Jenny's McCarthy's appointment to the chair vacated by Elisabeth Hasselbeck on The View has critics up in arms. The new post gives McCarthy the opportunity to share her opinions with three million viewers -- many of them mothers -- each day.
With two books and countless speaking engagements to support it, her opinion about parenting inevitably circles back to one idea: vaccinations cause autism.
No matter that this opinion has been thoroughly discredited:
• Andrew Wakefield, the former UK doctor who proposed a connection between vaccines and autism in an article he published in the medical journal The Lancet in 1998, was stripped of his medical license in 2010 when his claims were proven fraudulent. The paper itself has since been retracted.
• A 2011 review by the Institute of Medicine looked at more than 1,000 research articles and found no link because immunizations and autism.
• In 2013, the Journal of Pediatrics found no connection between vaccines and autism.
Yet McCarthy continues to promote her opinion to a growing audience. According to The Anti-Vaccine Body Count (originally called the Jenny McCarthy Body Count), since the idea of refusing vaccinations in order to prevent autism became popularized in the United States in 2007, more than 1,000 children have died and 100,000 were sickened by illnesses that could have been prevented by vaccines.
When my son was born in 1999, the debate was in full swing. But after talking at length to my pediatrician, my husband and I decided to vaccinate; we continued the practice, separating out the Measles/Mumps/Rubella vaccine into three different shots when vaccinating our two daughters.
Our reasoning went like this: If one of our children contracted an illness that could have been prevented by a vaccine, we had health insurance and access to good health care that could treat it.
But what if our child passed on the illness to another whose family didn't have coverage -- or who lived in another country where health care wasn't so effective? If the child got sick or -- god forbid -- died, we couldn't forgive ourselves. A child's death was a possibility we couldn't live with.
So, we decided to vaccinate, forming our opinion based on these facts:
• Vaccines prevent illness.
• According to the World Health Organization, 2.5 million deaths each year are prevented by vaccines.
• Because no vaccine is 100% effective, prevention relies on something called "herd immunity," which is the idea that if a majority of kids are vaccinated, an infection won't spread.
Unfortunately, herd immunity isn't available in every country: Vaccinations have virtually eradicated polio in the United States; in Africa, India and Asia, the virus is still alive. According to Jenny McCarthy, that's a good thing: "I do believe sadly it's going to take some diseases coming back to realize that we need to change and develop vaccines that are safe," she told Time magazine. If the vaccine companies are not listening to us, it's their f___ing fault that the diseases are coming back."
In the United States, the anti-vaccination trend could endanger all of our kids: Before vaccinations for the illnesses, whooping cough was a leading cause of death in babies and young children; now that families are choosing not to vaccinate, the disease is on the rise.
Could Jenny McCarthy's opinions on The View contribute to that problem? Possibly. "Any time she provides her opinion, it results in people listening," said Amy Pisani, executive director of the non-profit Every Child By Two, to the Los Angeles Times. "I feel that we don't have any more children to spare."
Correction: An earlier version of this post mistakenly described whooping cough as a virus. It is a bacteria.