Don’t get me wrong – I *definitely* have a problem with her. I absolutely disagree with how, without the support of scientific evidence, she tries to link vaccination to autism. I think it is extremely irresponsible and inappropriate of her, as a public figure, to spread her anti-vaccination “opinion” to the public as medical advice, and to convince some that a “therapy” with no scientific merit cured her son.
In fact, what Jenny McCarthy did – hurt public health in ways that we won’t know until maybe years later, and possibly set back autism research for many years, because funding that could have been used for autism cause/treatment research was diverted to looking for a connection (and usually ends up the lack thereof) between autism and vaccination.
When the news came out that she is going to be a host of the View, a popular day time talk show with majority of its viewer being females between age 18-49, I was annoyed, like many others are (Phil Plait from the Bad Astronomy, Michael Specter from the New Yorker, David Kroll from the Forbes, just to name a few). But I am not upset.
In fact, let’s talk about vaccination on the View. Let’s have a discussion about why vaccination is important on national television (US), on a show that is viewed by many mothers and mothers to be.
For the longest time, we seem to be preaching to the choir – those who support vaccination, support vaccination, while those who don’t, don’t. And this Jenny McCarthy hire, unfortunately, means that she gets a national platform to “spread her opinion.” But, with threats come opportunities. This is a great opportunity to bring this discussion public. Let’s push for having medical experts on the View to talk abut the benefits of vaccination and to respond to concerns. Let’s bring this issue upfront and start talking to the group that is most likely to affect children’s health in the next 5-10 years. Let’s make this the top news in the Entertainment Section (which is likely read by more people than the Health Section – I am being pessimistic here). True, scientific evidence is not really up for debate, but at the same time, we scientists continue talking among ourselves is not going to help much more. Actually, I would love to see Whoppi Goldberg publicly supporting vaccination (citing scientific evidence, of course), if this topic ever comes up on the show.
Trying to get Jenny McCarthy off the View is not going to get more people to trust vaccination and understand the science and reasons behind it. The way show business works, it doesn’t seem like the producers of the View will budge. In fact, I think McCarthy is actually earning some sympathy points now.
But bringing the issue to the public will. Let’s inject ourselves into public discussions and inform the public on the importance of vaccination. Let’s equip the public with enough knowledge about vaccination, so that they can decide for themselves that Jenny McCarthy’s view is simply her own “personal opinion,” NOT medical advice, and definitely NOT what they should trust their children’s lives with.
Postscript – After writing this post, I came across Bill Nye’s take on McCarthy taking the post as a host of the View (via the Huffington Post). While being very concerned, he also said in his email:
So, here’s hoping they [at the View] promote this conflict, or at least vigorous disagreement, about the role of science in medicine and in our technologically advanced society. I believe Ms. McCarthy’s views will be discredited.