It’s not personal. It’s prevention.

Why we at TIP are concerned about Jenny McCarthy joining The View

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Image from: The Vaccine War on PBS Frontline

Last week, word got out that Jenny McCarthy was in the running for a co-host slot on ABC’s The View. Within hours a rush of tweets, blog posts and petitions popped up all over the internet urging ABC to reconsider. Sites like Salon.com, The Atlantic and US News & World Report began posting editorials outlining the potential dangers of an anti-vaccine advocate on The View.

But this morning, Barbara Walters confirmed McCarthy is indeed joining the cast, and – not surprisingly – public health and immunization advocates are concerned.

Many of you know that McCarthy has used her celebrity to help propel the anti-vaccine movement and spread inaccurate information about vaccines and autism. The View is one of the most popular and longest running talk shows on daytime television (nominated for the Daytime Emmy award for Outstanding Talk Show 14 times since it debuted in 1997). For McCarthy to have such a public platform where she could sway viewers to delay or forgo vaccinations for their children is a terrifying thought.

McCarthy, on the other hand, has rejected the assertion that she is anti-vaccine and insists that she is pro vaccine safety.

“Please understand that we are not an anti-vaccine group,” she told TIME magazine. “We are demanding safe vaccines. We want to reduce the schedule and reduce the toxins.”

These “dangers” of the current childhood immunization schedule and vaccine ingredients have since been debunked. Earlier this year, the Institute of Medicine examined all available research on the childhood vaccine schedule and published a comprehensive report on vaccine safety, reaffirming yet again that there is no relationship between vaccines and autism. The report does admit that there are some risks associated with vaccines – just like there are risks with any medical procedure or treatment – but these risks are rare and often very mild. This report is free and available online for anyone who would like to read it.

McCarthy has urged parents to “educate themselves.” But yet her track record of encouraging parents to spread out vaccines and forgo some shots altogether demonstrates a clear lack of understanding of how vaccines work and the science behind the childhood schedule.

The Advisory Council for Immunization Practices (ACIP) is the panel responsible for creating the vaccine schedule. It looks at all available research, and makes recommendations to protect individuals from diseases as early and as safely as possible. Spacing out the vaccines does not make people safer; it puts them at risk for serious infections.

If enough people are unvaccinated, potentially devastating diseases like the measles or whooping cough can resurface. We’ve already seen measles outbreaks pop up in Indiana, Minnesota and New York. And whooping cough (also known as pertussis) is at a 60-year high nationwide. This is, in large part, due to a drop in vaccination rates.

McCarthy has famously said that given the choice between autism and the measles, she would “stand in line” for the measles. But these are the words of a woman who grew up in a world where vaccination rates against measles were high and the disease had been virtually eliminated in the U.S.

Before the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine was available, nearly every child was infected with the measles. About 1 in 3 cases had complications like pneumonia or brain swelling, and there were roughly 450 deaths each year because of it. Even today with all the medical advances available to us in the United States, roughly three out of every 1,000 people with measles will die. In the developing world, it is more like one out of every 100.

What McCarthy has done is tell parents to trade a very, very small risk of an adverse reaction to a vaccine for the much greater risk of death and disability from disease.

And people trust her because when she speaks, she speaks with conviction. She’s clearly very passionate about what she believes and is vocal about sharing her opinions. She’s a mother, after all. And what mother wouldn’t rise up and fight for what she believes to be right for her child?

But the information she is spreading is not accurate. The science she refers to as “fact” is based on invalid research. And ABC has just offered to give her a megaphone.

THAT is why public health professionals and immunization advocates think it’s important to be concerned about McCarthy stepping into this role.  And so should you.

A petition is now being circulated to urge ABC to reconsider McCarthy as a co-host. If you are concerned about the potential impact of McCarthy’s beliefs being shared on The View, you can sign the petition here: http://www.change.org/petitions/abc-s-the-view-just-say-no-to-adding-jenny-mccarthy-to-the-view

For more on this, please check out:

An excerpt from Seth Mnookin’s book The Panic Virus:  http://blogs.plos.org/thepanicvirus/2013/07/15/a-jenny-mccarthy-reader-pt-1-the-birth-of-a-star-and-an-embrace-of-crystal-children/

Dr. Claire McCarthy:  http://www.boston.com/lifestyle/health/mdmama/2013/07/abcs_hiring_of_jenny_mccarthy_a_decision_that_could_cost_lives.html

Shot of Prevention: http://shotofprevention.com/2013/07/12/tell-abc-that-jenny-mccarthy-doesnt-represent-your-view/

LBRB: http://leftbrainrightbrain.co.uk/2013/07/15/jenny-mccarthy-angling-for-a-spot-on-the-view/

Daily Beast: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/07/10/why-jenny-mccarthy-is-worse-than-elisabeth-hasselbeck.html?obref=obinsite

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