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DHS news release

Jan. 30, 2008

Contact: Bonnie Widerburg, 971-673-1282

This guest opinion is by Katherine Bradley, Ph.D., administrator of Family Health Programs and Paul Cieslak, M.D., Acute and Communicable Disease Prevention manager in the Oregon Department of Human Services Public Health Division.

Length: 333 words

TV show ignores science, may put children at risk

By Katherine Bradley, Ph.D. and Paul Cieslak, M.D.

This Thursday ABC television debuts a new drama, and the beginning episode breaks the boundaries of responsible programming.

While viewers expect dramas to be fictional stories, they also expect them to be grounded in scientific principles. But the premiere show of "Eli Stone," airing at 10 p.m., Jan. 31, ignores science and presents misinformation that may put children at risk of serious harm if parents buy into the line of thinking it offers.

The script rests on the speculation that autism might be linked to thimerosal in childhood vaccines. It ignores the fact that this theory was disproved several years ago in study after study, conducted nationally and internationally.

It also ignores the fact that serious and non-theoretical diseases still exist and can threaten the health and even life of a child who is not protected.

As public health officials, our concern is that parents viewing this show may be given the false impression that vaccinations are dangerous; the fact is that not getting your child immunized puts him or her at risk. For this reason, the U.S. Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Association of Family Physicians and Institute of Medicine continue to recommend that children be vaccinated.

Most people who will watch "Eli Stone" have never encountered smallpox, polio, measles, diphtheria, meningitis or whooping cough. That's because these maladies have largely been brought under control, thanks to childhood immunizations.

Autism is a heartbreaking condition, and it is frustrating that so much about it remains a mystery. No one yet knows what causes it, but after years of study, we do know that it is not linked to thimerosal.

For this reason, linking childhood vaccination with autism in a fictional TV drama is irresponsible. If you view this episode, please do so with skepticism. And for your children's sake, please make sure they are up to date on their immunizations.

Katherine Bradley, Ph.D, is administrator of Family Health programs and Paul Cieslak, M.D., manages the acute and communicable disease prevention program in the Oregon Department of Human Services Public Health Division.