Scottsdale's Dr. Jack Wolfson Thinks Kids Would Be Healthier If They Caught Measles; It Could Cost Him His License
CDC/Dr. Heinz F. Eichenwal
The black SUV had been parked outside Dr. Jack Wolfson's Scottsdale office for more than an hour. Inside, two people -- one a formidable-looking man -- sat staring into the window, watching the receptionist prep files and check in patients.
A few weeks earlier, Victoria Broussard might have brushed it off. But since her boss had gone on national television to denounce vaccines amid national hysteria about the resurgence of measles, the office had been inundated with hateful e‑mails and phone calls.
Some were just annoying: a man flushing the toilet and quickly hanging up, a woman raging on about the doctor's "idiotic" opinions, someone threatening to report him to the medical licensing board for malpractice. Others were terrifying: "I hope Dr. Wolfson's children die," "He doesn't deserve to live," "You better hope I never run into you on the street."
Broussard decided to call the doctor. "I was just kind of sketched out," she said later.
By the time Wolfson drove into his parking spot, police had arrived. As he stepped out of his sleek, black BMW, the officers told him that the occupants of the SUV were a crew from CNN. Before he could shut the door, the cameras were on him.
"Good morning, Doctor," said reporter Kyung Lah, who'd traveled from CNN's Los Angeles bureau. Her hair, hanging long and loose, swung across her back as she hustled over the asphalt. "Can we just talk about the investigation that's been opened by the Arizona Medical Board?"
Wolfson, 44, is tall with piercing eyes and a decisive jaw. From his close-cropped silver hair to his immaculately tailored suit, he exudes a no-nonsense air. His handshake is firm, his conversation straight to the point, his thick brows permanently furrowed. When he engaged Lah, his expression and voice remained flat, in control, but his eyes smoldered.
"I have no further comments," he said. He hefted his bag over his shoulder, turned his back to the camera, and strode off.
Lah hurried after him, microphone outstretched.
Wolfson's views, which contradict the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the vast majority of the medical community, catapulted him to infamy in February. But he is not the first -- nor the only -- physician to trash-talk immunizations. Wolfson, who bills himself as "The Paleo Cardiologist," is part of a growing sector of healthcare professionals who adhere to a more natural philosophy of medicine that champions disease prevention through diet, exercise, and herbal supplements rather than synthetic drugs and vaccines.
About 40 percent of Americans now use alternative and complementary medicine, the National Institutes of Health reported in February, earning the sector the nickname "hidden mainstream." Alternative healthcare providers say many parents are turning to them because they feel traditional medicine isn't taking their questions about vaccines seriously.
Although most of these physicians believe in vaccine science, they are far less likely to advocate shots. Only about 26 percent of naturopaths regularly recommend vaccinations, states a 2013 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. Osteopaths such as Wolfson are significantly less likely to vaccinate their own children than traditional physicians.
As more and more parents choose to forgo shots, once-eradicated diseases such as measles are making a comeback. Amid widespread hysteria, some are calling for doctors like Wolfson to be stripped of their credentials. Critics argue that such healthcare providers support the resurgence of heinous -- sometimes deadly -- diseases by openly condemning vaccines and, thereby, violating the oath they took as physicians to "do no harm."
Wolfson insists the opposite is true.
"My passion is to make the world a healthier place for our children and our children's children," he said. "I want people to hear the benefits and risks of vaccines. They need to hear the truth, and they need to hear it from their doctors."
Dr. Jack Wolfson in his Scottsdale office.
The measles virus slipped in through the first child's nose just before Christmas.
It quickly made its way to the victim's lungs, commandeering cells and converting them into microscopic virus factories until it built an army strong enough to take down the whole body. Fever followed, then pink eye, rash, and coughing. Expelled from the child, the virus hung in the air for hours, waiting to strike again.
By March, one case had become 140 and measles had swept from California's Disneyland to seven other states. It caught a ride to Arizona with a mother and three of her children who, for fear of side effects, hadn't been vaccinated.
Panic spread along with it.
Just seven people in Arizona contracted measles -- and all recovered -- but, at one point, after an infected child visited Phoenix Children's Hospital, 1,000 people were quarantined for three weeks. If a single cased popped up in schools, the Maricopa County Health Department threatened to kick unvaccinated children out. In California, health officials did just that, then proceeded to shutter a number of daycare centers. More than a dozen states, including Arizona, introduced bills that would make it more difficult to get an exemption from state-mandated shots. Others proposed legislation that would require people who work with children, such as preschool workers, to provide proof of vaccination.
Meanwhile, in January and February, the media published thousands of stories about the outbreak. Fox News and CNN together aired about 340. The Arizona Republic and its affiliate news station, 12 News, churned out more than 120.
"Measles is back. And more dangerous than you think," declared the Chicago Tribune.
"In 2013, Measles Killed More Kids than Car Accidents or AIDS," the Washington Post reported.
The conversation quickly turned to finger-pointing.
Calling vaccination a "medical no-brainer" and a "public health home run," a headline on Forbes magazine contributor Peter Lipson's story declared "Anti-Vaccine Doctors Should Lose Their Licenses."
Writing for Time Magazine, journalist Joe Mathews suggested the names and addresses of parents who won't vaccinate their children be made available online through a public registry.
"Shouldn't we know where they live?" he wrote.
Even late-night talk shows weighed in, with Jon Stewart comparing the situation to a zombie apocalypse and Jimmy Kimmel recruiting doctors to plead with the audience to "get your fucking kids vaccinated."
The public was alarmed, in part, because most parents -- and doctors -- never had seen a case of measles, said Jessica Rigler, chief of the bureau of epidemiology and disease control at the Arizona Department of Health Services. At one time, measles were so common that catching the virus was a rite of passage. Following an aggressive immunization campaign, the United States declared the disease eradicated in 2000.
On its own, measles is uncomfortable, Rigler said. But the real danger lies in complications, which can include deafness-inducing ear infections, pneumonia, permanent brain damage, and death. Worldwide, the disease, which killed 145,700 in 2013, remains one of the leading causes of death among children. Even before the introduction of a vaccine in the 1980s, however, the United States, with the help of improved nutrition and treatment, was able to whittle down the odds of dying from about 26 in 1,000 during the early 20th century to 1 in 1,000 in the 1960s.
"As a mother, I don't think the risk can be overblown," Rigler said. "I'm going to do whatever I can to protect my daughter from getting sick. Even if she has a cold, I want to take that away from her."
Wolfson, though, was unconcerned.
On camera, wearing his white doctor's coat, stethoscope hung round his neck, he calmly told 12 News in January: "We should be getting measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox. These are the rites of our children."
Heather Wolfson and their two boys, Brody (left) and Noah, at home in Scottsdale in February.
Jack Wolfson's office in Scottsdale has just a few rooms -- one for examining patients, one for paperwork, another for displaying shelves full of herbal supplements. The walls are decorated with family photos enlarged and printed onto canvases. He and his wife, pregnant with their second son at the time, are pictured reclining in a field of wildflowers. She's lifted her shirt to show off her swollen belly. The couple's firstborn gives it a kiss.
Wolfson and his wife, a chiropractor, developed many of the supplements themselves. Forty-five dollars can buy 30 servings of their exclusive "Cardio Green," a powder made from, among other things, wheat grass, alfalfa, cabbage, kale, dandelion, and cilantro, that promises to deliver "multiple servings of vegetables in every teaspoon." Another, called "Cardio SuperFood," claims to regulate blood pressure and boost the immune system using blue-green algae and chlorella. The products are certified USDA organic, but, the blue and green labels note, "statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration."
With a few hundred patients, Wolfson prides himself on personalizing the healthcare experience. On a first visit, he sets aside between 75 minutes and two hours to chat. Subsequent visits are 45 minutes.
"What kind of foods are you eating?" he asks. "How much are you sleeping? How many times a week are you going to the bathroom? Are you under physical stress? Emotional stress? Are you exercising? What kind of water do you drink? What do you use for laundry detergent? What do you use to brush your teeth? What kind of deodorant do you use? Where did you grow up? Were you breastfed? Have you ever lived near a power plant? Did your parents smoke? Has anybody you lived with smoked?"
After a physical examination, Wolfson often takes the patient to Whole Foods Market to give them a "tour" of all the exotic vegetables, seafood, nuts, and seeds that "they've been missing out on while standing in line at McDonald's." His goal is to get patients off medication and prevent disease using diet, exercise, and herbal supplements.
When he finishes showing a patient around, they clasp hands and kiss each other's cheeks, European-style. They laugh as they walk together to the front door.
"See you soon," Wolfson says, holding the door open.
"Looking forward to it," the patient answers.
Wolfson is a cardiologist (a board-certified cardiologist, he proudly and frequently points out), and his average patient is between 50 and 60 years old. In the seven years since his first child was born, however, he's also made a name for himself in the Valley by putting on regular seminars about the dangers of immunization.
Among other things in his two-and-a-half-hour presentation, Wolfson combs through the ingredients of the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine and lays out potential side effects, including fever, rash, and seizure. Then he dives into a series of highly controversial studies connecting the mercury-containing organic compound thimerosal with some neurological disorders, including autism. The MMR doesn't contain the compound and, after widespread protests, it was phased out of most other vaccines in 1999. Some vaccines, though, including the flu vaccine, still contain trace amounts.
A mountain of epidemiological research, the World Health Organization, the Food and Drug Administration, and the CDC all reject a connection between immunization and autism. "Vaccines are safe and effective," says Rigler, of the Arizona Department of Health Services, employing an oft-repeated mantra of the mainstream medical community.
But Wolfson, armed with a list of 97 studies, is skeptical. While vaccine supporters hurl accusations of "junk science" his way, Wolfson argues, like many in the anti-vaccine crowd, that the government, in league with Big Pharma, has manipulated data to convince Americans that they must get shots.
"At this time, the CDC recommends a person get 72 vaccines by the time they turn 18," Wolfson says. "That has never been tested for safety -- ever. Only time will tell what was associated with disease and what was not."
Wolfson argues that the best way to prevent disease is to ensure children are healthy by feeding them nutritious, organic food and avoiding exposure to chemicals. With strong immune systems, he said, children will fight their way through "benign" childhood illnesses, such as measles, and acquire natural immunity.
There's some scientific support for the idea that you can improve immune function through diet and lifestyle changes, says Matthew Baral, chair of the department of pediatric medicine at Tempe-based Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine. But while tweaking a child's diet might increase his or her odds of pulling through an infection unscathed, he adds, vaccinations are the most effective way to ensure nobody gets sick at all.
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One of the most tried-and-true methods is breastfeeding, he says, which has been shown to protect children from both childhood and adult diseases, including diarrhea, sudden infant death syndrome, heart disease, and degenerative neurological disorders. A 2008 study published in the peer-reviewed journal Acta Paediatrica also found that children who breastfed were moderately less likely to contract measles than those who did not.
Poor nutrition is the most common cause of immunodeficiency worldwide, and a child's natural ability to fight disease increases with a proper balance of vitamins and micronutrients, such as zinc, iron, and copper, according to research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. In particular, Baral says, at least seven out of 10 American children don't get enough vitamin D, which, according to recent research published in the Journal of Investigative Medicine, can impair their ability to fight off disease. Eating too much sugar also can hurt white blood cell activity for a short period of time, states research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. So it stands to reason, Baral says, that a person potentially could decrease risk of infection by cutting back. Baral, like Wolfson, suggests preservative-free whole foods.
"As we process food, it loses its nutrients, which are what help us fight infection, grow, and thrive," he says. "I think the further we get away from foods in their natural state, the sicker we are likely to become."
Dr. Tim Jacks with his his wife, Anna, and their two children, Maggie and Eli. Maggie has leukemia and cannot be vaccinated.
As the measles case count climbed in California, a group of about 50 parents and doctors met at a Scottsdale movie theater for a presentation much like Wolfson's. The crowd was white, upper-middle class, and educated -- exactly the type of people who, according to a 2013 study from the University of Arizona, most often choose not to vaccinate their children.
After the presenter had wrapped up, a woman in her mid-30s raised her hand. She recently had taken her 1-year-old son to the pediatrician to discuss his immunization schedule, she explained, wringing her fingers as she talked.
"I'm so pissed off after watching this," she said, her voice small and squeaky. "The doctor told me there was no more mercury in the shots."
In the row behind her, Dr. Cindy Schneider, founder of the Phoenix-based Center for Autism Research and Education, pursed her lips and shook her head emphatically. Schneider, an M.D., frequently is featured in videos circulated by prominent anti-vaccine blogs, such as Age of Autism and Safe Minds, arguing, "The burden of proof for safety should be far greater for interventions designed to prevent illness, rather than treat it."
Schneider told the young mother, "Your doctors are wrong. They're just wrong."
From the back corner of the room, someone called out: "If you want someone to give it to you straight, you need to ditch the pediatrician and find yourself a naturopath."
Next to him, Mary Hall mm-hmmed. Hall, a mother of two from Scottsdale, started taking her boys to a naturopathic doctor after her pediatrician kicked her out of the office for refusing to vaccinate.
The pediatrician gave her oldest, Owen, the first of three installments of the hepatitis B vaccine when he was 10 days old. Within an hour and a half, Hall said, the baby started screaming. For months, he would cry for seven to 12 hours at a time. She bounced him, she fed him, she changed him. "I tried everything," she said. "I couldn't get him to stop crying." In her gut, she was convinced that it was the vaccine.
"It's definitely not the vaccine," her pediatrician assured her. He gave her until Owen's four-month appointment to get up to date on his immunizations. When she didn't agree, he told her to get out.
About 10 percent of mainstream Arizona pediatricians have a similar policy, according to the University of Arizona.
Research shows doctors are a pivotal factor in parental decision-making. In mainstream medicine, parents who have doubts about immunization are more likely to give their children shots after consulting with a physician. However, among parents who rely on alternative healthcare, the opposite is true.
Not all alternative medical-care providers oppose vaccines. Arizona's most famous naturopath, Andrew Weil, who has been featured on Oprah, Larry King Live, Today, and the cover of Time for his work bringing alternative techniques into the mainstream, wholeheartedly endorses them. Baral, of Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine, stands somewhere in the middle.
Alternative doctors do, however, tend to talk about vaccines in more flexible terms and be more supportive of parental choice. The American Chiropractic Association's policy on vaccination, for example, doesn't specifically embrace or reject immunization but instead "acknowledges that the use of vaccines is not without risk" and "supports each individual's right to freedom of choice."
Baral, who says he believes vaccines are "generally safe and effective," says, "A lot of my patients find their way to natural medicine because they feel like traditional physicians have been dismissive. When they come to see me, they are hoping to have an open, objective conversation."
William Nelson, a fast-talking naturopath based in Tempe, defines his stance on vaccines as "truth in science." It's clear, however, that he really means he's not a fan. He isn't shy about insulting the CDC. When it comes to his patients, however, he says, "I don't make recommendations one way or another; I don't want to have that responsibility. There are reasons to vaccinate, and there are reasons not to. I think it's a personal decision."
Hall's naturopath encouraged her to immunize Owen, now 7, and, her younger son Evan, 1. But, this time, when she refused, she said, "I felt heard."
"It's not cut-and-dried," she says. "You want to look at science and you want to do what everyone else is doing, but, as a parent, you also have to trust your intuition sometimes. I know that something happened to my baby. Why would I knowingly risk further injury?"
As Owen grew, he developed behavioral problems, including hyperactivity. He also failed to give up his primitive reflexes -- automatic movements such as rooting in search of a bottle or grasping when the palm is touched -- that most children shed at 6 months of age.
Hall's naturopath tested him for food sensitivities. Once they purged Owen's diet of gluten, beef, eggs, and dairy, he started to calm down.
"He's a different kid," she said. "He's better able to focus. He can sit still in a classroom."
Eli Jacks receives immunoglobulin injections after he was exposed to measles at Phoenix Children's Hospital.
Courtesy of Tim Jacks
Four days after measles arrived at Phoenix Children's Hospital in late January, Dr. Tim Jacks got a phone call. His daughter, Maggie, had been exposed while waiting for a blood test. She was one of 195 children at risk.
Maggie had been in and out of hospitals since August, when she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (blood cancer). The 3-year-old, whose sunny face matches the wispy red hair she lost to treatment, had just finished her latest round of chemotherapy and was scheduled for a three-week break from nurses and needles to play in the snow in Flagstaff.
A soft-spoken man with an easy smile, Jacks works as a pediatrician in Gilbert. It broke his heart to take Maggie back to the hospital, but the chemotherapy had killed most of her white blood cells so she couldn't protect herself. She needed three injections of immunoglobulin, an antibody-rich substance made from human blood plasma, to help her body fight potential disease.
"We're going to see Nurse Kate," he told her, and the little girl crawled into the car, chattering about Disney stickers and the Radio Flyer wagon she sometimes got to ride around the hospital. He cradled his daughter in his arms while two nurses held down one leg each. On the count of three, they plunged the needles into her flesh. She screamed.
For the next three weeks, she and her 10-month-old brother, Eli, also exposed but too young to be immunized, were quarantined while her parents watched to see whether they developed symptoms.
Vaccines operate on a theory called "herd immunity." If enough people are immunized, those who cannot get a shot -- either because they are too young or too ill, like Maggie and Eli -- can hide among the crowd. As the number of people who are protected rises, the probability that an unprotected person is exposed to an infectious one falls.
Measles is one of the world's most contagious viruses. On average, one person with measles infects 18 others, the CDC states. By comparison, someone with the Ebola virus infects an average of two people. This means, for a community to achieve herd immunity for measles, between 92 percent and 94 percent must get shots.
From a public-health perspective, it's best if everyone except those with medical issues is vaccinated, said Rigler of the Arizona Department of Public Services. However, people can opt out for religious reasons in 48 states. Seventeen states, including Arizona, also offer an exemption for philosophical, conscientious, or personal belief.
Because of this loophole, the percentage of unimmunized kindergartners in Arizona almost has tripled over the past 10 years, jumping to nearly 5 percent in 2014 from just 1.4 percent in 2004. Overall, during the 2013-14 school year, 93.9 percent of kindergartners were immunized against measles. However, the coverage isn't evenly distributed so many children still are vulnerable. Nearly a quarter of Arizona schools have measles immunization rates below the threshold necessary to achieve herd immunity. At some schools, more than 50 percent of students have opted out of the shot for philosophical reasons.
It makes Tim Jacks furious.
At his practice, he recommends that parents follow the CDC vaccination schedule nearly every time, barring allergies. In four years on the job, he says, he has yet to encounter a serious side effect.
"Of course, good nutrition is important, breastfeeding is important," he says, "but vaccines are hands down the best way to prevent illness."
To vent, while his children were quarantined, he went to the computer and pounded out an angry blog post.
"Unvaccinating parent, thanks for screwing up our three-week 'vacation' from chemotherapy," he wrote. "Thanks for exposing 195 children to an illness considered 'eliminated' from the U.S. Your poor choices don't just affect your child. They affect my family and many more like us."
Most of his blog posts get about 100 hits. This one attracted more than 7,000 in two days. Then, Mother Jones magazine picked it up. From there, it was shared 353,000 times on Facebook and 6,149 times on Twitter. Two weeks later, he was asked to testify before Congress.
At one point in his career, Wolfson would have agreed with Tim Jacks.
He started his career in mainstream medicine. After earning his D.O. from the Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine, he did a three-year internal medicine residency and a three-year cardiology fellowship at Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Illinois. In Arizona, he chaired the department of medicine at Paradise Valley Hospital. Daily, he prescribed pills, implanted pacemakers, and conducted heart catheterizations. He believed the government should put cholesterol-lowering drugs into the water supply. He certainly never had questioned vaccines.
Wolfson converted to natural medicine in 2004 after he met his wife.
Heather Wolfson is birdlike, with pretty, pointed features, long mahogany hair, and incandescent blue-green eyes. She's never been vaccinated. When she or her siblings got ill growing up, her father, also a chiropractor, would adjust them. She gave up gluten during college and took up paleo eating, a diet based on the food that prehistoric humans are thought to have eaten -- lean meat, nuts, and berries.
When Wolfson picked her up for their first date, he had a liter of diet Mountain Dew in the cupholder of his car. He rarely was without a can in those days; Mountain Dew and Krispy Kreme doughnuts were his go-to snacks. As soon as they had disclosed their favorite movies (Rocky for both), they started talking about their philosophies on health.
He persuaded her to try her first Krispy Kreme doughnut.
She promptly got ill.
She told him he should stop eating pizza. "It leads to 'leaky gut syndrome,'" she said, a somewhat ambiguous ailment marked by bloating, gas, and cramps caused by an overly porous intestinal membrane.
He did some research, decided she was right, and gave up pizza.
A few weeks later, Wolfson dragged his girlfriend to the refrigerator and proudly threw open the door. The Mountain Dew was gone. In its place, he had stocked Hansen's Natural Soda, a drink made with cane sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup.
As he recalls the story from his couch in their expansive Scottsdale home, Jack Wolfson, chuckling softly at how much he has changed, notes that he wouldn't recommend drinking even Hansen's now. He draws parallels between what he calls his "medical enlightenment" and changing one's religion. Indeed, the couple's approach to healthcare is all-consuming, affecting nearly every aspect of the their lives, from what dishes they use (exclusively glass) to how they sleep (a family of four in the same bed) to what time they go to bed (7:30 p.m.).
"I was brainwashed for a long time," he says. "I thought a doctor's job was to prescribe drugs and conduct surgery. But I was just using a Band-Aid approach. What I needed to do was find and treat the cause of the disease."
While her husband talks, Heather Wolfson scoops up their 2 1/2-year-old son, Brody, unbuttons her silk blouse, and offers the boy her breast. Shirtless in red sweatpants, he kicks the couch cushion while suckling, pausing occasionally to look up at his mother and share important thoughts about Captain America.
When his 7-year-old brother, Noah, arrives home from school, Brody wriggles out of Heather's arms and runs to greet him.
"Mom, can I have a snack?" Noah, a dark-haired 7-year-old, hollers from the kitchen. His brother, ready to play, already had fetched the two of them matching Captain America shields and was running around making swooshing noises as he slashed his imaginary sword through the air.
Heather serves Noah dried beet chips and yogurt made from coconut milk. Later, for dinner, the family eats beef broth made from boiled bones, roasted broccolini, and a mix of romaine lettuces, frisee, sunflower sprouts, and sliced cucumber drizzled with olive oil.
"Yes, there are horror stories, but in the vast majority of cases, if you have a healthy child, they are going to roll right past these diseases, and they are going to come out of it stronger and truly immune," Jack Wolfson says. "That's why we have immune systems -- to protect us from disease."
If her children were to be exposed to the measles virus, Heather is certain everything would turn out fine -- maybe even for the better.
"I wish I'd had the measles," she says, widening her eyes for emphasis. "I really do."
Dr. Jack Wolfson kept busy working the media circuit until the first week in February. After appearing on 12 News, he was featured in USA Today and the Washington Post. CNN put together a feature that set him opposite the Tim Jacks family.
If you ask Wolfson, the news coverage was "unfair" and "taken out of context."
"I feel like the devil was in my house that night," he says, describing the evening he spent with correspondent Elizabeth Cohen.
He says Cohen asked him over and over: "Could you live with yourself if your child got another child, like Maggie, sick?"
Tense and tired, Wolfson snapped, "I could live with myself easily. I'm not going to put my child at risk to save another child."
The quote was republished more than 7,000 times by journalists and bloggers, who called him, among other unsavory names, a "fanatic," the "world's biggest anti-vaxxer asshole," and the "dumbest man on Earth."
After that, he suspended doing interviews.
His clinic was overrun with e-mails and phone calls -- both complimentary and (as stated) insulting.
In just a few days, the clinic's Facebook page collected thousands of "likes," surpassing 23,000. His appointment book filled up with new patients from all over the country. At the same time, Broussard, Wolfson's receptionist, listened respectfully to more vitriolic phone calls than she could count.
"Thank you," Broussard would say when they'd finished cursing. "Have a nice day."
One of the loudest voices demanding Wolfson and doctors like him be stripped of their licenses was Arthur Caplan, head of medical ethics at New York University's Langone Medical Center, who penned widely distributed editorials for the Washington Post and Forbes. Arizona law lists 49 things considered "unprofessional conduct" for a doctor of osteopathy. Number six is "engaging in the practice of medicine in a manner that harms or may harm a patient or that the board determines falls below the community standard."
Doctors who condemn vaccines "deserve a place of honor next to climate-change skeptics, anti-fluoridation kooks, and Holocaust deniers," Caplan said. "They doubt the facts, ignore established evidence, and concoct their own pet theories."
But most disturbing, he said, "They're violating the Hippocratic Oath by spreading junk science." Prioritizing parental choice over public good is "selfish" and "harms children," he said.
"I think the notion that you can somehow protect yourself from a virus using lifestyle changes is ludicrous," he said. "If you eat healthy and exercise, you are going to be stronger, but infectious diseases don't care. Maybe it won't kill you, but you can give it to somebody else, and you may kill them."
Part of the problem, Caplan said, is a lack of oversight in alternative medicine.
"The way I see it, adults can go wherever they want for their healthcare," he said. "But, when it comes to children and public health, we need to draw a line in the sand."
It wasn't long before Wolfson got a letter from the Arizona Board of Osteopathic Examiners. Complaints had been filed. An investigation is ongoing.
He read the letter while munching on his customary sunflower sprout salad, then nonchalantly set it in a pile to take home to his wife. By that point, he recalled later, "Nothing could surprise me."
He maintained that cool as he and his wife drafted a letter to the board pleading their case -- and as he dialed the cops to report that suspicious black SUV parked outside his office. And when CNN's Kyung Lah shoved her microphone in his face.
"Are you changing your opinion about vaccines, sir?" Lah demanded, chasing him across the parking lot.
The answer that he didn't give?
"It really was a stupid question."