Jenny McCarthy encourages freeloading anti-vaccine science illiterates

Mostly, I’m all for hyper-vigilant parents to raise their children as they see fit. Want to feed them nothing but hand-picked organic food? It’s your pocketbook. Should they never lay a single precious eyeball upon an electric screen? They won’t have anything to talk about at school, but not my problem. But one parenting quirk drives me into a frothing rage – refusing to vaccinate. That IS my problem. And it’s your problem too.

There is a pernicious rumor that the standard childhood vaccines, especially the Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR) vaccine, cause autism. The link is supposedly thimerosal, a preservative used in vaccines that contains mercury. Now, dear reader, you might be thinking of my blog entry of yore, entreating people to dispose of their mercury-containing flourescent bulbs in the proper fashion since mercury is so toxic and all.

But there are crucial differences:
1) Methylmercury is the highly toxic form that accumulates in fat. This is what you get in by eating top marine predators, like tuna. Ethylmercury is the form in thimerosal, which does not accumulate in the body and is not known to be toxic.

2) The amount of methylmercury in ONE can of albacore tuna is ~85 mcg, according to Angry Toxicologist, who should know. The highest possible cumulative exposure to vaccine-related ethylmercury from birth to 7 months is 187.5 mcg. That’s a little over two cans of tuna. Now babies don’t eat tuna, but their mothers do, and there can be a whole lot of mercury in breast milk. That’s bad, but it’s not from vaccines.

Jenny McCarthy, former Playmate and MTV personality, is the latest spokeperson for the vaccine-autism connection. She said on Oprah:

“What number will it take for people just to start listening to what the mothers of children who have seen autism have been saying for years, which is, ‘We vaccinated our baby and something happened.”

Yes, something happened – your baby got vaccinated. Autism is a terrible thing, but all available evidence says that it is NOT caused by vaccines. The most compelling evidence comes from Denmark, which eliminated thimerosal from vaccines in 1992 but saw skyrocking rates of autism. (Here’s a handy summary in Slate, and a detailed discussion of a recent NEJM study in Respectful Insolence.)

Like in HIV denialists, anti-vaccine activists want so badly for there to be simple, curable explanation for a horrible disease, but there just isn’t. Again, like HIV denialists, many of the scaremongerers are also New Age Quacks that prey upon vulnerable, scared people. (Soaking your feet to remove toxins?!) However, the worst thing about this persistent falsehood is that it is preventing otherwise sane parents from vaccinating their children, driving up the price of vaccines due to lawsuits, and putting everyone else at risk. Has everyone forgotten that millions of children used to die from measles & mumps?
Now, the individual risk of not vaccinating your child is very low. But that is because everybody’s else’s children are vaccinated – and that makes parents who don’t vaccinate low-down dirty freeloaders. When enough children aren’t vaccinated properly, you get problems like last year’s mumps epidemic in the Midwest, which was linked to the MMR vaccine-autism scaremongering. Fortunately, nobody died, but that’s probably because the victims were college students, not babies.

Please, people, worry about the huge amount of methylmercury in seafood! It comes from coal-fired power plants, and dollars to donuts it’s in your fat and bad for your baby. Worry about the E. coli in beef! It comes from cruel and repulsive factory farms that pollute our water and are subsidized by the government, and it ruin your child’s kidneys. But please, PLEASE vaccinate your child and take mumps off the list of things to worry about.

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38 Responses to Jenny McCarthy encourages freeloading anti-vaccine science illiterates

  1. Eric Wolff says:

    For some reason, this puts me in mind of how we forget that we solved certain problems, and then wonder why there’s a law, because it isn’t a problem. I realize that makes no sense on its surface, so here’s an example. Occasionally back in college I would hear people complaining about open container laws. What’s the big deal with carrying an open beet around campus? Heck, in Las Vegas, you’re allowed to carry an open beer, and it’s not like ti’s a big problem on the Strip. But what we all forget is that public drunkeness used to be a huge problem. Mobs would form after a group had been sitting around drinking on a stoop, drunks would stagger down the street in broad daylight in so forth. So we don’t think it’s a problem, and it’s not – because we created effective regualtion.

    By the same token, measles and mumps are no longer a problem – because we vaccinate! We can’t stop vaccinating just because we no longer see measles or mumps.

    Anyway, good post, I just wanted to share.

  2. Chris says:

    And yet there’s a growing market for vaccines which ostensibly protect us from diseases that aren’t particularly dangerous, but otherwise offer little or no ability for pharmaceutical companies to sell expensive drugs. So we get the chicken pox vaccine and flu vaccines. Literally tens of people a year are saved from gruesome death at the hand of chicken pox by a vaccine that costs $150 a dose. Compare that to the $3 they might make from selling tylenol and calomine to suffering grade schoolers. Not only that, the protection afforded by the vaccine is only good for about ten years. Most people don’t get chicken pox boosters so their immunity wears off and they are likely to catch the disease later in life when it is more dangerous. This is one part of the public health problem created by the chicken pox vaccine, but the more basic one is that the kids who aren’t vaccinated are now a lot less likely to catch the virus and gain effectively permanent natural immunity. So we’re paying $150 a shot for that.

    As for the flu vaccine, here’s some of the side effects than a minority of vaccinated individuals can expect to suffer: Feaver, aches, runny nose, head aches, wheezing, vomiting and sore muscles. Huh! So there’s a small chance that I might get the flu from the flu shot, and there’s a small chance that I will get the flu without the flu shot, and since the vaccine represents the best guess of what flu strain will be in play this year there’s a pretty good chance I could get the flu despite the flu shot. But the good news is I get to pay Glaxo (or whoever) $40 a year for the privilege.

    Methyl Mercury is nasty stuff that I don’t want in my body, Ethyl Mercury may be less nasty, but Ethyl Mercury Chloride is poisonous, an experimental teratogen and is damn well something I don’t want in my body. The comparison to tuna is specious – I don’t want mercury from tuna in my body either, and the number of ways that toxic effects could be different between injected mercury and ingested mercury are pretty great. Whether it causes autism – maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t; my niece developed a seizure disorder shortly after her 5 year old booster – or not, I don’t plan to willingly introduce Mercury into my blood stream. Rather than point to Jenny McCarthy as the spokesperson for those concerned about vaccines, it might be worth noting that there is a federal court of claims special master reviewing vaccine claims. This court was not created because this is a trivial controversy.

    Luckily, the derided public outcry over ethyl mercury in vaccines has lead to other preservatives in childhood vaccines. So, there’s something to be happy for there.

  3. Palma Amelie Lova Dumana says:

    Hey Jenny,

    Fair enough you choose to make a statement about vaccines, but…… mayby it would be a good idea to study the body & its natural 7 year cyklus in the immune system to begin with.

    Then you would know that what you are claiming is absolute NONSENS & you sound sadly brainwashed!!
    Although I might add it’s very obvious that your intention is fine & I like your drive, so use on something true!

  4. Nicqui Haskell says:

    Hi,
    My name is (Nicqui) Nicole Haskell , I have a lil’ boy Anthony age 4, he is goin into PreK as of Sept. 08. I have been told that he won’t be accepted because I have yet to get him the ‘chicken pox’ vaccine. I have not been told, yet, other wise from the school board. Thou, I’m sure I will be notified. I have disagreed with it since day one when I was told about the vaccine from his pediatrician. I thought it was a joke; or another way for the FDA to make money, (especially when there are complications) $$$ ). My worry is that Tony will not be allowed to go to school because he has not yet received this vaccine and or has complications from it. Whomever reads this, please point me in the right direction that can back me up my values and beliefs. Granted there are so many in this world that already, unfortunately, have been blind sided by the ‘general’ belief in our country.
    Thank you,
    Nicqui Haskell

  5. Palma says:

    Hey Nicqui,

    Be creative & stick with your truth telling you not to give your kid the so UNNESSECARY vaccine,which might even fuck up body.
    You are right it is a money buisness , so use it.Somewhere ,there must be a doctor ” brave ” enough to give you a vaccine on the paper only:-) mayby california I would try anyting to avoid vaccines!!
    Good luck
    I know people who cleaned out some of the vaccines with homeopathy with good results.

  6. Michelle says:

    This is a wonderful post. I’m so glad to see a post defending the research on this issue, not blathering from a science-illiterate’s mouth.

    For the life of me, I can’t figure out how so many seemingly intelligent people stop using their brains when it comes to vaccines and their children! Perhaps if they grew up in a time when polio and other terrible illnesses were commonplace they’d know what a great thing we have with vaccines.

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