By Nina Shapiro Forbes
In 2008, Dr. Paul Offit released a book called “Autism’s False Profits,” which focused on the safety of vaccines and disproved any association with or relationship of vaccine use to the incidence of autism. Dr. Offit is a prolific author and speaker, chief of infectious diseases at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and co-inventor of the rotavirus vaccine, preventing an illness that would kill 600,000 children annually worldwide. But despite his background in academic medicine and vaccine science, and despite the book being well-received by physicians, scientists, and autism researchers, he cancelled any public appearances related to the book. Initially, there was a great deal of push back from anti-vaccination groups and several celebrities such as Jenny McCarthy, giving anecdotal evidence of how vaccines were causing autism, and how anecdotal unproven treatments were reducing signs of autism in their and others’ children. Scientists and science writers must be well-versed in being able to handle such criticism, even sometimes harsh, and even sometimes vindictive with a touch of slandor. In fact, one should not embark in any controversial public endeavor if he or she can’t handle some jabs–be they professional or even personal. But when the death threats started coming, he dismissed his visibility.