I’ve heard a lot of people question why would parents/patients disregard their pediatrician’s advice (and credible scientific evidence), over a Playboy Bunny’s unscientific conclusion that vaccines cause autism.
The answer is simple, really. Jenny McCarthy is telling an emotional and tragic story that depicts a mother struggling against all odds to overcome the challenges of her son’s disease. The pediatrician, on the other hand, is just relaying boring scientific data and repetitive “facts.” It is like telling a teenager that smoking can give you cancer versus showing them a patient with emphysema.
Just like sex, a tragic, emotional story sells. Think about Oscar winning Hollywood movies… which one tend to do better? Most of the Best Picture winners are stories with characters that overcome extraordinary challenges like injustice, discrimination or a forbidden love. Hollywood directors and screenwriters know that a story without conflict or crisis will bore the audience.
Whether or not McCarthy’s story has any scientific evidence, to Oprah’s audience, it doesn’t matter. McCarthy’s story depicts a fundamental conflict between subjective expectations and cruel reality. Both of which are the elemental ingredients of a story that sells.
In my opinion the pediatric community has never been able to emotionally “sell” the importance of vaccines the same way McCarthy has been able to put a face on autism.
“Emily Lastinger was only 3½ years old when she came down with the flu. Her parents, Joe and Jen, tried in vain to keep her high fever under control, but Emily’s condition worsened, and several days later, she stopped breathing. Emily died of complications resulting from the flu, including pneumonia and empyema.”
“It’s tough to see your child in pain because of getting a shot, but it passes. To see him or her on a respirator, that’s really tough. But to have to plan a funeral for your child, that’s the worst thing in the world.”
These are just two very powerful and emotional comments from the book Vaccine-Preventable Disease – The Forgotten Story.
If you haven’t heard about this book published by Texas Children Hospital, I recommend you buy a few copies for your office. The book, which illustrates stories of families and patients affected by vaccine preventable diseases, is very powerful and emotional.
Our office received a courtesy copy of the book a few months ago and we found the book so compelling, that we ordered 50 copies to give to parents that are either refusing vaccinations or are on the fence about their children’s shots.
Dr. Vartabedian says it best “…when we publicly put a human face on the victims of vaccine-preventable disease we would begin to win the war against antivax propaganda.”