I think we have enough to deal with in the vaccine controversy without giving Jenny McCarthy an even bigger microphone for her voice. Now she has been invited to be the newest host on ABC’s talk show “The View” with Barbara Walters, where she vows to make “hot topics even hotter”.
For someone who was once quoted saying, “Think of autism like a fart, and vaccines are the finger you pull to make it happen,” Jenny McCarthy is not the best public health advocate. She claims that her son got autism from a vaccine he received at birth, something that has been proven wrong time and again by the scientific community. McCarthy, the leader of the organization Generation Rescue, now claims that her son has been healed from years of gluten-free and dairy free dieting and detox (because the cure for autism is really that simple. And all the researchers working around the world on this topic must not be as smart as Jenny McCarthy…) I just worry for the viewers who are uninformed, the people watching this show catering to moms who actually get their medical knowledge from TV talk shows. A 2008 USATODAY/Gallup poll showed that 1 in 4 adults were familiar with McCarthy’s views on vaccines and that 40% of them questioned vaccines after hearing from McCarthy.
The vaccine saga started in 1998 when British scientist Andrew Wakefield published his study in the Lancet, linking the Measles Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine to autism. It was quickly debunked and the article was retracted for “research fraud, unethical treatment of children, and Wakefield’s conflict of interest through his involvement with a lawsuit against manufacturers of the MMR vaccine.” (BMJ) Wakefield was given plenty of opportunity to repeat his findings and experiments, but guess what? He couldn’t. In fact, his medical license has even been revoked for his deceitful research. And dozens of studies have come out since showing there is no link between vaccines and autism. But the damage has been done, and celebrities like Jenny McCarthy have spun the issue into a media frenzy.
As a future physician training at an institution where evidence-based medicine is key, I feel infuriated that all of our efforts can be so easily undermined by ill-informed celebrities. The media has such profound influence on health, for better or for worse. To all the couples out there with kids or expecting kids, please talk to your doctor. Not vaccinating is a selfish thing to do, and sets us back decades in public health advances. Trust me, you don’t need your medical advice from former Playboy models.