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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

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