post Stepping Up: Combatting Antivaccinationist Misinformation