And rightfully so. Ms. McCarthy has used her celebrity in the past to spread misinformation about vaccines and encourage parents to delay or forgo vaccinations altogether. Becoming a regular on the Emmy award-winning talk show not only gives Ms. McCarthy a national stage to share her noxious views, but it also lends her a sense of unfounded legitimacy. We’re worried she will convince some portion of the millions of viewers tuning in that vaccines are dangerous.
When in fact, vaccines save lives. The spurious claims offered by Ms. McCarthy in the past – that vaccines cause autism, that the current schedule overloads a child’s immune system, that the ingredients found in vaccines are somehow “toxic” – are just not true. A wide collection of sound, scientific investigations have shown time and time again that vaccines are both safe and effective.
Of course, this concern over what could happen is based on what Ms. McCarthy has said publicly in the past. As she doesn’t make her debut until September 9, we can only guess what she will say.
And that’s precisely what makes us nervous. If Ms. McCarthy does use her new platform to spread misinformation, it doesn’t matter how many studies we cite or Institute of Medicine reports we throw around, some parents will still have doubt. And when that doubt translates into a drop in immunization rates, we’ll see a rise in vaccine-preventable diseases. Children will be put at risk.
We’ve already seen it. Pockets of (largely unvaccinated) communities around the U.S. and Europe have seen measles outbreaks in areas where it had once been eliminated. Whooping cough rates are at a 60-year high. Not vaccinating endangers not only individuals but also those they care about. Not everyone can receive vaccines because of medical conditions or age. When you get vaccinated, it’s is not just about you; it’s about your family, your friends and your community.
When enough people in a community are immunized against a disease, that disease can’t spread. In turn, we can protect those who can’t protect themselves. It’s called herd immunity, and it’s a scientifically supported fact.
There’s a silent majority of us out there that know this. We know vaccines are safe. We know why they’re necessary. But when a friend or family member or celebrity says something along the lines of “vaccines cause autism” (when they don’t), we roll our eyes or ignore them.
We can’t do that anymore.
We need to speak out. If ABC wants to give Ms. McCarthy a megaphone, we need to pick up our own. We need to share the science, the evidence that supports vaccines and proves that they are safe and effective. We need to tell our friends, neighbors and coworkers where to find trusted, evidence-based information. And when someone expresses concern about the safety of vaccines, we need to address those fears with a combination of compassion and science.
We at The Immunization Partnership, with the help of our Physicians Advisory Council, will do our part to rapidly and publicly address misinformation spread by Ms. McCarthy and her ilk, but we can’t do it alone. We need your support.
People respond to Ms. McCarthy because she speaks with conviction. She’s clearly very passionate about what she believes, and is vocal about sharing her opinions – however untrue.
So let’s be passionate. Let’s be vocal.
Let’s be the not-so-silent majority.