Amanda Peet

The X Files: I Want to Believe star and mother of an 18-month-old speaks candidly about her daughter and the controversy surrounding vaccines. Her comments have sparked a fierce debate. Read Amanda Peet's response, see readers' letters, join our forum discussion, and read our interview with two physicians who have differing viewpoints on vaccinations. Plus, watch the behind-the-scenes interview of Peet from our August cover shoot.

By Jennifer Tung

amanda peet

On Peet Sailor dress in purple plaid, $388, Mer, Stuart & Wright, (718) 797-0011. Fused gold narrow cuff in 18-karat yellow gold, $1,300; and fossilized mammoth ivory bangle with 18-karat yellow gold studs, $600, Dean Harris, Mario's, (206) 223-1461. Diamond Star bangle in 14-karat rose gold, $1,980, Garland Collection.

On Frankie Mini-stripe tank, $28, Petit Bateau, Pomme, (716) 855-0623. Sailor jeans, $30, Baby Gap.

For a clear glimpse into Amanda Peet's psyche as a mom, ask her about Twilight Turtle. She learned about the $35 children's bedtime gadget—a furry creature whose shell lights up and projects stars onto the ceiling—in the pages of Parenting, Inc., Pamela Paul's recent best seller about the rampant commercialization surrounding modern parenthood. "I read about that turtle and totally had to have it," says Peet, who's always in search of bedroom loveys. "So I Googled it. Here I was reading about all the suckers, and I was a sucker! I was caught red-handed!"

The anecdote speaks volumes about Peet's approach to motherhood: her insatiable hunger for child-rearing information; her eagerness to envelop her 18-month-old daughter, Frances (a.k.a. Frankie), in comfort and security, especially when hotel-hopping for work with her in tow; and, yes, her unabashed love of shopping. "According to the book, I'm a narcissistic consumer," declares the actress, who this month appears on the big screen as an FBI agent alongside David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in The X Files: I Want to Believe. "I'm the target market for the onslaught of baby products: this sling, that sling, Baby Einstein, the idea that your baby will be smarter if she uses these learning toys at this milestone."

Peet's analytical urges are comical when she's talking about kids' gear, but not when she's discussing a subject she feels is among today's most pressing public-health issues: infant vaccinations. "As soon as I was pregnant, the neuroses kicked in," says Peet, 36, who is married to screenwriter David Benioff. She began calling her older sister's husband, a Philadelphia pediatrician, "every five minutes" with all kinds of questions, especially about shots. "I asked him, 'Why are all of these necessary? Why are some people staggering them?'?" Eventually her brother-in-law arranged a series of phone calls between Peet and his own mentor, Paul Offit, M.D., who is chief of infectious diseases at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, a co-inventor of the rotavirus vaccine, and a board member of Every Child by Two, a pro-vaccine organization cofounded in 1991 by former first lady Rosalynn Carter.

"Once we had spoken, I was shocked at the amount of misinformation floating around, particularly in Hollywood," says Peet, who quickly boned up on the hot-button controversies surrounding the topic, including the unproven link between certain vaccines and autism; the safety of preservatives like mercury-based thimerosal; and the fear that the relatively high number of shots kids receive today can overwhelm young immune systems. Her conclusion? Well, not only is Frankie up-to-date on her vaccines (with no staggering), but her mom will soon appear in public-service announcements for Every Child by Two. "I buy 99 percent organic food for Frankie, and I don't like to give her medicine or put sunscreen on her," says Peet. "But now that I've done my research, vaccines do not concern me." What does concern her is the growing number of unvaccinated children who are benefiting from the "shield" created by the inoculated—we are protected from viruses only if everyone, or most everyone, is immunized: "Frankly, I feel that parents who don't vaccinate their children are parasites."

Next Page: Balancing a Career and a Baby

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