Yes, I said “Wacky”

It seems that a few readers have taken exception to my characterization of Jenny McCarthy (and her anti-vaccine crusade) as “wacky,” so I thought I’d explain some of the wackiness, as I see it…

Her motivation stems from her child’s display of autistic symptoms that she only began to notice after he received his first vaccines. As a result, she “just knows” it was the vaccine which caused the autism. Repeated studies and testing have shown no connection. Immunization specialists and most of the medical community are united in agreement. Here are a couple articles to give you background on “the evidence:”

http://www.livescience.com/health/080905-bad-autism.html

http://www.livescience.com/health/080401-bad-vaccine.html

 In fact, a new book, Autism’s False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure, chronicles the whole situation in detail. The book is billed as:

A definitive analysis of a dangerous and unnecessary controversy that has put the lives of children at risk. Paul A. Offit shows how bad science can take hold of the public consciousness and lead to personal decisions that endanger the health of small children. Every parent who has doubts about the wisdom of vaccinating their kids should read this book. — Peter C. Doherty, Ph.D., St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital and Nobel Laureate in Medicine for fundamental contributions in Immunology

Here is an extensive review that will give you background on the issue here…

http://scienceblogs.com/bookclub/2008/10/finally_science_pushes_back_ag.php

…and another review at Salon…

http://www.salon.com/books/review/2008/09/22/autism/index.html

…and a note from the author:

http://scienceblogs.com/bookclub/2008/10/authors_initial_entry_autisms.php

Here is a collection of posts from a surgeon/scientist blogger who I have found to be exceptionally knowledgeable on a range of topics: http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/medicine/antivaccination_lunacy/

And here is a good article explaining the timeline of this “movement” and the history of the fear-inducing properties of vaccines generally: http://www.livescience.com/health/080617-bad-autism-vaccine.html

To me, this issue is no different than HIV/AIDS Denialism, Intelligent Design, or the 9/11 “Conspiracy” — the proponents distort available science or just make up “science” to suit their agenda. The kind of alarm-ridden evangelizing that McCarthy and crew participate in does no good as far as I can tell, and it puts many kids at risk… to me, that is wacky…

These people are making claims, without evidence, and as a result some children are not getting their vaccines; it has already caused an increase in measles.

It is no different than any of the other groups that selectively decide to stop believing experts and scientists. Young Earth Creationists think geologists are wrong about the age of rocks, Intelligent Design proponents think evolutionary biologists are wrong about everything, 9-11 Truthers don’t trust structural engineers, HIV/AIDS Deniers think virologists are wrong. Moon Hoaxers don’t trust astronomers or NASA… the list goes on…

Should there be rigorous testing to ensure our vaccines are as safe as they can be? Of course. Should we examine the regimens we give and compare them to what other countries are doing, checking for increased illness or decreased effectiveness? Absolutely. Is there evidence that vaccines are causing autism? No.

As an interesting side-note, Jenny McCarthy now claims to have cured her child’s autism. How? Through a healthy diet.

You may not think so, but I think the girl is plum wacky…

13 Responses

  1. okay here we go!…

    i listened to McCarthy’s audio book yesterday and i’ll attempt to clear up some misunderstandings or quotes.
    the book is loaded with many quotes and acknowledgements to practicing pediatricians and other doctors including a whole foreword by a pediatrician and a detailed listing of references to medical websites and source material on the subject.
    at no time does McCarthy say that vaccines cause autism, she theorizes the “toxins” in vaccines caused her son (who was autistic from birth, though she didn’t recognize the signs) to have multiple seizures which resulted in behavior related usually to a brain injury (veritgo, lethargy).
    through anectdotal research (google and personal accounts from parents with autistic children) she found that removing dairy and wheat from her son’s diet and the implemention of B12 shots (gradually and through tried cause and effect methods).
    her beef is with the supposed experts that did not take the time or consideration to link the radical change in health and personality of her son (as she sees it) after the initial (multiple)seizure episode. she doesn’t start the account with her son getting a vaccine and then the next day he is autistic.
    now, those are the main points of the book in my opinion, but you have to take all the other points of view in to account in her retelling of the story also. she constantly thanks God for sending her signs and strength to overcome her son’s affliction, but i’m wondering who she thinks created her son with autism in the first place, was it the Devil??? also she talks about using a tarot card deck and pulled a card that says she should help the indigo and crystaline children (if you don’t know what that is…Google!). now i’ve seen a tarot deck or two in my day, and i’ve never heard of the indigo/crystaline childer card. also, in the beginning days of her son’s malady, she looks for any way to heal him and ultimately calls upon the Mormons, which throughout the book they keep showing up to try to spread the word to her. i found that hilarious because is do love the Mormons!
    all together, the book details her journey and you can understand why she does, but all the ‘wacky’ behaviors (God thanking, belief in angels, tarot, oh, and she can sense when her son is having a seizure even when she’s miles away) tend to make you question the validity of the whole story.
    personally, i dislike doctors and feel the field is so pressure filled for instant results and making money that it’s only natural for this all to be true, but you have to use common sense to find what works for you. only fear monger idiots would stop giving their kids vaccines based solely from what might happen.

  2. I would like to query what scientific studies PROVE that there is no connection? My impression, via professors, reading, text books..ect..is that 10 of the 13 original scientist have pulled out of the paper originally detailing the link and that several studies have been done to disprove the original claim that there is link but that disproving does not prove there is NO link.

    There are many behavioral and learning disabilities that can be cured through diet. There are many medical conditions that are cured by a special diet. The Feingold diet is very well known (am I spelling it right?) Low carb diets for diabetic children, artifical dye free diets for hyperactive children, ect…Just because she says she ‘cured’ him with a diet does not = wacky. Food is not just something that you stuff in your piehole cause it tastes good and we need it to live. There are chemical reactions that occur via food and that is nothing to discount. I am not supporting or condoning her claim, just your statement, inuendo that its wacky to cure your child of illness via a special diet.

  3. I read the first two links and that second writer is a sexist asshole who first calls Jenny Mccarthy a playboy bunny BUT then says, grudgingly that all mothers know their child best.

    Those livescience articles do nothing for me, scientifically. They are op-ed type pieces and not studies. I don’t think that helps your case.

  4. AND, its incorrect to say that there are no vaccines with themerisol in them. Yes, they have banned its use now. It is not illegal to use the older vaccines with themerisol in them. No one is made to throw out there old vaccines and there was no recall on vaccines with themerisol in them. Many doctors did do that, at great cost to themselves because the drug companies that manufacture them did nnot just give them replacements. I think it would be an even assumption to say that most medicade/medicare offices kept all their vaccines where doctors that see people in private practice might have because they can afford it.

  5. I’ve just reread my post, and I don’t think I stated nor implied that there is “proof” there is no connection. I think I’ve only argued that there is no evidence that there is… these are different assertions. Second, we are almost definitely on the same side (assuming that the side is safety and and quality of life)… We both want the safest possible medicine and medical care for our kids (and adults)… every effort should be made to ensure these things are done…

    In my view, it comes down to this: when making decisions about what is the “best” medicine, who should we trust? Doctors and scientists or Jenny McCarthy?

    Given the opinion of both, who do you trust? Jenny’s or your doctors’? I am simply asserting she is in no position to make medical decisions for our children, do you argue otherwise? Is she a better source of information? Do you trust her medical decisions? And if you do, how far does that trust go?

  6. I think she speaks for many parents who see a correlation between vaccines and autism.

    Almost every pediatrician I have ever come across says that teething does not cause fever. BUT, ask any mother if there baby runs a fever when they are getting teeth. There is no direct reason for it, teething itself does not cause illness but many, many children run a temp when they get their teeth.

    So, yes, and no. I don’t ‘believe’ jenny mccarthy but I do hold stock in thousands of parents. This was a thought process way before this wave of thought.

    There are lots and lots of things doctors recommend even though it makes more sense to do it another way because of the ‘greater good’, or percieved.

    x

  7. okay, i’ll try to clear up a few misconceptions since i listened to her audio book on friday….i tried to post a long review of the book but somehow my post erase, ahhh! so i’ll just hit a few quick points:

    Jenny’s kid has autism from birth, she doesn’t ever say that vaccines caused her kid to have autism, simply looking back and through other mother’s observations, she theorizes the vaccine her son was given caused him to have many violent seizures because his body was difficent due to his autism. that is what she is trying to get out to stubborn scientists, doctors, and parents….that if your kid has seizures after getting a vaccine, and they are autistic, if could have been the vaccine’s fault. also, she wants the government (which i totally disagree with) to regulate all pediatricians to administer a test prior to giving vaccines, to insure the patient is not going to be “allergic” to the vaccine or what is in the vaccine….whew!

    second, in her book, she makes many links to doctors and medical reference material in the closing of the book related to the issue, it’s not all anectdotal.

    lastly, which confuses me but i’m not surprised at, she continually thanks God for giving her strength and pointing her to the info she needs to combat her child’s affliction. who does she think gave her son the affliction? which i’m sure would please Ty to no end to read all the times she talks about angels and getting signs from Tarot cards….so it’s up to the reader to believe what they want from her story.

  8. Jess, thanks for the post! Interesting stuff… So after listening to her, who do you think is better qualified to examine the scientific data? And furthermore, do you trust her to give all relevant facts and studies? Lastly, is she wacky?

  9. haha, okay….she is most definitely qualified to make the decisions that are best for her child and qualified to give advice to parents who have autistic children since she has intimate knowledge of the disorder. that’s it!

    in her book she stresses many times that she is not an expert in science, yet she feels she has enough knowledge proven through trial and error on her son that have shown themselves to be effective or not. she does a good job with bringing you through the steps of what she tried and medically and alternatively to medicine (as perscribed by some doctors). she most definitely let you know her opinions on some doctors that didn’t take the time to listen to her intimate knowledge of the situation….and she continually bashes men in particular (except for he new boyfriend Jim Carrey, though she doesn’t name him)

    to answer who is more qualified?…..it’s kind of a loaded question because obviously a scientist/doctor who has taken not only the time to discover what is in the existing vaccines vs. if there are any allergic reactions to austic kids that give them seizures (not cause autism which i already covered as being falsly touted as Jenny’s argument) and then make the knowledge public. in my opinion, this whole thing is the same as the violence in video games argument. the American media likes to take individual incidents and try to convert it all across the board. watch your kids, be an active parent, and hopefully you have the brains to figure out if there are problems…..

    bottom line, if you don’t have an autistic kid, you don’t have a say in the argument, but the more knowlege the better for when you do have kids.

  10. wait… you’re not saying (or are you saying) that if a doctor does not have an autistic child that he/she can’t have an opinion, are you? I assume you are talking about non-professionals like you and me?

  11. exactly….glad you clairified….it’s really a non-issue, but interesting. i think as you said before that unfortunately the scientific field is so competetive, and the issue of funding which can mean a make or break for someone’s life work and livelihood, that sometimes doctors and scientists are driven by their ego or the extreme stress for instant answers, that they aren’t allowed the time to investigate like they should.

    i think a perfect example would be to see how long the link between peanuts and shellfish ingested by newborns to allergic reactions was denied. i really have no idea if it was denied for years, but i’m making an educated guess.

  12. well, i think that the “market” aspect also works to keep scientists honest, there is always someone looking over your shoulder to see a screw-up and pounce on it… if science was truly centrally and monolithically controlled, you would have far more examples of “bad” science being allowed to continue unchallenged…

  13. oh yeah, the coin has two sides. there will be a flip flop of collective judgement on the issue from science and the truth will come out in the end, but right now is while the coin is still flipping. i think down the road this info will come out to be more accepted. Jenny McCarthy=wacky because of all the faith beliefs, and tarot card reading, but i think she’s correct only speaking for her son and possibily other autistic children.

    any other parent deciding to not give their kids the needed vaccines(for any reason, religious or not) is a total dummy. if you know your kid is autistic, check out the info and see if it works for you.

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