HealthPseudoscience

Let’s Get Jenny off the Block

Jenny McCarthy is at it yet again. McCarthy is what used to be called a starlet. Back in the days before we had Paris Hilton or Kardashians, we also had some semi-famous people. They would appear in a movie or two or maybe on television and then forever be the answer to a trivial question.

Today we call them celebrities.

McCarthy is famous for a handful of things. She’s posed naked for Playboy, co-hosted an MTV show and dated Jim Carrey. She probably had someone ghostwrite books on parenting for her.

Mostly she’s famous because she’s spent the last few years saying really, really, really stupid things about vaccines. McCarthy has repeatedly implied that vaccines caused her son’s autism. She’s in the news right now because a reputable news source stated that a) her son may not have had autism and b) as a result she’s changed her stance on vaccines. McCarthy is vigorously disputing these statements. She’s also still around implying that vaccines cause autism and a whole host of other problems.

I’m going to write it out outright: vaccines don’t cause autism. This idea that they do makes no sense at all. Vaccines are essentially nothing more than age old diseases that have been defanged and a handful of chemicals that have long been shown to be safe in the amounts used in vaccines. To take just one example, yes vaccines have formaldehyde. So does a pear. You, at this very moment, are making formaldehyde in your own body.

McCarthy argues that vaccines contain toxins and aren’t safe. She does this while promoting things like e-cigs. She has continued to cling to this false belief and continues to make speeches full of misinformation about vaccines to a wide audience of followers. She’s currently on the television show The View where she is seen by millions of people each week.

This needs to stop.

I’m normally not in favor of censorship. In most cases, I think it does more harm than good to refuse to hear someone. But once in a while I think we need to make an exception to this rule. The holocaust denier is not entitled to a place at the table when scholars are discussing just how many Jewish children were murdered by Hitler and his minions. The racist should not be allowed to argue on NBC that some people are inherently inferior because of their skin color.

The same is true here.

McCarthy’s beliefs are not a matter of dispute. Vaccines, like all other things we do in life, carry small risks. But for most of us those risks are far outweighed by the risks of the diseases they help prevent. To take just one example, before the introduction of the hib vaccine in the US in the late 1980’s, over 20,000 little kids got very sick from meningitis. Since the introduction of the vaccine, American cases of hib are incredibly rare. Thousands of American kids are alive each year solely because of the vaccine.

McCarthy is just wrong. Worse than wrong. She’s a public health menace. When major media outlets listen to her, they imply there’s validity to her views. They implicitly tell parents that there really are legitimate reasons to avoid vaccines for most kids. That’s morally reprehensible. It’s time to stop enabling Ms. McCarthy to endanger children’s lives. Jenny McCarthy and her lies deserve all the credibility we give flat earthers, birthers and truthers.

It’s time to treat her and her tinfoil hat with the same contempt we treat people who argue that 9-11 was an inside job or President Obama is a Kenyan Muslim.

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gadfly

gadfly

Gadfly lives and writes in the USA.

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