Since Osocio is an international blog, I thought I’d use an unconventional campaign to open a discussion about different societies’ reactions to social issues.
A few days ago, Marc posted about an American campaign that encouraged people to get their vaccinations. He commented, “This is the third campaign within a month here on Osocio about vaccination. I never realized that this is still an issue in the western world. I guess it is.”
Marc lives in the Netherlands. I am in Canada. And from where I sit, I can indeed attest to a strong anti-immunization movement in the English-speaking world.
The movement is strongest in the individualistic heartland of the USA, where distrust of government involvement in healthcare runs high. And the most famous spokesperson for the movement is former model and reality show star Jenny McCarthy.
McCarthy’s “Generation Rescue” continues to insist that there is a causal link between mercury-based preservatives in common vaccines and the onset of childhood autism. This view was given some credence, a few years ago, in a paper published by Andrew Wakefield in the Lancet. (That paper was recently the subject of a full retraction by the Lancet, and Wakefield exposed as a fraud with an evil moneymaking scheme worthy of a Bond villain. Seriously.)
The anti-vaccine movement, however, was undaunted by the scandal. It is, after all, a very personal crusade for parents of kids with autism (McCarthy is one).
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continue to explain the grave dangers posed by lower vaccination rates: outbreaks of formerly controlled and nearly-eradicated diseases like Measles, Rubella, and even Polio, as well as opportunities for new diseases to mutate and spread due to lessened “herd immunity”. But despite the news and various health campaigns, the debate continues.
One of the major battlegrounds, of course, is the internet. And that’s where I found a site called “Jenny McCarthy Body Count”:
These are American statistics. Note the zero.
It’s a simple, brutal and effective “viral” (no pun intended) to underscore the message that real people are dying as a result of illnesses that they could have been immunized against.
The site makes it clear that they don’t really hold Ms. McCarthy personally accountable for all of the deaths, but notes “as the unofficial spokesperson for the United States anti-vaccination movement she may be indirectly responsible for at least some of these illnesses and deaths and even one vaccine preventable illness or vaccine preventable death is too many.”
The site was created by Derek Bartholomaus, an American post-production supervisor and producer for film and television. In his FAQ, he states that there is no profit motive involved, only conviction. Read his manifesto below.
Jenny McCarthy speaking on Autism, from Wikimedia Commons.
WELCOME TO THE JENNY MCCARTHY BODY COUNT
“I do believe sadly it’s going to take some diseases coming back to realize that we need to change and develop vaccines that are safe. If the vaccine companies are not listening to us, it’s their f___ing fault that the diseases are coming back. They’re making a product that’s s___. If you give us a safe vaccine, we’ll use it. It shouldn’t be polio versus autism.”
Jenny McCarthy in Time Magazine, April 2009
Jenny McCarthy is a celebrity from the United States. She is most well known for posing nude as a Playboy Playmate, for picking her nose on the MTV show Singled Out, and for being the former girlfriend of actor/comedian Jim Carrey.
In 2002 she gave birth to a son named Evan. In 2006 she started promoting Evan as being a “Crystal Child” and herself as being an “Indigo Mom”.
In May 2007 Jenny McCarthy announced that Evan was not a “Crystal Child” after all, but had been diagnosed with autism (some people have said that there is a possibility that he may have been misdiagnosed and he actually has Landau-Kleffner syndrome). She holds on to the mistaken belief that Evan’s alleged autism was caused by his receiving childhood vaccines. Most anti-vaccination believers claim that the compound thimerosal led to an increase in autism cases. The Measles/Mumps/Rubella vaccine is their usual target. However, thimerosal was never used as a preservative in the Measles/Mumps/Rubella vaccine. All vaccines licensed since 1999, with the exception of a few multidose container vaccines (such as some, but not all, HIB and Influenza vaccines), have not contained thimerosal as a preservative. Autism has not declined since 1999, thereby disproving this connection. In addition, Jenny McCarthy’s child, Evan, was not born until 2002, well after thimerosal had been removed from most childhood vaccines. This has led Jenny McCarthy, and others, to claim that it was the MMR vaccine itself that caused autism or that it was vaccines in general that caused autism. All of these ideas have been disproven in multiple scientific and legal examinations of the evidence.
In June 2007 Jenny McCarthy began promoting anti-vaccination rhetoric. Because of her celebrity status she has appeared on several television shows and has published multiple books advising parents not to vaccinate their children. This has led to an increase in the number of vaccine preventable illnesses as well as an increase in the number of vaccine preventable deaths.
Jenny McCarthy has a body count attached to her name. This website will publish the total number of vaccine preventable illnesses and vaccine preventable deaths that have happened in the United States since June 2007 when she began publicly speaking out against vaccines.
Is Jenny McCarthy directly responsible for every vaccine preventable illness and every vaccine preventable death listed here? No. However, as the unofficial spokesperson for the United States anti-vaccination movement she may be indirectly responsible for at least some of these illnesses and deaths and even one vaccine preventable illness or vaccine preventable death is too many.