Let's face it, Jenny McCarthy is a passionate parent with a child that has autism. Like many, she probes the causes and remedies. Unfortunately, in the great abyss of internet misinformation, she has fallen into the trap of vilifying vaccines, one of the most important medical breakthroughs of the last 100 years.
The situation exists because the best medical science cannot answer the question of how autism happens, and this leaves parents open to speculate. The problem is prevalent and children are harmed. Good parents are concerned and seek information, to their credit. Their passion to help their child, as well as prevent the problem from affecting other families if possible, is tremendous.
The situation is a perfect storm where misinformation meets our nation's scientific illiteracy. As usual, the amount of information that exists is too much for the average citizen to process.
Jenny is certain that the vaccine caused her child's autism. She dramatically tells about how he died inside the moment he was given the injection. She is given a free, unopposed time to rant about the dangers of vaccines and even when presented with medical opposition, they handle her gently because she is a parent doing her best.
Unfortunately, she has now crossed into Kookville and does more damage than good.
If you watch YouTube, including the recent march on DC, you see them making bold statements that indicate that the government and corporations conspire to give their kids autism for profit. No kidding. They actually think that there is knowledge of harm related to vaccines, and that it is all being covered up.
They state that vaccines contain "ether and antifreeze". This along with deleterious agents like the website no vaccines provide a laundry list of reagents that would make any scientific illiterate person, or even a college educated layperson, cringe. It is purely a way to package real information in a manner that can provoke panic. For instance, they mention any single reagent that is used in human cell culture, protein purification and vaccine stability/preservation. None of these compounds is found in vaccines in any appreciable amount, especially an amount that can have physiological consequence.
For instance the ether they specifically cite is not soluble in water and antifreeze is really ethylene glycol, a compound commonly used in protein purification. All of the media types used in cell culture are vital to the process, but are no more an ingredient in vaccines as hay is in McDonald's hamburgers. Do trace amounts of some chemicals make it into vaccines? Maybe, maybe not, but certainly not in any physiologically relevant amounts.
In the past this argument was all about thimerisol, a preservative containing mercury. Thimerisol contained a small amount of ethyl mercury, a compound with no physiological ingress into any possible disorder and pharmacokinetics illustrated that it was rapidly removed from the body. The compound was removed from vaccines in 2001, purely to ally hysteria and test the compound further. Still, autism rates rise.
Here is a good scholarly review on the topic.
So like any good pseudoscientific witch hunt in search of an evil villain, they moved the goalpost from mercury to vaccine frequency. It shows that they don't care about the science, they care about their agenda. When you watch McCarthy and Jim Carey talk about this you'll note that they always start with "I believe that... ". You would not want to open your wealthy self up to liability in the 100% likely chance that you are wrong.
The problem is that McCarthy and her anti-vaccine ilk get the spotlight on Oprah, Larry King, Good Morning America and other media outlets without any scientific fact being required. They can talk about how they feel about it, showing correlations between the disease and their presumed causes, using a single data point.
There is ZERO CREDIBLE SCIENCE supporting her opinion. None. The only suggestive reports are from small studies that have been since discounted by larger, more comprehensive ones.
The danger is that people are not vaccinating their children. This is a problem because immunity is conferred with the herd. If everyone is immunized, then we're safe. However, when pathogens can infiltrate a population, cause infectivity and mutate, they can circumvent our vaccine defenses as a society. The people that do not vaccinate their children are placing other children, the elderly, and all of us in harm's way.
So like any good pseudoscientific claim, the link between vaccines and autism is a lot like the creationist arguments. Of course, the truth is being suppressed by a perfect conspiracy and scientists and doctors don't know what they are talking about. People's beliefs and suspicions and mounds of bogus information on the internet supplant solid science. Good job Jenny.
Jenny, ironically science and medicine are the best hope to cure your child's problem. I sincerely hope that they find it early in his lifetime.
I'll bet that when Big Evil Pharma rolls out the cure, you'll be first in line to get it.