Last week the news broke that “The View” was considering hiring Jenny McCarthy, one-time MTV sex symbol and notorious anti-vaccine campaigner.
Just the thought of this addition to the daytime talk show’s cast was enough to spark petitions to ABC and angry tweets and blog posts from scientists, health researchers, sceptics and science bloggers.
Now that the appointment has been made official, McCarthy has a national platform from which to spew her anti-vaccine conspiracy theories. This will have real and negative impacts on our future health.
The chief concern swirls around our children, whose herd immunity against various infectious diseases will take a hit if vaccination rates continue to drop.
We’ve already seen decreases in vaccine coverage from faulty logic of the anti-vaxxers. And we’ve seen a resulting increase in preventable infectious diseases killing kids.
Sceptic, science blogger, and astronomer Phil Plait, has been watching the anti-vaccine movement for years, and is disappointed by the news. He writes over in his Bad Astronomy blog at Slate:
Why? McCarthy’s views constitute, in my opinion, a threat to public health. She is loudly against vaccines, claiming they cause autism, claiming they are loaded with toxins, and claiming her own son became autistic after a vaccination and that she subsequently cured him with a gluten-free diet.
To phrase it delicately, none of her claims has any medical merit at all. Vaccines have an incredibly small risk, compared to their extremely large benefit. Polio, measles, pertussis … these diseases and many more have infected, sickened, and killed far fewer people than they used to due to the development of vaccinations against them. Smallpox alone killed hundreds of millions of people, and it’s gone because of vaccines.
Vaccines have been tested exhaustively to see if they cause autism, and it’s become overwhelmingly clear: there is no good evidence that they do.
David M. Perry at The Atlantic noted how outspoken McCarthy has been in the past:
This is a mistake, as it would provide a platform for a dangerous voice. Over the last decade, McCarthy has become one of the most prominent voices against vaccinations. She declared, as a fact, that vaccinations had caused her son’s autism, and promoted this idea in venues aimed at mothers, such as on Oprah.
By giving a purveyor of faux science such a prominent platform, ABC could be contributing to serious health problems and the spread of some of the globe’s nastiest diseases, the suppression of which has been a public health success story for the ages. According to the World Health organisation and the United Nations Children’s Fund, 2.5 million deaths a year are prevented due to vaccinations against just four diseases: diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough) and measles. Small pox was eradicated due to vaccinations, and polio is no longer the threat it once was in the western world.
Even non-scientists are upset. Comedian Julie Klausner tweeted “Wow! Congratulations to Jenny McCarthy and Measles/Mumps/Rubella for spreading its reach!” and movie critic Scott Weinberg tweeted “Jenny McCarthy’s views on vaccination are only slightly less barbaric and repulsive than a movie she made called Dirty Love.”
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