Thursday, February 25, 2010

Time Gives Too Much Credit (and Credence) To Anti-Vaxxer McCarthy

The studies that have long underpinned the anti-vaccine campaign as a fight against autism have been discredited and repudiated. That has done nothing to stop Jenny McCarthy and others from continuing to spread their nonsense that vaccines have caused autism.

When is she and her supporters going to be held responsible for the public health crises that have erupted around the world based on those individuals not giving their children vaccines to communicable diseases that are easily prevented and wholly avoidable like mumps and rubella? Outbreaks of measles, mumps, and whooping cough have occurred all around the world, including in my own backyard in the New York metro area all because one child was exposed to one of these diseases on a trip to Britain where vaccination rates are much lower and the resulting outbreak has infected more than 1,500 people.

Yet, Time is continuing to give credence and space to McCarthy to spread her noxious views.
McCarthy's way, however, is one that flies in the face of all credible research on what does and does not cause autism and whether it can be treated. McCarthy claims Evan was healed through a range of experimental and unproved biomedical treatments; even more controversially, she blames the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine for giving her son autism. And yet research conclusively shows that vaccines are safe for children; just last month, the U.K. scientist who had published a study linking the MMR shot to autism was found by a British medical panel to have acted unethically. McCarthy says she does not believe all vaccines are bad — though she swears she will never allow Evan to receive another — nor is she saying you shouldn't vaccinate your child. Her position is more slippery but just as heretical to prevailing medical wisdom: do everything necessary to cure your child, no matter what the doctors tell you.

This message has won her a wide audience, based on her three best-selling books on autism. She has just completed shooting the pilot for a daytime talk show for Oprah Winfrey's TV network to begin airing later this year — which will be, she promises, yet another platform for her message. But her profile has also made her, among pediatricians, other doctors and many parents, a deeply polarizing figure. Though close to 80% of American children receive the standard battery of vaccinations, skepticism about their safety remains widespread, in part because of the antiscientific clamor of the McCarthy camp. Enough parents are refusing to vaccinate that some long-dormant maladies, like measles and meningitis, have re-emerged. Nonvaccination rates among kindergartners in some California counties have been reported at 10%. To McCarthy's opponents, from the public-health officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to the pediatricians of the American Academy of Pediatrics, this makes McCarthy much worse than a crank: she's a menace to public health.

But she can't be ignored.
Yes, she can be ignored. She should be shunned all because she is a menace to the public health. On that, there can be no other way to describe her position. The publicity surrounding her situation and press coverage - including on the Oprah Winfrey show - have been met with a decline in the vaccination rates in the US - and an increase in outbreaks of communicable diseases.

And that's despite the fact that there are no links between vaccinations and autism and that the supposed chemicals responsible for autism haven't been in those vaccines in years. Even McCarthy's son's health situation isn't nearly as clear cut as she'd like people to believe.

Her son began having seizures in 2005, after which he began exhibiting signs of autism, and she made the connection between the vaccines and her son's ailment, even though there's no way to identify whether the seizures were brought on by the vaccinations or whether her son suffered from some other malady, which some doctors believe was actually Landau-Kleffner syndrome, which is marked by seizures that can be brought under control with medication.

But that hasn't stopped her from yammering on about the connection despite having no medical background and no idea what causes autism.

That's why she's so dangerous to the public health - she has know understanding of the ailment and yet manages to get her opinions delivered all across the media making it all the more difficult for public health officials and doctors to deal with.

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