Dear Mr. Carrey,
I read your recent twirade about California’s new law removing personal exemptions for vaccines for school children. I would like to address your misperceptions about toxins as incorrect information leads to false conclusions.

Vaccines do not contain toxins. You mention your need to have “toxins” removed in several tweets so I can only assume you believe this fallacy to be true and that this fear is a source of great worry. Fortunately, you can put concerns about toxins to rest! This is because a toxin is a substance elaborated by an organism, like bacteria. Botulinum toxin (Botox). for example, is a toxin made by the bacteria Clostridium botulinum. E. Coli can make a toxin that can cause severe food poisoning and a catastrophic sequence of events that can cause death. Clostridium difficile makes a toxin that can cause a terrible and potentially deadly diarrhea (this is typically a hospital acquired infection).

Vaccines against tetanus and diphtheria contain toxoids, which are deactivated toxins. This isn’t because they are part of secret mass assault on the brains of children or a clandestine attempt to sterilize women in Africa, but rather tetanus and diphtheria cause illness and death by toxin so the vaccine needs to protect against the toxin not the bacteria.  Since you are in the movies I suggest you watch Balto so you can get an idea of how bad diphtheria can be. The scene with the child-sized coffins always gets my kids. My son Oliver always asks, “I’m vaccinated against that, right?”

Considering their remarkable ability to save lives and prevent devastating illness, vaccines actually have a relatively short list in ingredients. They have the following:

  • A dead or deactivated bit of the targeted bacteria, virus, or toxin. The immune system needs to see this to make antibodies. We call this the antigen.
  • An adjuvant, which helps stimulate the immune system to make antibodies. There is aluminum everywhere, even the food we eat, because it is in the soil (this is why vegetables have more than meat). In the United States adjuvants are usually aluminum or monophosphoryl lipid A. Aluminum has been used since the 1930s, which is plenty of time to accumulate a wealth of safety data. Not all vaccines contain adjuvants. Aluminum is present in U.S. childhood vaccines for hepatitis A, hepatitis B, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTaP, Tdap) Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), human papillomavirus (HPV) .and pneumococcus infection.
  • Stabilizers, like sugar and gelatin (you probably consume one or the other on a regular basis).
  • Residual egg or other cell proteins. This is what the antigen was grown in so a bit can be left behind.
  • Preservatives, now only in multi-dose flu vials. This is to prevent bacterial contamination each time a needle is inserted to withdraw a dose. It used to be the preservative thimerosal that many feared because of the falsified paper written by Andrew Wakefield (who by the way hoped to profit off of his vaccine scare). Removing thimerosal from every vaccine that contained it (it was never in the MMR) has not affected the rate of autism.
  • Residual inactivating material (what was used to kill or weaken the virus/bacteria/toxin). These substances sound scary, but the are present in trace amounts if detectable at all. Doses matter. A child can die from eating a prepackaged pod of laundry detergent, but the trace amounts left on the clothes they will wear are harmless.

Adjuvants and inactivating material can be aluminum or formaldehyde or other substances that sound scary, but if you told me I was going to be flung through the air at 800 miles an hour at 33,000 feet in a pressurized tube I’d think that sounded dangerous and crazy. However, an airplane with an extensive safety history doesn’t sound too bad at all, does it? Facts and presentation matter. When talking about things we ingest or inject dose also matters. The amount of aluminum in our food or a vaccine or breast milk is safe. The negligible amounts of formaldehyde in vaccines is safe. I would worry about the formaldehyde in the hair straightening products that seem so popular in Los Angeles or the chemicals in nail products.

The CDC isn’t corrupt. I’ve met many people who work there and they are highly dedicated to public health and science. How many have you met? These dedicated men and women would all likely make more money working for Pharma, but they stay in public health because they care about what they do. I for one am glad they do. It’s offensive to besmirch people with innuendo and false accusations. The thing is information about who has ties to whom isn’t very hard to find. Look up the scientists who study vaccine safety on ProPublica for gifts of industry money and read their articles which all contain conflicts of interest disclosures. If you read the articles it might also help you understand how well-studied vaccines actually are and how much of the safety data comes from non pharmaceutical industry sources. Ad hominem attacks mean your argument is weak.

Your words are seen by many and when you vomit misinformation on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram it reaches hundreds of thousands. You stoke those with radical beliefs reinforcing false beliefs, but worse someone who is a little bit scared because of the amount of fear mongering on social media and false balance in the press might just get a little more afraid. Maybe it will be their kid who gets tetanus or whooping-cough or their aunt getting chemotherapy for cancer who catches measles. The people at the CDC fret about those consequences, do you?

Anyone who told you that vaccines contain toxins is wrong. Perhaps you should ask yourself what else they are wrong about?

I will leave you with this one thought. If you are this concerned about toxins why don’t you use your celebrity to champion causes that really do involve toxins, like food safety or hospital acquired infections? People get very sick and die from these toxins regularly and these causes could sure use a signal boost.


Jennifer Gunter MD, FRCS(C), FACOG, DABPM, ABPMR (pain subspecialty)


P.S. I take no money from Pharma



Join the Conversation


  1. Great piece, well done.

    One small quibble… Struck-off doctor “Andy” Wakefield’s discredited and discreditable article did raise concerns about vaccination. But not about thimerosal. (I’m an English doctor, and here we call it thiomersal, so please excuse me if I use this version). Thiomersal is a preservative, designed to kill bacteria and viruses; and MMR vaccine is a live virus vaccine, so putting thiomersal in it would inactivate the vaccine. So there was not, and never has been, thiomersal in MMR.

    It is true that at about the same time the USA (but not so much the rest of the world) got very concerned about thiomersal, wrongly concluding that because some forms of mercury are poisonous, the harmless form of mercury (and the tiny doses of it) in thiomersal were dangerous. And recent changes in diagnostic criteria meant that a lot more children – who would previously have been given other diagnoses – were being given the diagnostic label “autism” or “autism spectrum disorder” – creating the illusion of an increase in the number of cases of autism.

    A huge amount of research was stimulated by these concerns, conclusively proving that vaccination (including with MMR, or with thiomersal containing vaccines) does NOT cause autism.

  2. Thanks for this enlightening article. I’ll go spread the word with my big Hollywood platform and promise to stay away from crap posing as science for once and for all.
    – Jim
    ( I just think you deserve that response, but could wait a lifetime)

  3. Doctor Gunter,

    Thank you for the information-packed primer. It will fall on deaf ears of people like Jim Carrey but it has been a nice refresher for me and will assist me as a Family Physician when I have discussions with vaccine-hesitant patients and parents.

    Thank you for being a physician who takes the time to blog!

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