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Hostility Towards Scientists And Jenny McCarthy’s Latest Video

I’ve been fairly quiet about Jenny McCarthy’s campaign against childhood vaccinations, partly because Dr. David Gorski has covered the issue so thoroughly already, and partly because of my “do not engage” policy relating to the deeply irrational (i.e. there’s no winning an argument with “crazy.”) But this week I was filled with a renewed sense of urgency regarding the anti-vaccinationist movement for two reasons: 1) I received a personal email from a woman who is being treated with hostility by her peers for her pro-science views on vaccines and 2) a friend forwarded me a video of Jenny McCarthy speaking directly to moms, instructing them to avoid vaccinating their kids or giving them milk or wheat because of their supposed marijuana-like addictive properties.

Anti-Vaccination Views Are A Status Symbol?

I was surprised to discover that some pro-science moms are being mocked by peers who are uninterested in evidence, choosing to believe any dubious source of health information that questions the “medical establishment.” This concerned mom writes:

I am the mother of two young children, and I live in the trenches of the anti-vax woo.  In my circle of about 14 mothers, my anecdotal analysis is that the rate of complete vaccination hovers around 60%.  The mothers in this group are all very well educated, middle-class or affluent, predominantly stay-home mothers. One problem is what they consider reliable sources of information.  They rely on anecdotes and dismiss scientific evidence in part because they are very anti-medical establishment.  The group is self-validating and many shared values (and myths) increase in intensity over time.

Many of the mothers practice “Natural Family Living” which has some appealing aspects, but also harbors elements of a cult.  In this environment, anti-vaccination becomes a very powerful status symbol… I have lost friendships and been partially ousted from this circle because of my views.

This note struck a chord with me, since I experienced similar hostility in the past for voicing my concern about pseudoscience and misleading consumer health information. I was accused of being “paternalistic, narrow-minded, a dinosaur – part of a dying breed, a racist against complementary and alternative medicine, and a Bible school teacher, preaching evidence-based medicine,” insulted for my desire to be accurate about what was known and not known about treatment options, and my expertise, training, and academic credentials were called into question publicly on many occasions. I endured all of this primarily at the hands of someone who supposedly believed in “natural healing” and the “art of kindness” as an integral part of patient care.

I am troubled by the mounting antagonism towards those of us who’d like to use critical thinking and scientific reasoning to learn what we can about medicine and our health. I’m not sure what to do about it except to encourage one another to stand strong for science and reason – to expect all manner of attacks and insults, and to be firmly committed to the objective quest for truth. It shall set us free.

Jenny McCarthy – Inaccurate, Unhelpful And Dangerous Advice

Although I find Jenny McCarthy’s advice and opinions painful to watch, I committed myself to viewing her recent video at my friend’s request. In order to spare you similar discomfort, let me simply summarize what she said so you can get a high level overview of the sort of bizarre and misinformed claims she promotes (feel free to check out the video for yourself).

“Autism is not primarily a genetic disorder, but caused by vaccine-related toxins (including mercury, aluminum, ether, anti-freeze ,and human aborted fetal tissue) and pesticides.”

“Kids get ‘stoned’ by wheat and dairy toxins. Giving them wheat or dairy proteins is like giving children marijuana.”

  • There is currently no evidence that any diet improves or worsens the symptoms of autism spectrum disorders.  In fact, whole grains and dairy products are an important part of a healthy diet for most children.

“Food allergies are like Iran and Iraq. Glial cells (they’re like chef cell) provide food to the neuron kings. Glial cells can turn into Rambo to fight Iran and Iraq. If a child is allergic to everything, the Rambo cells stop feeding the neurons and the neurons starve. That causes the symptoms of autism.”

  • I don’t know what to say about this strange analogy – clearly no science-based information here.

“To treat autism, you need to give your child supplements to fight off the yeast in their bodies. I recommend Super Nathera, Culturelle, Cod Liver Oil, Caprylic Acid, CoQ10, Calcium, Vitamin C, Selenium, Zinc, Vitamin B12, B6, and Magnesium.”

  • There is no evidence of efficacy for any of these supplements in the treatment of autism.

“You need to consult with a DAN! Practitioner.”

  • DAN! Practitioners recommend chelation therapy for the treatment of autism. There is no evidence that chelation therapy has any benefit for children with autism, and in fact, can be fatal.

“Whatever you think becomes your reality. Imagine your child going to his/her prom and he’ll be cured.”

I think it’s pretty clear that Jenny McCarthy’s recommendations range from ineffective (imaginary healing) to harmful (malnutrition related to absent dairy and wheat in the diet, excessive levels of vitamins) to deadly (chelation therapy with DAN! Practitioners). Will mothers watching her new show on Oprah fall for her pseudoscience and poor advice?

I was pleased to see this open letter to Oprah from one concerned mom. Here’s an excerpt:

To me, it is clear that a significant number of people look up to you, and trust your advice and judgment. That is why it is such a huge mistake for you to endorse Jenny McCarthy with her own show on your network.
Surely you must realize that McCarthy is neither a medical professional nor a scientist. And yet she acts as a spokesperson for the anti-vaccination movement, a movement that directly impacts people’s health. Claims that vaccines are unsafe and cause autism have been refuted time after time, but their allure persists in part because of high-profile champions for ignorance like McCarthy. In fact, ten of the thirteen authors of the paper that sparked the modern anti-vaccination movement retracted the explosive conclusions they made due to insufficient evidence. Furthermore, it is now clear that the study’s main author, Andrew Wakefield, falsified data to support these shaky conclusions.

We have come close to eradicating life-threatening and crippling illnesses because of vaccines, but are now struggling to prevent outbreaks because of parents’ philosophical beliefs that vaccines are harmful. Realize this: when someone chooses not to vaccinate their child, they aren’t just putting their own child at risk, they are putting everyone else around them at risk. Diseases with vaccines should normally be of little concern even to unprotected individuals due to herd immunity – with the majority of the population immune, unprotected individuals are less likely to come into contact with the pathogen. Unfortunately, herd immunity disintegrates as fewer people are vaccinated, putting everyone who hasn’t yet been vaccinated at greater risk for infection. Now, the rates of infection by diseases for which we have safe and effective vaccines are climbing, thanks to anti-vaccination activists like Jenny McCarthy.

You reach millions of people everyday and your words and endorsements carry an incredible amount of weight. If you say to buy a certain book, people will buy it. If you do a segment on a certain charity, people will contribute. And if you say that what Jenny McCarthy is saying has merit, people will believe you…

Conclusion

A certain segment of society appears to be emotionally invested in medical beliefs that are not based on science, but rather anecdotes, conspiracy theories, and magical thinking. Those who recommend a more objective method of inquiry may be subject to ridicule and hostility by that segment. Nonetheless, it is important (for public health and safety purposes and the advancement of science) for critical thinking to be promoted and defended. While some celebrities, like Jenny McCarthy, are committed to misinforming the public about their children’s health – parents who recognize the deception are speaking out against it. Perhaps the best way to combat Jenny’s propaganda is to boycott Oprah. Refusing to support the promotion of dangerous pseudoscience may be our best defense.

Posted in: Science and the Media, Vaccines

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52 thoughts on “Hostility Towards Scientists And Jenny McCarthy’s Latest Video

  1. superdave says:

    This video is just insane. There is no other words to describe this. If I was watching this in the late 90s I would think this was a parody from SNL or something. I just hope that because we are so involved in this issue, we have overestimated it.

  2. superdave says:

    *there are no other words”
    I can’t live with that grammar mistake.

  3. David Gorski says:

    Indeed. The video is so bad that it falls under the “not even wrong” category. Rambo fighting Iran and Iraq? Chef Cells? Starving the King Cells? Human fetal parts in vaccines? Antifreeze in vaccines? It’s all a load of BS:

    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2009/05/jenny_mccarthy_shows_off_her_knowledge_o.php

  4. hatch_xanadu says:

    “Whatever you think becomes your reality,” indeed.

    Thanks for this.

    And btw, I’d long suspected that a lot of the members of the antivax community are the same privileged mommy bunch who insist on organic hemp cloth diapers and colorless wooden toys yet never let their kids go outside, ever. It’s like a competition to see who can be more “alternative” in their childrearing. Perhaps it stems from . . . being too comfortable? General boredom and ennui (oh, ho hum, I have feelings of fatigue, nobody respects my “me” time or listens to my feelings; let me go and Google-diagnose myself and get a colon cleanse)? Never having to see a child wither and die of polio? And finally, peer pressure from all the other mommies on your block who shun you because you gave your kid an ice cream cone?

  5. Michelle B says:

    Excellent article, Val!

    David G writes: Rambo fighting Iran and Iraq? Chef Cells?
    ____

    Yup, Jenny prides herself as being versed in science and medicine. Please, don’t laugh. That is how arrogant this ignorant woman is. She claims that she makes doctors squirm with her comprehension of medicine and science, and that is why she is such a threat to these doctors! Haul her away, please. She is dangerous and she is nuts.

    I have written to Ms Winfrey, about how I will never have anything to do with Harpo (that is her first name spelled backwards, btw) Productions (they are hosting the Jenny show) until they stop their nonsense with emphasizing feel good stuff at the expense of reality and safety.

  6. TSS says:

    AN IDEA relating to your last post on influence and authority:

    Several commenters suggested fighting influential fire with fire as a way to battle McCarthy-ism (pun intended). I think we need to get to get a letter writing campaign to the only other individual who has a chance of battling Jenny-Oprah’s power… Stephen Colbert. Throw John Stewart in there and we have some juice! I can easily imagine a segment in which “ultra-conservative” SC lauds Jenny for her commitment to ignoring the “elitist scientists” in favor of her own belief system. In general, I think that SC and JS would be *really* significant allies to a large majority of skeptical issues.

    And the fact that SC hasn’t had on Phil Plait for his recent book “Death from the Skies” is mind-boggling.

  7. Dinah says:

    Everyone, please take a moment a write to Oprah to give her your opinion on McCarthy getting her own show:

    http://www.oprah.com/contactus

  8. drdlob01 says:

    I can not believe that this uninformed “actor” will have the forum of her own emotion-based national talk show! As a practicing Ob/Gyn, I will be spending even more time debunking what patients hear, thanks to Oprah and her media machine of misinformation.
    The sad truth is that patients have more trust in this horrific, dangerous misinformation. I agree with TSS that the only way to fight the Jenny McCarthys in the world is to get skeptic minded media people to fight fire with facts!

  9. storkdok says:

    Well said!

    In my former “mom group” there was a lot of the anti-vaxx sentiment. They looked at me like I had 3 heads when I put insect lotion with DEET in it on my kid, and told me to make sure he didn’t rub it off on their kids.

    In the “autism community” of parents with kids my son’s age, we are the only ones who have vaccinated our kids. I have had mothers in my face screaming at me when I reviewed the genetics of autism that I heard at recent autism conferences. They have literally become unhinged when genetics is mentioned. They scare me. I have no friends amongst the autism parents unless their kids are teenagers or older.

    I have been accused of the same things you have because I presented evidence based science. Just recently, when I sent an email to our state CDC head warning her of the pseudoscience that kids with autism are subjected in the DAN! protocol (because of a conference she sponsored with alternative views), she passed it on to one of her best friends, an ardent DAN! follower, who is now trying to find out who I am. She has been tracking my comments on many different blogs. I have no doubt when she finds out my real name she will “out” me to AoA so I can get hate mail and hate phone calls, as they so often have done to others who point out their non-evidence based “protocols”.

    Thanks for writing this!

  10. Jules says:

    Ow. That hurt.

    But in all seriousness–maybe someone here should write to Oprah, explaining why Jenny is wrong that vaccines are safe and all that fun stuff. The mom is correct: Oprah has a lot more sway in these matters than we’d like to think.

  11. weing says:

    I thought it was chocolate that had the marijuana-like properties.
    Sounds like those women are still under the influence of the herb they have been using since their teenage years, if not earlier.

  12. James Fox says:

    My sister has gone over to the dark side of saying she does not believe in western medicine and thinks scientists use “facts” to say what ever they want. Again a bright educated woman who only reads and listens to what confirms her beliefs. I offered to e-mail her some SBM info so she can read about acupuncture and CAM from an science and evidence based point of view. At that point in the phone call she said perhaps we shouldn’t talk about these things any more because it’ll just get her mad and upset. Sadly the conversation is truly over and I can only hope she wont harm anyone else but herself. I feel like in some respect I’ve lost my sister to a cult and if she gets cancer or a serious disease she will be asked to pay the real price for her hubris and credulous notions.

  13. SF Mom and Scientist says:

    Great post! One of the SBM bloggers once wrote something about how anti-vaxxers have an “arrogance of ignorance”, and I think this is a perfect statement.

    I have been told that I have not done my “research” and just “blindly trust” our pediatrician. (Although I am a scientist, and have told them many times that I have truly done real research.) It is incredible that these people think they are smarter because they refuse to listen to their doctor or the CDC, but listen instead to people like Jenny McCarthy or other people on the internet with no scientific background. In what world does this make you more intelligent?

    I am so glad people are writing to Oprah, and I will do the same. I would like to think that worrying about Jenny McCarthy is beneath my dignity, but I know that Oprah has a lot of pull with many people, and by backing Jenny up the anti-vax sentiment will only grow. This is truly a tragedy.

  14. Versus says:

    And yet I’ll bet the woo-moms would freak out if their children were taught “creation science” in school. In fact, the next time you run into this attitude, ask the mom whether she believes in creationism. When she says no, ask her why not? When she says because it’s not based on science, or its contrary to science, point out that the same basic principles of biology and chemistry which negate creationsim also negate her woo.
    CAUTION: This approach unlikely to work with fundamentalist Christians.

  15. urology-resident says:

    I think we need to prepare for the situation getting worse.

    For example, I have a newborn baby which has only being vaccinated for HepB. She is susceptible for all the other illnesses (at least until she gets all the shots). How I am going to protect her from living in an environment were vaccination rates drop below safe levels?? Right now I count on herd immunity. The way things are going we will no longer be able to count on herd immunity.

    One approach I could think off is Breastfeeding until she gets all the shots (but I don’t really know if this would even work). Could the shots be given earlier for babies living in communities with low vaccination rates??

    Main point, we cannot count on convincing people of their craziness, we need to come up with ways of protecting ourselves and letting the crazy people go about their business.

  16. SF Mom and Scientist says:

    hatch_xanadu – I totally agree. My husband calls it “white people who have nothing bigger to worry about”.

    Oh, and since I am Iranian, maybe I should also complain to Oprah about Jenny comparing food allergies to Iran – how racist!

  17. TSS says:

    Sent to oprah.com today:

    Dear Oprah.com, Harpo Inc, and Oprah,

    I am writing to express my alarm at the platform and support that your company is giving Jenny McCarthy’s cult of personality. Jenny McCarthy has shown time and again that she is misinformed on issues of vaccines and autism, and now is using her fame to promote a wide variety of unscientific and irrational claims about your public’s serious health concerns. I would hope that you would have more concern for your audience and readership than to support an individual who is unqualified to give such medical advice.

    I am only one person, but I wanted to inform you that I will do my best not to patronage any Harpo Inc. projects.

    Thank you for your time,

  18. Catherina says:

    Urology resident,

    the UK and several European countries use an accelerated vaccination schedule giving DTaP/IPV/hib (hepB) at 2, 3 and 4 months (then again at 15 to 18 months). If you are seriously surrounded by unvaccinated, potentially whooping kids, that is one thing you may want to consider.
    The alternative is to cocoon, i.e.get yourself and other adults watching your baby boosted for dTap.

    Given that Europe has another splendid measles year, the US had very few (herd immunity *does* work). Watch the CDC’s MMWR and the local news for measles imports to your area. MMR can be given as early as 6 months in an outbreak situation (this will not count towards school requirements, but that may be a lesser concern when measles come round).

    Have a look at the outline of your pediatrician’s practise – are contagious kids seperate from babies on well baby visits? If not, get an early morning, lunch time, or very late appointment.

    Hope this gives you some ideas -

  19. tmac57 says:

    Judging from what I am beginning to see around me, this anti-science attitude is spreading wider than I would have ever thought. Much of their misinformation is spreading by word of mouth and under the radar of the public at large. We need high profile credible debunking of this ASAP. I suggest contacting the editors at PBS’s Frontline for a story idea on the antivax anti-science assault here at : http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/contact/c4.html

    I have done this and emailed Oprah. I can imagine others out there have some really effective ideas, so let’s hear from you guys.

    Some people make things happen.
    Some people watch things happen.
    Some people say “What happened!”.

  20. Arnold T Pants says:

    “Kids get ‘stoned’ by wheat and dairy toxins. Giving them wheat or dairy proteins is like giving children marijuana.”

    Dude, tonight I’m getting a loaf of whole wheat bread and a quart of milk and getting BAKED!

  21. skeptologic says:

    Okay now she thinks bread and milk are toxic too? And that Iran/Iraq think is just a whole new brand of crazy. To borrow a quote from Jay Novella, she is “Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs!” It’s a pity we can’t generate electricity out of human stupidity. If we could, we could hook Jenny McCarthy up to the power grid and have enough energy for the whole planet.

  22. Canucklehead says:

    I have emailed Frontline about this subject, I don’t really expect them to respond, but if they get enough letters it may cajole them into some action.
    Nice article Val.

  23. overshoot says:

    One approach I could think off is Breastfeeding until she gets all the shots (but I don’t really know if this would even work).

    That only works if you have a high active antibody count. If that’s your plan, get your own boosters.

    Alas, it looks like we’re headed for some major outbreaks before people rediscover the reality my (1920s) parents knew first-hand.

  24. shwu says:

    Hi Val,

    I appreciate this post. :)

    I wrote the letter you excerpted and just wanted to clarify that I am not actually a mother (yet – maybe in a few years).

    But I am concerned about the general emergence of anti-science rhetoric, and that is what I think is the deeper issue. It’s not just about vaccines, it’s about who/what we trust as credible sources of information, how we come to conclusions, and how we as a society go forward. A complete disregard for science can only bring us backwards. Giving Jenny McCarthy a platform in front of millions of people is basically telling them that being anti-science is ok and “hip”. And that is scary.

  25. Catherina says:

    Overshoot – there are no disease specific IgGs in breastmilk, almost independent of high your titer is after about 2 weeks post partum.

    Maternal immunity against VPDs is mostly through transplacental transfer of maternal IgGs in the last few weeks before delivery, so that is when the titer must be high. Breastmilk offers some protection from severe rotavirus, hib, polio, cholera, but NOT from measles and pertussis.

  26. wales says:

    “Hostility against scientists” makes for an eye-catching title, but it rings a false note. Scientists and “pro-science” individuals as persecuted or harangued….the remarkably high rates of vaccine compliance in the US suggest just the opposite.

    A personal anecdote of a “pro-science mom mocked by peers” is not indicative of societal hostility against scientists or science. Individual hostility is another thing. Hostile individuals will express themselves in a predictably wrathful manner on either side of any topic, inevitably finding excuses to inflame and justify their innate tendencies. If mockery is comparable to the ridicule and abuse consistently directed by many commentators on this site toward those who question or criticize vaccination practices, then hostile is an accurate description. Those who generate hostile comments may believe they are justified by attacking (often preemptively) the anticipated hostility from their “opponents”. Monkey see, monkey do; rationality and civility are the casualties of such primate antics.

    Ostracizing individuals based upon their beliefs is rather hostile. It is lamentable that any social group would ostracize individuals based upon medical/scientific/religious/political beliefs. Good riddance to friends and acquaintances so immersed in herd mentality that they refuse to accommodate differences of opinion and behavior. Anyone (including Val’s “pro-science mom”) finding themselves ostracized by automatons should be grateful. Given that we are currently experiencing the highest rates of vaccination compliance in US history at over 95% coverage for kindergartners, it is likely that vaccine abstainers are at the receiving end of more hostility than vaccinators, scientists or “pro-science” individuals.

    Basing ANY decisions (medical or otherwise) on celebrity opinion is foolish behavior. In my opinion, watching Oprah is a waste of time. Becoming incensed about what Oprah and her guests say and do is a waste of time AND energy. All of which contributes to lining Oprah’s pockets. Oprah viewers are unlikely to be influenced by Frontline/PBS.

    I am intrigued by the idea that sbm’ers might be Oprah watchers. Val’s appeal to boycott the show has me wondering about the composition of Oprah’s fan base.

  27. Jojo says:

    Val – Thank you for posting this.

    I have a three year old son so I have encountered this…I don’t even know what to call it. I would say debate, however I can’t call being screeched at, insulted, and ganged up on as appropriate behaviors for a debate.

    I was unaware of this trend when I first got pregnant, and my introduction to in on an online mother’s organization was rather startling. I was told a number of times to “do your research” and I did, and the conclusion I came up with was to vaccinate. When I tried to share the information, the anti-science, anti-doctor responses were hysterical and irrational. The anti-vax moms would do a Google search and come back with research that clearly didn’t support their arguments. They didn’t even understand what they were looking at. (Once, an article was posted to demonstrate that doctors make huge sums of money off of vaccinations, when in fact it was about how low insurance reimbursement rates threaten the success of vaccination program in certain areas.)

    I no longer engage in vaccination discussions online because any time I do, a few anti-vax mom’s jump in and the crazy takes over. What concerns me is that I’ve seen a lot of rational women, who want to do the right thing for their children, let the loud screechy arguments in and they start to doubt themselves. If you get screamed at every day, some of it starts to sink in whether you like it or not. The one thing I do recommend when the anti-vaxers start in is to advise the mom to talk with the child’s pediatrician. Then, I point out that if they don’t trust the pediatrician on vaccination advice, then maybe they should consider putting their child’s life in the hands of that particular doctor. I close with a comment about how my son’s pediatrician has vaccinated his own children and that I doubt that there is much financial incentive to do that.

    When I first encountered this movement, it was concerning, but I trusted that having my son immunized and heard immunity would be sufficient to protect him. It now appears that the movement has progressed enough that there are growing pockets where heard immunity has been compromised so I have to hope that vaccination will be enough.

    I used to hope that it was just a trendy phase, and that enough good science would come out to support vaccination. Clearly, that was a bit naive on my part. I’m not looking forward to what it’s going to take to break this trend, I’ve seen what polio and the measles can do. It’s not going to be pretty.

    On a less frustrated and depressing note. I would like to thank you, and all of the other doctors here at SBM. Now, when I come across a mom who is concerned about vaccination I can point her here for some very clear, concise, and science based information to consider before opting out of vaccinations for their children.

  28. hatch_xanadu says:

    Versus: Oh, yes, I agree. Creation’s just not “alternative” enough for rational, empowered mommies who are sooo smart it blows the establishment’s mind!

    SF Mom and Scientist: Thanks. I admire your fortitude among that crowd. :)

  29. SF Mom and Scientist says:

    wales – I can only speak for myself in saying I have never watched Oprah. You are right – it is a bit silly for me to say I will be boycotting her show. However, I do understand the immense impact that she has. Remember a few years ago she made a statement about how red meat was bad, and sales of red meat went down a significant amount. In that case, at least there was a health benefit. If she supports Jenny McCarthy, I can only imagine what will happen to the national vaccine compliance rate.

  30. wales says:

    Although I think that personal anecdotes are not worth much in this context, I feel I must respond to what is being repeated here about shrieking “anti-vaxers”. By all means, I would avoid screeching harpies posing as friends, no matter what side of the issue they take.

    I reside in an affluent area which has been publicized as a pocket of high vaccine non-compliance. Over the past few years have initiated at least two dozen conversations (several ongoing) with mothers and fathers on the topic of vaccination. I have encountered many with opinions on both side of the issue, but have yet to meet a screeching harpy (or even a minor increase in decibels) for or against. Perhaps those screeching the loudest are general busybodies, common among all walks of life. Jojo’s description of being screamed at repeatedly sounds like a torture or brainwashing scene from a bad movie. It begs the question, why would anyone choose such friends or acquaintances?

    In my discussions I have been impressed with the respect that both sides have shown for the other’s choice. Most vaccinators I’ve met rely chiefly on their doctor’s advice and haven’t looked into the matter much, they sometimes seem puzzled about the choice not to vaccinate. Many parents I’ve met (from both camps) believe it’s a difficult decision, driven by fear on both sides, and respect the choices made by others. I have yet to meet a non-vaxer proselytizing to vaccinators.

  31. Dacks says:

    Wales,
    It ain’t a difficult decision. If you understand science and history, it’s a no-brainer.

  32. wales says:

    I disagree. Very few, if any, decisions in life are no brainers. That’s a cop out.

  33. grendel says:

    Wales, no seriously, if you look at even the most basic statistics the decision is simple.

    Take measles as an example. One KNOWN complication of the measles vaccination is meningitis. About 1 in 1 million children get meningitis from the vaccine. However about 1 in 1000 children get meningitis from measles itself.

    If you want to decrease the risk to your child you vaccinate.

    I say this as the parent of an autistic child and I had the usual concerns myself but I am entirely comfortable that vaccination is safer than non-vaccination and had nothing at all to do with the fact that my child has autism.

    Recently here in Australia there has been publicity over the death of a child from whooping cough – the debate on the issue was broadcast and much of the interaction in that forum and behind the scenes could in no way be characterized as civil or respectful on the part of the anti-vax crowd.

  34. HCN says:

    Except with vaccines…

    The danger from vaccines pales in comparison with the actual diseases. The only reason many have gotten away without vaccines is due to herd immunity. With the high profile of Jenny and her clueless minions, that has been eroded so there are now places where pertussis, measles and mumps can spread freely.

    It is especially silly to vilify the MMR vaccine because it has been around since 1971, and has never contained thimerosal and the only “study” that showed any association with autism was by Wakefield with only twelve specially chosen children, and was bought and paid for by a lawyer. Plus he cooked the data.

    Now that is a “no brainer”… why should you trust anyone who was paid for specific results, and actually faked the data?

    Of course, as always… if you have any real data that shows the MMR is worse than measles, mumps and rubella, please share. Also do share the real actual factual evidence that I can find in a real journal at my local medical school library that the DTaP is worse than diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis.

    Since pertussis still kills over a dozen American babies each year, it is a “no brainer” to make sure any younger children get the DTaP, and that all older children and yourself get the Tdap.

  35. VNC says:

    I cannot believe I managed to watch the entire video. If no one believed her, I would still be annoyed, but more amused. The fact that people believe her makes me very, very, very angry that the level of science education (including critical, or ANY thinking skills) is THIS bad.

  36. mblanford says:

    ["Many of the mothers practice “Natural Family Living” which has some appealing aspects, but also harbors elements of a cult. In this environment, anti-vaccination becomes a very powerful status symbol…"]

    This is so true. I have many friends who fully embrace this concept of “Natural Family Living” and it is immediately evident that this belief system has many cult-like tendencies. Just spend a little time on Mothering.com and it will become obvious. So little of this stuff is about the children and their quality of life. This is often about the needs of mothers and the contrived sense of moral superiority that is part of this “Natural Family Living” culture. This movement is large and it is growing because it often exploits the fears and insecurities of new parents. Mothering.com is the most visited parenting forum in existence and while it has the guise of a resource for educating parents by giving them a place to discuss parenting choices and controversial subjects (the new creationist trick) it is really a highly controlled environment for advancing an ideology that is openly hostile to science and medicine.

  37. David Gorski says:

    Oh, yeah, I’m real familiar with the anti-scientific, anti-vaccine, and pro-quackery attitudes that pervade Mothering.com. Indeed, Mothering.com also supported the HIV/AIDS denialism that Christine Maggiore espoused, on one issue featuring her and her family when she was pregnant with Eliza Jane, her prominent belly bare and painted with “no AZT) emblem that resembled a “no smoking” sign. (The word “AZT” in a circle with a slash through it.)

  38. Richard says:

    I would like to see more noise made against Oprah. It really bugs me that she can say and do anything she wants with complete impunity. She’s not even perceived by the public as controversial. For heaven’s sake, Jerry Lewis is controversial; why not Oprah?
    And kudos to your friend and pro-science moms everywhere!

  39. David Gorski says:

    Heh. Interesting observation I just made. There is no longer a link to McCarthy’s “Biomed 101″ video on the front page of Generation Rescue. Maybe they’re embarrassed. :-)

  40. clgood says:

    There’s an interesting article at Ars Technica about the whole antivax mess.

    http://arstechnica.com/science/news/2009/05/unravelling-the-history-of-the-vaccine-autism-scare.ars

    FYI,

    Craig

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