Celebrities who speak out against vaccines get a lot of attention, even though they are not scientists, nor doctors, nor public health professionals. In the wake of recent measles outbreaks, that attention has turned negative as the dangers of vaccine-preventable diseases become more apparent. Now, at least one celebrity may have decided that all publicity isn’t good publicity after all. In a recent opinion piece in the Chicago Sun-Times, Jenny McCarthy, the most active and influential celebrity anti-vaxxer of them all, seems to be trying to deny her past comments against vaccines. Jenny asks, “What happened to critical thinking?” but when you take a critical look at Jenny McCarthy’s current claims about vaccines, they still don’t make any sense.
Like many parents of children with autism, former Playboy model and current co-host of The View, Jenny McCarthy was devastated by her son Evan’s autism diagnosis in 2005. That’s easy to understand—we know she wanted something, anything to blame for her son’s diagnosis. What we don’t understand is why she chose to blame vaccines despite all of the overwhelming scientific evidence showing there is no connection and never has been a connection between vaccines and autism.
That said, we have a couple of ideas about why she may be changing her tune: the attention she has received for her anti-vaccine statements may have helped her career in the past, keeping her in the headlines, but now, it’s hurting it. Jenny McCarthy’s ill-informed crusade against vaccines helped her career make a comeback, but this crusade may have also contributed to lower vaccination rates. Now that dangerous diseases like measles and whooping cough are making a comeback of their own, people are, with good reason, blaming her. That Jenny McCarthy would act like she was never anti-vax isn’t quite out of character—she used to be a comedic actress. But this act is getting old, and it isn’t very funny.
Jenny McCarthy’s still not telling the truth about her anti-vaccine statements. “For years, I have wrongly been branded as ‘anti-vaccine,’” she complains in her opinion piece. And, in a recent interview with Good Morning America, McCarthy states: “I think people should read exactly what I have said instead of reading headlines, and that’s why I wanted to write that piece. Everything that I have said and everything that I believe in is in that piece, so I hope people will go and refer to that so they know exactly what I’ve been saying.”
But no matter what she is trying to say now, she did blame vaccines:
- “Vaccines play the largest role [in causes of autism] right now and something needs to be done.” —Jenny McCarthy, 2008 interview with Larry King
- “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…We want to reduce the schedule and reduce the toxins. If you ask a parent of an autistic child if they want the measles or the autism, we will stand in line for the f***ing measles.” —Jenny McCarthy, 2009 interview with Time magazine
And that’s just the first few Google hits! There are many, many more instances of Jenny McCarthy wrongfully placing blame on vaccines. Jenny McCarthy wrote five books claiming vaccines gave her son autism. She appeared on a number of news broadcasts and talk shows, from CNN, to Oprah, to Frontline, claiming that vaccines are filled with toxins, that the MMR vaccine causes autism, and that the recommended vaccination schedule is dangerous for kids.
Jenny McCarthy wasn’t “wrongly branded” about her attitudes towards vaccines! Everything Jenny McCarthy said about vaccines was wrong. There is no connection between vaccines and autism. There is no mercury in children’s vaccines. The ingredients in vaccines are proven to be safe for kids.
Jenny McCarthy may have changed her tune, but she’s still not telling the truth about vaccines.
- “I believe in the importance of a vaccine program and I believe parents have the right to choose one poke per visit,” Jenny McCarthy writes in the Chicago Sun-Times.
We know that vaccine programs are important and yes, parents do have the choice to modify their children’s vaccination schedule, but there are no benefits to delaying the vaccination schedule. There is no such thing as too many vaccines, too soon. Delaying safe and effective vaccines leaves children with developing immune systems unprotected from dangerous diseases.
Now that parents are getting a closer look at the harsh reality of measles, it turns out they don’t want to “stand in line for the measles” at all; they want to stand in line for the measles vaccine—and stand up for all the recommended vaccines.
Jenny McCarthy’s opinion piece may not show a real change in her unproven anti-vaccine beliefs, but it does show that the majority of parents know that vaccinating their children on time is safe and protects them over the long-term. These parents will no longer stand for Jenny McCarthy’s lies and fear mongering when it comes to vaccines. Just like the recent public outcry when Chili’s announced it would donate a percentage of its sales to an anti-vaccine autism group, it shows that standing up for what we believe in can change minds. Parents and healthcare professionals that stood up against anti-vaccination myths and propaganda convinced Chili’s to cancel its fundraiser. People telling Jenny the truth on Twitter, protests against hiring Jenny McCarthy on The View, and a lot of negative press may have convinced Jenny McCarthy she needed to change her tune.
By listening to our healthcare providers instead of celebrities and sharing real scientific facts and research with our friends, we can also change the minds of the people we know—and change the tone of the national debate.