This Feb. 4, 2013 file photo shows Jenny McCarthy posing for a portrait, in New York. (Photo by Victoria Will/Invision/AP, File)
Jenny McCarthy has been hired as a “personality” on “The View,” ABC’s morning TV show, and this is, most likely, a very bad thing.
It will give her a platform from which to proclaim bad ideas, primarily the idea that vaccines cause autism.
Vaccines do not cause autism.
Multiple scientific studies have found no connection between vaccines and autism, because there is none. And the person who initially claimed there was, in a scientific study, Andrew Wakefield, falsified his research on the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine, and is no longer permitted to practice medicine in his home nation, the United Kingdom.
Let me say this again: Vaccines do not cause autism.
That’s not to say vaccines don’t cause side-effects. They can and they do. Most of them are minor (itching, redness at the injection site), but in very, very, incredibly rare cases there have been serious complications of vaccines.
It is much rarer, however, to have such a thing happen than to have a serious complication from most of the diseases that vaccines prevent, such as measles.
Measles encephalitis killed the young daughter of Roald Dahl, one of my favorite children’s authors, for example. And measles has had a death rate of about .2 percent, or 1 in 500 people who contract measles. That doesn’t sound like much, but there have been between 37 and 140 cases each year since 1996.
In comparison, the MMR vaccine causes encephalopathy in fewer than 1 in 1,000,000 cases. Fevers, rashes and other side-effects are more common, and the vaccine is still far, far less likely to be fatal than that 1/500 number.
Autism is not a side-effect of vaccines.
Unfortunately, Jenny McCarthy has continued to believe that vaccines cause autism, despite all the research done since the 1990s that indicates otherwise, and she promotes this particular “view” in a big way, even speaking at antivaccine rallies.
She encourages people to believe that vaccines cause autism, that they are more dangerous than the diseases they prevent.
But vaccines don’t cause autism.
And many people have protested McCarthy joining the cast of “The View” for that very reason–it could be very dangerous if she promotes her bad idea and people believe it. We could see a resurgence in dangerous infectious diseases such as whooping cough, which is especially dangerous to babies, or German measles, which, ironically, does increase a child’s risk of developing an autism spectrum disorder if a mother contracts it during pregnancy.
It has been very irksome to see McCarthy’s “view” as being “controversial.” It is not. The medical and scientific establishment is nearly unanimous on the subject: Vaccines don’t cause autism.
Her view isn’t controversial. It’s simply incorrect. It was very reasonable at one point to believe that vaccines could cause autism, because Wakefield hadn’t been caught yet, and the scientific studies hadn’t been done to show otherwise, but since then many studies have been done.
McCarthy isn’t controversial at all, she’s just wrong. And it’s easy to see why; her own public statements show a very hazy grasp on science:
“Think of autism like a fart, and vaccines are the finger you pull to make it happen.”
Yet you can pull on somebody’s fingers all day long and not cause them to pass gas, because the two things aren’t actually related at all, unless the person concerned deliberately makes that happen.
To that extent, it’s a good analogy, because finger-pulling doesn’t cause farts, just like vaccines actually don’t cause autism.
I feel so silly for even writing that sentence, but it’s not me being silly here, it’s McCarthy’s poor understanding of cause-and-effect that’s silly.
And it’s not funny at all. If even a few kids aren’t vaccinated because of McCarthy’s incorrect idea, some could be blinded, deafened, or even killed. And not just the kids that aren’t vaccinated, either. Those kids can spread those illnesses to others–children who can fight it off, but also children who can’t, elderly adults, people who are immune-compromised because they’re on chemotherapy, or just people whose vaccines didn’t provide them full immunity.
If McCarthy airs her incorrect “view” on TV, and people–not doing the research, or finding one of the many websites filled with false information–believe her, it could really hurt people. It is even possible that it could harm people if she doesn’t talk about vaccines on television–just having a position on a TV show could lead people to believe what she has already said in other venues.
And that’s a bad idea.