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Be thankful: No anti-vaccine propaganda at the movies this weekend

It’s Thanksgiving Day here in the U.S., and, despite the crappy economy, there are still things to be thankful for. For instance, skeptical activism can still be effective. On Sunday Skepchick Elyse put out the call to Skepchick readers to complain to movie theaters that were reportedly going to be airing a public service announcement from the anti-vaccine group SafeMinds? (Actually, “public service announcement” is a misnomer; it should be called a public disservice announcement.) The entire PSA was a truly disgusting and deceptive bit of misinformation. In response, Elyse urged Skepchic readers to flood the relevant theaters with complaints about showing an anti-vaccine advertisement prior to its movies.

Now here’s what we can be thankful for: It worked. At least with AMC Theaters. Last night the anti-vaccine propaganda blog Age of Autism, which had been teaming up with SafeMinds to raise money to show these ads during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend admitted as much.

At least for now:

SafeMinds was notified late yesterday afternoon that AMC Theaters has decided to block the SafeMinds Public Service Announcement (PSA) on influenza vaccines with mercury. The PSA alerts parents and pregnant women of the presence of mercury in most influenza vaccines and the ample availability of mercury-free alternatives. The CDC has declined to give a preference for the mercury-free versions, so it is important that the public is aware of its options. AMC’s advertising representative had reviewed and approved the PSA to run in AMC cinemas over the Thanksgiving weekend. A small group of vocal vaccine proponents dismissive of mercury concerns learned of the PSA and bombarded the AMC website, leading to the company’s decision to prevent its release. SafeMinds thanks its supporters who viewed the PSA and contributed to its efforts to educate the public to avoid unnecessary mercury exposure. Mercury in all forms is dangerous, especially to the developing fetus and infants, as referenced on the PSA website www.safemindsflu.org. SafeMinds will continue its mission to educate the public on this important healthcare topic.


Not surprisingly, the anti-vaccine movement is not happy. It’s trying to flood the AMC Theaters website with complaints. If you have time after your Turkey today, please, go to the following threads and thank AMC Theaters for doing the responsible thing:

As you can easily tell, the first link was a thread started by those of us pushing for AMC to reject the ads; the second from anti-vaxers.

So, as I leave the computer to help prepare for the Thanksgiving feast, I do so with a smile on my face that is wider than even the usual smile of anticipation of the food and comaraderie to come. I also do so with the knowledge that this is merely a skirmish in which the forces of science have been (mostly) victorious. The war goes on. Indeed, we will need to be even more vigilant. As commenter Benedetta put it on AoA:

These advertisments will have to be more sublte, sneaky, under the radar – like that advertisment on Television that I have seen a few times.

The one that says 1 out of 88 children of miltary familes have autism.

And I have no doubt that future attempts by the anti-vaccine movement will be more subtle, sneaky, and under the radar. I also have no doubt that, now that Elyse has scored serious points against SafeMinds and Age of Autism, the anti-vaccine movement will likely target her. It’s how they work.

Finally, I haven’t seen the new Harry Potter movie yet. I was out of town last weekend, and life’s been way too busy over the last few days to go to see it. In fact, my wife and I were thinking of going tomorrow sometime to check it out. I think we very well might be going to the nearest AMC Theater to see it. Yes, one way to show your appreciation to AMC for doing the right thing in this instance would be to choose AMC the next time you go to see a movie.

Posted in: Public Health, Science and the Media, Vaccines

Leave a Comment (9) ↓

9 thoughts on “Be thankful: No anti-vaccine propaganda at the movies this weekend

  1. Harriet Hall says:

    We can also be thankful that this year there is no depiction of evil doctors eating babies for Thanksgiving either.

  2. hat_eater says:

    I can’t access Skepchick site, I wonder if she might have been a target of ddos attack or is it just the additional publicity.
    Anyway – that’s great news, especially for the moviegoers :)

  3. Dr Benway says:

    I also have no doubt that, now that Elyse has scored serious points against SafeMinds and Age of Autism, the anti-vaccine movement will likely target her. It’s how they work.

    ^This is why we protest quackery.

    Keep it up, SafeMinds. Oh, and say hi to your pals at the Office of Special Affairs.

  4. David Gorski says:

    We can also be thankful that this year there is no depiction of evil doctors eating babies for Thanksgiving either.

    We’re not out of the woods yet. If I recall correctly, that infamous image was first posted to Age of Autism on the Monday or Tuesday after Thanksgiving. :-(

  5. Grimalkin says:

    I’ve been reading some of the comments on AMC’s facebook page and they are truly disheartening. It’s a whole lot of “our babies are being poisoned!” and “I personally know 5 people who’ve been injured by vaccines!” and “If you’d actually bothered to watch the PSA, you would know that it wasn’t anti-vaccine. It was just informing people that you have the right to request vaccines without mercury. Why are you against people being informed? What do you have to hide?”

    Ugh. But hoorah that AMC backed out of the proposal!

  6. lizditz says:

    You know what I’d like to know? How much removing a safe, effective preservative (thimerosal) from vaccines has increased the cost of the vaccines that used to contain them.

    I am not a physician or a student of medical care costs, but surely the single-dose injections are more expensive to manufacture and distribute than multi-dose vials.

    It would take a medical economist or similar to work out the numbers. I’m aware that there are a lot of confounders, but still…

  7. cloudskimmer says:

    It’s seriously annoying that thimerosal got such a bad rap. I used to be able to buy a large bottle of saline solution, sometimes for one dollar. It was great for cleaning contact lenses, and I occasionally used it directly as an eye rinse. Then the anti-thimerosal nuts took over and it was replaced with something else that made my eyes sting… ouch! Now saline in tiny bottles (artificial tears) costs over ten dollars for a tiny, 0.5 ounce bottle. The contact lens solutions are no longer just saline with a little preservative, but contain a variety of substances, so I hesitate to use them in my eyes; and I no longer wear contacts anyway, so don’t shop for that stuff, but it’s far more expensive. My mother, who suffers from dry eyes, uses those expensive artificial tears. Yes, I know that the artificial tears contain other things which make them better as an eye moisturizer, but I miss having a large, cheap, bottle of saline. I don’t know if this related to anti-vaxer activity, but thimerosal-containing saline did disappear around the same time, and the price for the replacement several times higher.

  8. Chris says:

    cloudskimmer:

    I don’t know if this related to anti-vaxer activity, but thimerosal-containing saline did disappear around the same time, and the price for the replacement several times higher.

    Actually the reason was that a significant percentage of the population are allergic to the thimerosal. I had to stop using those big bottles and use the more expensive stuff in the early 1980s when I wore contact lenses.

    I stopped wearing contact lenses because I have severe astigmatism and needed the weighted toric soft lenses. They were a pain to deal with, and to get clean. It may have been better if I had used disposable lenses.

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