Long before Casey was conceived or conceived of, I had an eye on the crap being touted by Jenny McCarthy on Oprah and the likes about vaccines leading to autism. It struck home because for much of our adult lives two of my best friends have worked closely with ASD afflicted individuals.
Sadly, due to her high profile, there is a boatload of bad information propagated and entrenched across the net. And so when new parents start researching vaccinations for their budding bundle of baby, it’s impossible not to run up against it.
McCarthy’s vaccination-causes-autism bullshit is largely based on Andrew Wakefield‘s 1998 research paper in The Lancet medical journal that linked the MMR vaccine (measles, mumps and rubella vaccine) to autism. McCarthy and Wakefield, using their status and professional clout, have caused vaccination rates on both sides of the Atlantic to drop significantly. Unsurprisingly, children getting sick and dying of diseases that had virtually been eliminated in developed countries is on the rise.
Back in May, not long after Casey was born, Wakefield was removed from the medical register in the UK by the General Medical Council because “he acted in a way that was dishonest, misleading and irresponsible while carrying out research into a possible link between the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, bowel disease and autism. He had ‘abused his position of trust’ and ‘brought the medical profession into disrepute’ in studies he carried out on children.”
Even unable to practice medicine in the UK, I’m sure he still had (has?) supporters that believe he’s been wrongfully removed. Thankfully, the final nail in this fiasco has come by way of the Telegraph today:
The British Medical Journal has reviewed the six million word transcript of the General Medical Council hearings, comparing them with the findings of investigative journalist Brian Deer and the research paper in the Lancet.
Huge discrepancies have been found between what was in the children’s medical notes and what was published about them in the Lancet.
As a result, Dr Fiona Godlee, Editor of the BMJ, has accused Dr Wakefield of deliberate fraud and said the scare was a hoax on the scale of the Pildown man, which was for 40 years believed to have been the missing evolutionary link between ape and man.
She said: “The MMR scare was based not on bad science but on a deliberate fraud.” She added that such “clear evidence of falsification of data should now close the door on this damaging vaccine scare.”
In case this isn’t clear: vaccinating your child does NOT cause autism. It was a total and complete fraud!
I can totally understand why parents bought into the whole thing. Most of us grew up never knowing these diseases first-hand, thanks almost completely to the vaccines that were called into question. But many of us have met someone suffering from some degree of Austism, and that scares the shit out of us. It’s the devil we know and as new parents, the one that’s easier to guard against — just do nothing.
Coupling that with the truckload of new responsibilities, and the endless number of opinions everyone and their mother has on child-rearing, it’s easy to see vaccination as just a “choice”. But it’s really not. It’s a civil responsibility.
Of course, every parent should have the right to decide what is best for their child, and I don’t at all mean to suggest that the liberty of doing so should be taken away from them. However, when you refuse vaccinations, but then take part in the rest of society (schools, malls, public pools, etc.) you are leeching off the benefits of herd immunization that the rest of us have helped with. If enough people stop vaccinating, that herd immunization drops below its threshold and we all suffer.
And Jenny, my heart goes out to her and her kid. It’s tough, and I’ve no doubt that finding pet projects to feel like she’s still in control of something allows her to get out of bed in the morning. But shame on her for using her fame to disseminate bad advice, shame on Oprah and Larry King for assisting her, and shame on the parents who blindly listened to a Playboy Play
thingmate over peer reviewed and well-tested science.