Experts worry Jenny McCarthy will spread anti-vaccine message on The View
Published Tuesday, July 23, 2013 9:58PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, July 23, 2013 11:33PM EDT
Toronto Public Health raised some eyebrows this week with its campaign to get a popular U.S. talk show to rethink hiring anti-vaccine advocate Jenny McCarthy, but experts say her opinions may be influencing parents not to vaccinate their children, which could lead to troublesome consequences.
Last week, McCarthy, a former Playboy Playmate, was introduced as the newest co-host of ‘The View,’ which is seen in Canada on CTV.
McCarthy’s outgoing personality would seem a good fit for a daytime chat show hosted by four women. However, her anti-vaccine views have alarmed public health officials, who fear that parents will take her opinions to heart and forgo vaccinations that have all but eradicated a number of dangerous illnesses, from measles and mumps to polio.
On Tuesday, Toronto Public Health posted this message to Twitter: .@JennyMcCarthy anti-vaccine views = misinformation. Please ask @theviewtv to change their mind.” The tweet linked to a graphic that outlined the impact of vaccines in Canada.
The chart showed that after vaccinations became common, incidents of measles dropped by nearly 99 per cent, mumps by nearly 98 per cent, and rubella, diphtheria and polio by nearly 100 per cent.
McCarthy is an advocate for autism research and treatment who claims that her son’s autism was caused by vaccines. McCarthy calls the current vaccine schedule for babies “too bloated right now,” and says studies must be done to ensure the safety of vaccine ingredients.
Research that suggested a link between vaccines and autism has long since been discredited and retracted, and experts say other studies have failed to prove a connection.
“The evidence just isn’t there to support a linkage between vaccines and the cause of autism,” Margaret Spoelstra of Autism Ontario told CTV News.
Toronto Public Health, meanwhile, is concerned that McCarthy will use her new platform to confuse parents.
“We are concerned whenever we feel there will be misinformation about immunization given to the public,” said Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Toronto’s chief medical officer of health.
Some Twitter users criticized the Toronto agency for using public money on a campaign aimed at booting a talk-show host from a U.S. program.
However, experts fear that misinformation about vaccines is resulting in fewer children being vaccinated, and a resurgence in illnesses such as measles.
“In the U.K., for example, we’ve seen continued impact of this with large outbreaks of measles in many pockets,” says CTV’s medical specialist Dr. Marla Shapiro.
Public health officials in the United Kingdom have been warning parents there of ameasles outbreak following a drop in immunization rates over fears of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. Vaccination rates in the U.K. have dropped below the 95 per cent threshold that experts say is necessary to prevent the diseases from resurfacing.
So far in 2013, the U.K. has had more than 1,200 cases of measles, after 2,000 were diagnosed in 2012.
The outbreak has led to vaccination clinics across the U.K.
“Immunization is the most important public health or medical intervention in the last 50 years,” Yaffe says.
With a report from CTV’s John Venavally-Rao