ABC News made headlines this week when they announced that anti-vaccine advocate Jenny McCarthy is joining the popular daytime show the View as a host in September. McCarthy has been linked to the anti-vaccine movement for over ten years, claiming a vaccine caused her son’s autism.
McCarthy has been so outspoken on the topic that a website tracking the number of illnesses and deaths caused by the anti-vaccine movement has the domain name www.jennymccarthybodycount.com. With 1,170 preventable deaths between June 3, 2007 and June 22, 2013 and over 118,000 preventable illnesses, vaccine advocates are concerned about McCarthy’s new platform to spread her views.
The View caters to mothers and the credibility of host Barbara Walters and others influences the decisions many people make. Over twenty studies have proven that there is no link between vaccines and autism. On the contrary, vaccines are the most effective instruments of public health. However, talented speakers like McCarthy can spread their scientific illiteracy through media quickly; McCarthy already has a book and will now regularly have television as another venue.
Michael Specter of The New Yorker states, “It is understandable that people would suspect vaccines are a cause of autism; parents often first notice developmental problems when their children are about eighteen months old, the same time they often receive several vaccinations. Causation and correlation are often confused, however as many studies have demonstrated. (Assuming that events that happen at the same time are connected can lead to serious misconceptions: over the last decade, for example the rise in the sales of organic food in the United States has mirrored the growth in autism rates almost exactly. No sane person would suggest that those facts are related.)”
“By preaching her (McCarthy’s) message of scientific illiteracy from one end of this country to the other, she has helped make it possible for people to turn away from rational thought. And that is deadly,” Specter concludes.
The anti-vaccine movement has been blamed for recent outbreaks of measles and whooping cough. Communities across the world are working to increase education and vaccination rates. Wendy Sue Swanson is a pediatrician in Seattle and believes it will take decades to recover from the anti-vaccine movement. “In the medical community, we’ll work to undo myths around vaccine safety for the rest of our lives, in part because of Ms. McCarthy,” she states.
Vaccine Watch encourages parents to make their decisions about vaccines with the help of pediatricians and sound science, not Hollywood.