Celebs Who Got Caught In Vaccine Controversies

According to Very Well Health, anti-vaccination movements have been around since vaccines were invented. With the first vaccine for smallpox in the late 18th century, later generations pushed back due to it being required by the Vaccination Acts of 1853 and 1867 that led to organizations such as the Anti-Vaccination League and the Anti-Compulsory Vaccination League who, much like today, blamed government overreach and the possibility of being exposed to toxins.

About a century after the original smallpox vaccine was released, Louis Pasteur created one to combat rabies. Since then, vaccines were introduced to fight DPT, polio, tetanus, MMR, and so on. Long story short, the opposition to vaccines is nothing new and as long as we have them there will be people who object to taking them for numerous reasons.

At the time of this writing, the current anti-vaxxer belief is that vaccinations can cause autism in children despite no evidence of that being the case. But with so much information and misinformation available with the invention of the Internet, it appears this debate will rage on until there's a vaccine for it. Here are a few celebrities who have taken issue with this particular scientific achievement and got caught in vaccine controversies.

Lisa Bonet claimed vaccines could 'introduce alien microorganisms into our children's blood'

Nowadays, Lisa Bonet, the former The Cosby Show and A Different World star, is probably best known for being the mother of Zoë Kravitz and the wife of Aquaman himself, Jason Momoa. However, back in 1990, she had a take on vaccines. During an appearance on the legendary daytime talk show The Donahue Show, Bonet claimed that vaccines could "[introduce] alien microorganisms into our children's blood."

"The long-term effects which could be trivial or they could be quite hazardous—and they could just be allergies or asthma or sleep disorders or they could be cancer, leukemia, multiple sclerosis, sudden infant death syndrome. It's very scary and it's very serious, and I think because I felt wrong doing it...that's why I didn't do it," she continued. "You know we have to think twice. You know why are our kids getting these diseases?"

It's unclear if Bonet has changed her stance since then, but in 2013, her ex-husband Lenny Kravitz partnered with UNICEF to call for global child vaccinations to help stop preventable deaths.

Billy Corgan refused to take the H1N1 vaccine

During the 2009 H1N1 (swine flu) pandemic, several celebrities contracted the disease, including Marilyn Manson, Anderson Cooper, Brian Littrell of the Backstreet Boys, and Harry Potter's Rupert Grint. That wasn't enough to stop Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan from questioning the vaccine.

In a post on his now-defunct blog, Corgan expressed his thoughts. Calling the media coverage around it part of the "propaganda machine," Corgan writes that he doesn't understand why then-President Obama claimed it was a national health emergency (via Pitchfork). "I say 'propaganda' because, in my heart, there is something mighty suspicious about declaring an emergency for something that has yet to show itself to be a grand pandemic," he wrote (via TwentyFourBit).

The rocker also stated that he refused to take the vaccine because, well, we'll let him tell you. "I do not trust those who make the vaccines, or the apperatus [sic] behind it all to push it on us thru fear," he explained. "This is not judgment; it is a personal decision based on research, intuition, conversations with my doctor and my 'family'. If the virus comes to take me Home, that is between me and the Lord."

Kevin Gates said his children are smarter because they weren't vaccinated

During a 2016 interview with Rolling Stone, rapper Kevin Gates discussed his decision not to vaccinate his children. "I don't believe in conspiracy theories," he said. "I'm just a cold-blooded investigator." Speaking about his then three-year-old daughter, Gates said, "To be honest with you, she different ... I've been around other three-year-old children. I know why she's so accelerated. She's never been vaccinated before. She's never had any vaccinations. So that's why she's so accelerated, she doesn't have mercury in her body or things of that nature." According to the CDC, vaccines haven't contained the mercury-containing compound thimerosal since 1999. 

Gates also claimed that children born in hospitals have more health issues later in life. "A lot of children that was born in a hospital experienced a lot of difficulty that they didn't have to experience," he said. At the time of this writing, we are unable to confirm if his views have changed.

Kristin Cavallari shared why she didn't vaccinate her first kid

When former Laguna Beach star Kristin Cavallari appeared on Fox Business in 2014, she revealed that she didn't vaccinate her first child. "I've read too many books about autism and the studies," she explained. When the host, Kennedy, pushed back on this claim, Cavallari replied, "the vaccinations have changed over the years, there's mercury and other..." Kennedy moved on to another subject.

During an appearance on Watch What Happens Live the same year, Cavallari doubled down on her decision not to vaccinate. "Here's the thing," she explained (via People). "At the end of the day, I'm just a mom, I'm trying to make the best decision for my kid." She continued, "There are very scary statistics out there regarding what is in vaccines and what they cause — asthma, allergies, ear infections, all kinds of things. We feel like we are making the best decision for our kids." She welcomed her second child later that year.

Robert De Niro: 'I want to know the truth'

Oscar-winning movie star Robert De Niro appeared on The Today Show in 2016 to discuss the Tribeca Film Festival, but the conversation quickly turned to the controversy surrounding the film VaxxedThe documentary was set to be screened at the festival but was pulled after public backlash.

De Niro insisted that everyone should see the film, but didn't protest to it being pulled because he didn't want to bring more bad publicity to the festival that he co-founded. However, he claimed "there's something to" the movie, then proceeded to give his reasons why. "There's a lot of information about things that are happening with the CDC, the pharmaceutical companies, there's a lot of things that are not said," De Niro added. "I, as a parent of a child who has autism, I'm concerned. And I want to know the truth. And I'm not anti-vaccine. I want safe vaccines." 

The Taxi Driver actor went on to say that, according to his wife, his son "changed overnight" after receiving vaccinations. "I don't remember. But my child is autistic, and every kid is different. But there's something there, there's something there that people aren't addressing," he continued. "And for me to get so upset here, today on the Today show, with you guys, means there's something there. That's all I wanted, for the movie to be seen. People can make their own judgment but they must see it. There are other films that document and show ... it's not such a simple thing."

Jessica Biel opposed a bill to limit medical exemptions for vaccines

When Jessica Biel and Justin Timberlake welcomed their son in 2015, a source told In Touch that Biel was "refusing to vaccinate him" because she felt vaccinations "could cause complications." The source added, "I'm sure Jessica believes that she's making the right decision, but hopefully she and Justin will do some more research on this."

Four years later, Biel joined noted anti-vaxxer Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to oppose the California bill (SB 276) that would make it harder for doctors to grant medical exemptions from vaccines. Speaking with The Daily Beast, Kennedy called Biel "a very effective advocate" and stated Biel was concerned that the "bill would overrule the doctors and force them to be vaccinated anyways."

Biel spoke for herself in a lengthy Instagram post to explain her issues with the bill. "This week I went to Sacramento to talk to legislators in California about a proposed bill. I am not against vaccinations — I support children getting vaccinations and I also support families having the right to make educated medical decisions for their children alongside their physicians," she wrote. "My dearest friends have a child with a medical condition that warrants an exemption from vaccinations, and should this bill pass, it would greatly affect their family's ability to care for their child in this state." A staffer who sat in on the meeting told Jezebel that Biel said her child didn't go by the regular vaccination schedule.

Letitia Wright deleted her social media after questioning the COVID-19 vaccine

Black Panther star Letitia Wright found herself facing social media backlash when she posted a video questioning the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine in early December 2020. According to Deadline, Wright posted a nearly 70-minute video by vaccine skeptic Tomi Arayomi who stated the he didn't trust the vaccine and everyone who gets the shot should "hope to God it doesn't make extra limbs grow."

She faced instant criticism from Twitter users, including her Marvel Cinematic Universe co-star Don Cheadle, who called the video "hot garbage." To which Wright replied, "If you don't conform to popular opinions. but ask questions and think for yourself....you get cancelled."

However, she quickly defended her decision to post the video. "My intention was not to hurt anyone, my ONLY intention of posting the video was it raised my concerns with what the vaccine contains and what we are putting in our bodies," she wrote. A day later, Wright deleted all of her social media accounts. Per Variety, none of her representatives were available for comment.

Jenny McCarthy: the face of the modern anti-vaxxer movement

Probably the most prominent celebrity anti-vaxxer in the modern era, Jenny McCarthy first began discussing the perceived dangers of vaccines after her son was diagnosed with autism in 2005. The former Playboy Playmate has since gone on to write three books about autism and has repeatedly claimed her son's autism was caused by vaccines. "The University of Google is where I got my degree from," she once told Oprah (via the book Suspicious Minds.)

The doctor who first published a report linking the MMR vaccine to autism, Andrew Wakefield, was discredited and found to be looking to profit off "diagnostic kits" for condition he labeled "autistic enterocolitis" (via The Washington Post). McCarthy then defended Wakefield in a now-deleted HuffPo essay (via Suspicious Minds), writing, "Since when is repeating the words of parents and recommending further investigation a crime? As I've learned, the answer is whenever someone questions the safety of any vaccines." She eventually became the president and the face of Generation Rescue, a non-profit organization "that links autism with immunization," per Time.

"The responsibility I feel being the head of Generation Rescue and the face and the activist for autism, I feel like I need to continue to educate moms on how to prevent autism, she told Frontline in 2010. "So my purpose, I feel, is just a constant educator to parents on how to heal and prevent autism." She added, "We're not an anti-vaccine movement. We're pro-safe-vaccine schedule."

Jim Carrey called mandatory vaccination laws 'fascist'

Comedy legend Jim Carrey has been on a crusade against vaccines for over a decade. In 2011, the Dumb & Dumber actor penned an op-ed for HuffPost (via Vice) in which he claimed people shouldn't "blindly trumpet the agenda of the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) or vaccine makers" while ignoring "the anecdotal evidence of millions of parents who've seen their totally normal kids regress into sickness and mental isolation after a trip to the pediatrician's office must be seriously considered."

He goes on to write that "environmental toxins" found in vaccines are the cause of many issues including autism and ADHD despite there being no scientific evidence to back those claims. "I've also heard it said that no evidence of a link between vaccines and autism has ever been found," he continued. "That statement is only true for the CDC, the AAP and the vaccine makers who've been ignoring mountains of scientific information and testimony. There's no evidence of the Lincoln Memorial if you look the other way and refuse to turn around." HuffPost removed the blog "in the interest of public health."

In 2015, California Governor Jerry Brown passed a law requiring all children be vaccinated before entering school. "California Gov says yes to poisoning more children with mercury and aluminum in manditory (sic) vaccines. This corporate fascist must be stopped," Carrey wrote in a now-deleted tweet (via Vice).

Rob Schneider says he's for 'freedom of choice'

Much like Jessica Biel, former Saturday Night Live star Rob Schneider was a staunch opponent of the California immunization bill, SB 276. But unlike Jessica Biel, Schneider took to Twitter to openly share his thoughts about the bill. Mostly in all caps.

"TO ALL CALIFORNIA STATE LEGISLATORS AND MEMBERS OF THE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE. We will be looking into ALL your FINANCIALS. We are vetting and will continue to vet all ANONYMOUS TIPS of LEG MALFEASANCE and will RELEASE TO THE PUBLIC once our legal team gives [okay emoji] #NoOnSB276," he wrote in a now-deleted tweet in 2019 (via The Daily Beast). He also tweeted directly at Democratic California state assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, who once co-authored a similar bill in 2005. "Dear @LorenaSGonzalez respectfully, either accept my offer to debate you on the merits of sb276 or refuse and kill this awful piece of Government OverReach and admit that the PEOPLE HAVE SPOKEN and want to KEEP MEDICAL DECISIONS MADE BY PARENTS NOT FACELESS BUREAUCRATS," he wrote.

During a 2017 interview on Larry King Now, Schneider explained that he wasn't anti-vaccine, he is "for freedom of choice." He added, "the parents have to be the ones to decide." He went on to claim that the media is "70 to 80%" funded by pharmaceutical companies. 

Kat Von D says her post about vaccinations was 'a mistake'

L.A. Ink made tattoo artist Kat Von D a star in the early 2000s, but in 2018 she found a new calling: being a mother. In a since-deleted Instagram post (via BuzzFeed), Von D proclaimed that she and her husband were welcoming the child with "the intention of raising a vegan child, without vaccinations".

"I already know what it's like to make life choices that are not the same as the majority," she wrote. "So your negative comments are not going influence my choices — actual research and educating myself will — which I am diligently doing."

However, during a 2020 interview with The Los Angeles Times, the makeup entrepreneur admitted she was misinformed. "When it comes to the vaccine issue," she said, "I was six months pregnant at the time, and I was still trying to figure out my birthing plan to have my son. And, at the time, I made a completely thoughtless post on my Instagram on whether or not I would vaccinate my son. And, because of it, people think I'm something that I'm not." She added, "But the truth is, I'm not an anti-vaxxer at all. I just made a mistake, and I was completely uninformed. It was stupid, and I really shouldn't have opened my big mouth on the subject."

Bill Maher claims we no longer need vaccines

You can always count on comedian and talk show host Bill Maher to say something controversial, and when it came to subject of vaccines during a 2015 interview with Playboy (via Salon), Maher didn't hold back. "I've never argued that vaccines don't work. I just don't think you need them," he said. He claimed that health issues that were once rare are now more common due to vaccines. "I'm glad vaccines exist, just like I'm glad antibiotics exist, but we've abused the hell out of them. Bugs that no antibiotic works on anymore? I worry about that a lot more."

Four years later, he invited vaccine skeptic Dr. Jay Gordon on Real Time with Bill Maher, and the two talked about, well, vaccines. "I'm just saying we don't know sh**," Maher said (via HuffPost). "We don't know a lot about how the body works. So how do vaccines fit in with, I don't know, all the new chemicals? There's thousands of new chemicals, pollutants, irritants."

Maher also said that it was "realistic" that vaccines could cause autism. "There's all these parents who say, 'I had a normal child, got the vaccine.' This story keeps coming up. It seems to be more realistic to me, if we're just going to be realistic about it," he said.