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Thursday, January 31, 2008

New Legal Series, Eli Stone, draws criticism regarding claims that vaccinations cause autism

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - ABC’s new legal drama “Eli Stone” premieres Thursday night, but the American Academy of Pediatrics wants the first episode pulled. That’s because the main character, a-lawyer-turned-reluctant prophet argues in court that a flu vaccine made a child autistic.

Even though the show is fictional, the American Academy of Pediatrics says it feeds into the myth that vaccines can cause autism. Some doctors are worried that parents might use the show as an excuse to not immunize their children.

When George Michael shows up singing in his living room, fictional character Eli Stone realizes his life will never be the same. He's a lawyer who starts to have prophecies and in his do-good new life, Eli Stone takes the case of a mother suing the manufacturer of the vaccine she believes caused her son's autism.
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It is this story-line that has real life doctors worried. “It's an entertainment show it's not a scientific study, it's not a documentary on scientific evidence. It's entertainment and should be taken as entertainment,” states Dr. George Delavan, Division Director of Communications and Family Services in the Utah Department of Health.

Thursday’s episode of “Eli Stone” has caused an explosion of chatter on the internet. Bloggers have written, “Anyone who gets their medical advice from a TV show has mental health issues that immunizations can't even begin to help.” And others demand on line that, “ABC should put a disclaimer at the end of every commercial break.”

The Utah Department of Health, which advocates Immunization by Two, says emphatically vaccines do not cause autism. “The best scientific evidence just does not support that causation that there is a link between vaccines and autism. The best research shows that it is not related. Now we know that a lot of people are still concerned about that and think maybe it is related and that's just something we have to work harder to get the message out,” says Dr. Delavan.

Dr. Delavan adds, “Immunizations are safe. The problems with not getting immunized and being then susceptible to some of those infections are very very serious.”

“Eli Stone premieres Thursday ABC 4 at 9:00. ABC Entertainment issued a statement Thursday that it will put a disclaimer at the top of the show which states, “Eli Stone is a fictional television show. The characters, products, companies and events depicted in the episode are all fictional. The storyline plays on topical issues for dramatic effect, but its purpose is to entertain.” At the show’s conclusion, ABC will link viewers with an autism website and phone number: www.CDC.gov/autism or 1-800-CDC-INFO.

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