Jenny McCarthy on The View: Trading experience for expertise

Jenny McCarthy on The View: Trading experience for expertise

Jenny McCarthy is officially joining The View. “Do I have opinions?” one reporter asked. Yup.

My concerns center around Jenny McCarthy’s past willingness to trade-in her experience for expertise. That is, she widely shared her theories and anecdotes about her son’s experience with learning challenges and falsely placed blame on vaccines for his then-diagnosed autism. I will not discount her private experience.

What I discount is her decision to leverage a modeling/pornography career to message about health. She aligned herself with pseudoscience. She mistook “mommy instinct” for fact. She partnered with the debunked Andrew Wakefield and has been an ardent spokesperson for Generation Rescue. She directed families away from life-saving vaccines and pointed them towards costly and unproven treatments like chelation for learning and behavioral challenges. In sum, she created fear.

She created myths around “greening” vaccines, a concept that lives on today and make very little sense.

Her myth (stating the MMR vaccine caused her son’s autism) has potentially increased disease burden. Outbreaks of measles in Europe have overwhelmed France and Wales in the past few years and under-vaccinated communities persist here in the US. In part, this is because of Jenny’s megaphone.

The auspicious truth is when Andrew Wakefield was debunked her fervor slowed. I hear less about Jenny McCarthy in the exam room these days. She’s retreated from the vaccine discussion. Trouble is, I still hear about the myth she methodically created. Some families remain scared and confused about true benefits/risks when it comes to life-saving vaccines. I’m angry she’s made so many parents falter.

As a pediatrician, I know her theories have caused confusion, fear, and harm for parents and their children here and across our borders. Her distribution has caused researchers to pause, re-directing their efforts to disprove what we already knew rather than move our understanding forward. There is no evidence that vaccines cause autism. In fact, a 2011 Institute of medicine report reviewed over 1000 research articles about vaccine safety concluding, “ Overall, the committee concludes that few health problems are caused by or clearly associated with vaccines.”

In the medical community, we’ll work to undo myths around vaccine safety for the rest of our lives in part because Ms McCarthy used her pulpit to mislead the public about vaccine science. Lacking medical training and an understanding of infectious disease, she has changed the landscape of the United States medical practice. That’s the power of the word.

The View is entertainment, of course, but the public has a very difficult time deciphering the lines between science education, information, news, and entertainment.

There’s no news release about proposed topics of discussion for The View once Ms McCarthy joins. Her microphone will once again extend and we can only hope she steers clear of discussions about medicine. Perhaps they will stick to her true expertise. If they venture into vaccine science, I’d be delighted to join in and have plenty of ideas who can join us at the table.

Wendy Sue Swanson is a pediatrician who blogs at Seattle Mama Doc.

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  • carolynthomas

    Excellent points, Dr. S – but the overarching question remains, as asked by science columnist Julia Belloz in the Canadian magazine Macleans recently: “What Can We Learn From Jenny McCarthy?”

    What Jenny truly excelled at, Julia reminded us, was the “patient narrative”. She told stories. Compelling stories. Stories that actually resulted in attitudinal and behaviour change – results that modern medicine has arguably had some trouble achieving across most disciplines.

    What Julia Belloz suggests is that health care professionals who wish to counter the woo out there MUST adopt these same strategies.

    Dr. Mike Evans (of the now-famous “23 1/2 Hours” viral video) once reminded his TED talk audience in Europe that “stories trump data, relationships trump stories, and individuals trump organizations”. (More on this at http://myheartsisters.org/2012/04/13/dr-mike-evans/ ) So instead of trotting out yet another academic explanation about why McCarthy was misinformed, docs need to do what she does so well: insert a human face into the equation. I believe, for example, that widely distributing the live YouTube video of a toddler suffering horribly for several minutes with whooping cough will do more to stifle the Jenny McCarthys of the world than all the exasperated sputtering of the medical profession has managed to accomplish so far.

    And you just might be the perfect person to lead this shift in strategy!

  • Noni

    This horrible, uneducated woman has blood on her hands.

  • doc99

    If The View does decide to hold a segment on Vaccination, I would ask that Dr. Swanson be invited to represent the interest of America’s children.

  • momof2

    I do not watch The View now but will if Jenny McCarthy is on. As a parent, NO ONE knows your child better then yourself. I appreciate her spreading her word. More parent should look into what is in vaccines. Did you know aborted fetal cells are in some vaccines used in your children. Don’t believe me, check into it. Did you know monkey kidney cells are in there, check out the other ingredients on the CDC website for yourself.

    http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/pinkbook/downloads/appendices/B/excipient-table-2.pdf

    • Judgeforyourself37

      The harmful effects of vaccines was refuted several years ago. What not allowing your child/children to receive needed vaccines does do, is to put your child/children at risk and other people’s children at risk for death, or impairment due to preventable diseases. There could be major outbreaks of measles, mumps and other childhood illnesses including polio, that were formerly non existent in this nation since the advent of vaccines.

      • momof2

        Do you not know that the MMR is a live virus and you can get measles from the vaccine itself?? And you are likely to get shingles if you had chickenpox, well guess what, if you had the chickenpox vaccine (which is a LIVE virus vaccine) you are putting yourself (or your kids) at a greater risk of getting shingles because that vaccine injected them with chickenpox. And you have an egg allergy, guess what there is egg in a lot of vaccines so chances are that’s not good. I’ll pass on injecting my kids with aluminum, formaldehyde, calf serum, MRC5 -which is developed from the lungs of a 14 week old male fetus- or WI38 which is from the lungs of a 3 month gestation female fetus. Do YOUR research ppl. These ingredients are not safe to inject into humans!