The highly charged debate over vaccines took an unusual turn late last month when a widely quoted anti-vaccine crusader, Barbara Loe Fisher, filed a lawsuit against Wired magazine and one of its writers, along withPaul Offit, an infectious disease specialist at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, over a recent story.
The November piece quotes, Offit, who is regularly villified by those questioning vaccines especially in connection with the debate over autism, as criticizing Fisher, who runs the National Vaccine Information Center, a self-described vaccine watchdog. Specifically, Offit says that Fisher "lies" (here is the lawsuit).
In her suit, Fisher complains the article wrongfully portrays Offit, who is credited as one of the developers of Merck's Rotateq vaccine, and "adheres to a bias in favor of the general safety of vaccines and a presumed medical necessity for mandatory vaccination and against informed consent. The article likewise lionizes Dr. Offit and ridicules those who oppose the view he espouses on mandatory vaccination."
The story, however, has won kudos from vaccine supporters for conveying the message that the Wired writer, Amy Wallace, correctly wrote that science supports the safety and effectiveness of vaccines and folks who argue against vaccination are undermining public health with emotionally laden and incorrect facts. Several blogging scientists, meanwhile, say the lawsuit is another attempt to intimidate anyone who challenge the anti-vaccine crowd. "They can't win on the science; so they try to suppress criticism through legal action," writes Orec on Respectful Insolence.