Star Power

Maybe one of you can explain this phenomenon to me because I am stumped.  You would never ask your electrician for financial guidance, or your lawyer for his opinion on fixing that rattling noise in your car, so why do some people turn to celebrities for medical advice?   It just doesn’t make sense.

You can probably see where I’m going with this; that’s right, I’m talking about model, comedian, actress, game show and reality television host Jenny McCarthy.  Apparently her Wikipedia account is inaccurate because it failed to mention her years of education and medical training that provided her with the qualifications necessary to make claims that vaccines cause autism.  That’s right, she is not qualified.  She is not an academic expert, a doctor, or a vaccine researcher, yet parents around the world have put their faith along with the health and well-being of their children in the hands of the Playboy Playmate. 

The organization Autism Speaks is very clear in its message concerning the importance of vaccination explaining that while “many studies have been conducted to determine if a link exists between vaccination and an increased prevalence of autism” no correlation between the two has ever been found.  They even go on to “strongly encourage parents to have their children vaccinated, because this will protect them against serious disease.”   In fact, multiple studies conducted by researchers in the United States, the United Kingdom, Europe, and Japan have failed to establish any link between vaccinations and autism.  Yet the words of a former MTV dating show host continue to be broadcast through the media outlets louder than the true findings that are supported by medical scientists around the world.  But why?

In my opinion, she put a face on autism.  McCarthy began promoting her anti-vaccination rhetoric in 2007, following her son’s 2005 autism diagnosis, appearing on television shows and publishing multiple books advising parents not to vaccinate their children.  She took autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a group of disorders that are difficult to understand and diagnose, that have no definite cause, and essentially made vaccines the scapegoat.   I personally find it frightening that a study found approximately 24% of parents placed “some trust” in information provided by celebrities such as McCarthy concerning the safety of vaccines even though reputable organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) have continued to stand behind the scientific research that shows absolutely no link between autism and vaccines.

If my child was diagnosed with any disease or disorder that doctors could not give me a clear explanation as to its causality I would search the rest of my life for answers and a cure.  I would do everything within my power to make my child’s life and hopefully the lives of other’s better.  I would want to one day point a finger and say “That’s the reason this happened and here’s how we fix it.”  I sympathize with McCarthy’s desperation to find an answer, but she pointed her finger at vaccines with no scientifically proven evidence, and the consequences of her actions are nothing to ignore.  In a society largely obsessed with entertainment and celebrity culture, celebrities have a powerful impact on people’s lives.  Unfortunately, Jenny’s impact further fueled the flames of the highly discredited claim that vaccines are the cause of autism.

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