A growing number of Americans believe vaccines are unnecessary or even dangerous — and celebrity Scientologists are at least partially to blame.
A recent survey found that about 87 percent of pediatricians had encountered vaccine refusals, up from 75 percent in 2006, and three-fourths of those parents said they believed vaccinations were unnecessary for diseases eradicated through widespread immunization.
Another survey found that one in 10 Americans — especially those under 30 — actually believed vaccines were unsafe.
Celebrity skeptics are a lot like others who distrust vaccines — they tend to seek out natural products and organic food and practice attachment parenting and alternative medicine.
Their celebrity lends them credibility to their fans, who follow their advice on diet, exercise and parenting.
But many celebrity skeptics share something else in common with one another: Scientology.
The Hollywood Reporter found a noteworthy number of the highest-profile vaccine skeptics are Scientologists — including Danny Masterson, Juliette Lewis, Jenna Elfman and Kirstie Alley.
Another prominent vaccine skeptic, Jenny McCarthy, is rumored to be involved in Scientology, which she began exploring while dating Jim Carrey — another skeptic.
The Church of Scientology takes no official position on immunization, and practitioners do take prescribed medication and seek medical advice from doctors.
But the organization promotes a controversial “purification rundown” cleansing program, which Scientologists use to treat drug abuse and toxic exposure.
Some former Scientologists say could seed mistrust in vaccinations, because vaccines could also be seen as “potentially hurtful,” said ex-Scientologist Claire Headley.
The organization also hosted an anti-vaxx event at one of its Los Angeles community centers featuring Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who believes in a link between vaccines and autism, and biochemist Brian Hooker, another immunization skeptic.
But mostly, another former member said, Scientologists take pride in holding views that are outside the mainstream.
“Smugness is an understatement,” said ex-Scientologist Spanky Taylor. “It’s an arrogance.”