X-Files Actress on Vaccines: Ignore the Stars

Amanda Peet joins the fray in the public debate over childhood vaccination.

ByABC News
July 30, 2008, 4:28 PM

Aug. 15, 2008— -- Actress Amanda Peet is not the first celebrity to speak out on childhood vaccination. But her message is clearly different from that of many other stars on the subject.

And on Tuesday morning, she shared this advice with the public on ABC's "Good Morning America": the public might be better off to turn a deaf ear to celebrities when it comes to vaccines.

"It seems that the media is often giving celebrities and actors more authority on this issue than they are giving the experts," Peet said. "I know it's a paradox, but that's part of why I wanted to become a spokesperson, to say to people, 'Please don't listen to me. Don't listen to actors. Go to the experts.'"

Peet also apologized again during her appearance for comments she made in the July issue of the parenting magazine Cookie in which she stated, "Frankly, I feel that parents who don't vaccinate their children are parasites."

"I didn't mean to show disdain, and I did and do apologize for the use of the word 'parasites,'" she said. "But I do in no way, shape or form retract my position or the meaning behind the use of the word, which is that if there are vast reductions in herd immunity, our children will be at risk."

Peet has taken her message to the Internet, sharing her story on www.vaccinateyourbaby.org. And the actress, who stars in the new movie "X-Files: I Want to Believe," last month announced her support of the group Every Child By Two (ECBT). She is scheduled to be part of a panel on Aug. 5 to encourage parents to have their children receive all recommended vaccinations by the age of 2.

Peet says her interest in vaccines began with the birth of her daughter, Frankie, on Feb. 23, 2007.

"When Frankie was born, I started to learn about vaccine safety," she told ABCNews.com in an email message. "The more I learned, the more I realized how much misinformation there is about vaccines."

Amy Pisani, executive director of ECBT, says she hopes Peet's advocacy is "a 100 percent antidote" to the position of former Playboy model Jenny McCarthy's position that the current vaccine schedule places children at a higher risk of developing autism.

Pisani says that the issue is too important to be reduced to a showdown between celebrities.

"We don't want it to be a fight between Jenny McCarthy and Amanda Peet," she says. "This is between scientists and the public."

Still, the entrée of the latest celebrity voice into the vaccine debate has made waves online. In a message on ECBT's Web site, Peet says she made the decision to support the organization when she was pregnant.

"Many of our friends in Hollywood were choosing not to vaccinate their babies or to delay vaccines because they feared that they might cause autism or other disorders," she notes in her message. "We had never thought about not vaccinating, but when we went online to educate ourselves on vaccines, we found Web site after Web site warning us about their dangers. Naturally, we were very concerned about what we read."

Peet says her discussions with doctors at once allayed her fears and introduced her to the dangers of skipping vaccinations. It is this platform that she has pushed in recent weeks -- and some of her comments have been a source of ire for those who believe there is a link between childhood vaccinations and autism.

In particular, Peet's "parasite" comment has been a sore spot for many parents who believe in a vaccine-autism link.