I'm not one for sensationalism but this title stands. The issue at hand is important enough, and I feel strongly enough about it, that I'm willing to be over the top. Except I don't think I'm being over the top.
The news is that Oprah Winfrey's production company is going to be giving Jenny McCarthy, standard-bearer of the anti-vaccine movement, her own show. Because apparently the goddess of anti-vax hasn't already had enough media exposure, and deserves a national platform from which to spew her dangerous brand of lunacy.
Why is what Oprah is doing such a terrible thing?
Because Jenny McCarthy is a woman who believes, and I quote,
sadly it's going to take some diseases coming back to realize that we need to change and develop vaccines that are safe. If the vaccine companies are not listening to us, it's their f___ing fault that the diseases are coming back. They're making a product that's s___. If you give us a safe vaccine, we'll use it. It shouldn't be polio versus autism.
Never mind the fact that study after study after study finds no consistent link between childhood vaccinations and autism.
But thanks to the anti-vax shills like McCarthy and others, people have bought into the woo, and we're already starting to see the results: more sick kids.
Look, I can think of a couple of reasons why people would subscribe to the vaccination-autism "theory". It's understandable to have a healthy skepticism of big pharma. Considering how much of a stranglehold they have on the American health system, one must always question their motives. But early childhood vaccination isn't a scam foisted on us by drug companies. It's recommended by pretty much every doctor who isn't sadly mistaken. If you want to expose your child to a potentially devastating disease like measles or polio because of some arbitrary link, you do so because you're sadly mistaken, or you're listening to Jenny McCarthy - which makes you a sadly mistaken anyways.
I sympathize with Ms McCarthy, and understand to some extent why she's so passionately wrong-headed. Full discretion: my older brother was born with a mental disability. I've grown up keenly aware of the kind of frustration parents of such a child have to deal with on a day-to-day basis. My own parents wanted - no, needed - someone to blame for why my brother turned out the way he did. I always suspected that my father secretly blamed himself (!?!?!?) for my brother's disability, something I tried and mostly succeeded in helping him get over; but publicly, the family narrative was that our shoddy third world doctors must have screwed up the delivery somehow, and never mind the fact that my brother didn't show any signs of delayed development until he was around five or so. It's only been lately that I've gotten my folks to admit that the doctors didn't do anything wrong, and that sometimes bad things happen. It sucks but you deal. My brother deals just fine, thanks.
If I could give a word of advice to Jenny McCarthy, it would be this: You could be a force for good in the world - look at the awareness you've brought to autism, if for all the wrong reasons - but please rethink your crusade. It's not cool to endanger millions of children because of your own personal hang-ups.
If I could give a word of advice to Oprah: Please reconsider. Okay, that was two words. But still.
And if I could give a word of advice to new and prospective parents: Get your child vaccinated. There's a reason why those diseases are known historically as 'childhood killers'.
For more discussion on Jenny McCarthy, Oprah, and anti-vax, hop on over to Scienceblogs. They're also taking on The Huffington Post, another seeming media advocate of the anti-vaccination lunacy. For such an important fight, it's receiving far too little notice, and I hope at least you'll inform yourself.
Update: I'm not going to deny that I intentionally gave this diary an inflammatory title because I hoped it would get people to pay attention to the very real peril of large numbers of children going unvaccinated. But I honestly had no idea this was going to happen. I suppose I should've seen it coming, considering the tone I set. Live and learn.
A couple of things: I took out all instances of profanity because admittedly the cursing wasn't necessary and it seems to have completely turned some people off from the substance of the argument.
I also understand that my rhetoric isn't the most accommodating to those who may share a divergent opinion, although I don't know how effective a more conciliary tone would be if some have accused me of schilling for Big Pharma despite the fact that I live in a country with single-payer health care and cheap drugs.
I do apologize for calling people idiots, however. On reflection, my parents were just as mistaken in blaming the doctors for my brother's condition as those parents who choose not to have their kids vaccinated because of the unfounded autism link - so in effect, I was calling my own folks idiots too. And they're not. So I take that back. As I stressed before, in the part of the diary most people probably skipped over, I understand all too well the frustration and anguish of relating to a special needs family member. I understand why people would react the way they do. My point simply is this: just because it's understandable doesn't make it right.
I probably should've done this earlier but I was at work:
Or better yet, contact Harpo Productions Inc. at
110 N Carpenter St., Chicago, IL 60607-2146, United States
If you are so inclined, please feel free to communicate your concern to the Oprah people about Jenny McCarthy and the dangers of her public statements on vaccination.
Finally, for a different and calmer take on the subject of autism, please take part in this diary. While I don't quite agree with everything the diarist says, I do agree that there's common ground to be found - and progress to be made - if some of us could calm down and hear the other side out and respond in a patient and thoughtful manner. If you do go there, please be nice. Leave your spleen here, if spleen is all you have to give.