Michael Specter blasts ABC for choosing Jenny McCarthy as a new co-host for the TV show, “The View”:
McCarthy has spent much of the past ten years campaigning against vaccines—which, it must be said, are the most effective instruments of public health in human history, aside from clean water. That does not mean that vaccines carry no risk: nothing is entirely without risk, and there is a small but measurable possibility that any vaccine can cause a serious adverse reaction. Still, the benefits for society so powerfully outweigh the risks that suggesting otherwise is irresponsible at best. It spreads fear and incites the type of ignorance that makes people sick. That is exactly what McCarthy has been doing. By preaching her 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.
Executives at ABC should be ashamed of themselves for offering McCarthy a regular platform on which she can peddle denialism and fear to the parents of young children who may have legitimate questions about vaccine safety.
David M. Perry piles on:
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.
McCarthy later insisted that she had cured their son through a combination of diet and vitamins. She accuses the government of being afraid to confront “the truth” about vaccines. In the last year or so, although she now admits her son never had autism, she is still selling fear by talking about the schedule of vaccines as dangerous. She has put the full force of her celebrity to the task of convincing parents to leave their children vulnerable.
Perry’s views are personal:
McCarthy makes the most sense viewed not through her celebrity lens, but as a fairly typical parent of a child facing a diagnosis of special needs. My son also has special needs, in his case Down syndrome, and I can tell you that the moment of diagnosis is hard and the days and months that follow are even harder. As I oscillated between hope and fear and tried to come to an understanding of my new life, I too looked for something to blame. Those powerful words, “Down syndrome,” instantly transformed my life and the life of my family. I mourned for the loss of my idea of a “normal” son. Is it any wonder that McCarthy, having encountered the future laden with the word “autism,” believed the myth of the vaccine and the hope for a cure? Is it any wonder that so many other parents have seized on this fraudulent accusation and related false hopes? I empathize with McCarthy, but that doesn’t erase the real harm she has done.
Anti-vaccinators risk not only the lives of their own children, but also those of others who are too medically fragile to get vaccinated and must instead rely on “herd immunity.” Many medical conditions, especially those which compromise the immune system (which is fairly common in the world of Down syndrome), make vaccines medically inappropriate. Happily, in a population of vaccinated people, infectious but preventable diseases have trouble spreading even to the immunocompromised. But herd immunity breaks down when vaccinations are not administered to all who can medically receive them. At that point, people who chose to refuse vaccinations endanger those who had no choice.
Phil Plait also thinks hiring McCarthy for “The View” is a terrible idea:
The type of misinformation McCarthy is spreading is incredibly dangerous, and the mainstreaming of her is a tacit acceptance of it. She has the right to believe whatever she wants, but we have the right to condemn her for it and to let the media know about it. The kind of anti-vax propaganda she promotes has an impact, and sadly that impact can fall on infants who go unvaccinated because their parents have been misled. It’s up to us to raise our voices and make sure reality, science, and the health of humanity triumph over nonsense.