An Open Letter to Jenny McCarthy

Hi Jenny,

My name is Lauren and I’m a mom just like you. Well, aside from us both being mothers, there’s really not much we have in common. I suppose I’m one of those you are accusing of writing “blatantly inaccurate blog posts” about your position on vaccines. I’ve been writing about your vaccine stance since 2007, but I’ve only ever done so upon seeing an interview or reading your own words. My intent was never to spread falsehoods. You speak a lot about all those moms you’re helping. Well, there’s a big group of moms, and dads, who you have caused much frustration and irritation. Most of us didn’t have the media opportunities as you, so we took to our blogs. We did so to get our stories out, to dispel the vaccine lies you told, and to let the world know autism wasn’t all the horror story you shared with the world. We wanted to show others that recovery didn’t have to be the end-goal for parents and that those selling “cures” and quack treatments were simply modern-day snake oil salespeople. We blogged and spoke out, demanding human rights for autistic individuals and pleaded for much-needed resources. Many of us worked alongside other families and autistic adults to amplify our voices. Our goal was never to paint you in a negative light, we simply had to respond to your repeated rhetoric. Here I am, 7 years later, still doing so. Are you tired yet, Jenny? I sure as heck am.

“I believe in the importance of a vaccine program…”

Says the mom who said she’d’ve preferred her son to have measles (instead of autism). People die from measles. Need I say more? You’ve made so many statements over the years, I’m having a hard time even entertaining the idea that you may not be anti-vaccine. I know it can be confusing, being interviewed on television shows and in print, so I’ve put together a PDF of the various statements you’ve made from 2007 to 2012. Perhaps it can refresh your memory, and help you see why so many of us label you as “anti-vaccine” no matter how many times you try to ensure us you are not. You can continue to claim you are “pro-vaccine,” but until your actions and words at your many public appearances fit the role of someone who is for disease-preventing immunizations, the majority of us will probably put you in the anti-vax corner. If you go through that PDF and detail how you were wrong then and what your position is now, then we’ll see you’re no longer anti-vaccine. I look forward to you clearing this up!

My next concern with your piece from last weekend, is your use of scare tactics (once again) to cause confusion and fear among parents. Here is the paragraph most concerning to me:

Should a child with the flu receive six vaccines in one doctor visit? Should a child with a compromised immune system be treated the same way as a robust, healthy child? Shouldn’t a child with a family history of vaccine reactions have a different plan? Or at least the right to ask questions?

Oh, but wait, you also said:

For my child, I asked for a schedule that would allow one shot per visit instead of the multiple shots they were and still are giving infants.

So… You were able to have these discussions with your doctor. It wasn’t all black and white, then? I guess those statements were concerns for friends or family members? Well, let’s see if I can’t help them out and clarify some information from your piece, for those people who have received improper medical care. And especially for those new parents who might read your piece and be terrified to visit the doctor when it’s time for immunizations.

For starters, no doctor would give even one vaccine to a kid with the flu. Have you ever signed one of these forms, Jenny? I’ve signed countless ones for both of my children, I’m sure your friends and family have as well. One of the first questions asked on those forms is if your child is ill for that visit. Now, a small cold won’t prevent a child from receiving their vaccine, unless of course the parent is concerned. In which case, as parents, we have the right to reschedule. But, if a child has the flu, a high fever, etc, that frequently negates the ability to receive a vaccine. I’m sorry if your friends or family encountered a negligent doctor. Also on that form, is a question regarding family history of seizures, brain, or other nervous system problems. During this pre-vaccine discussion, a parent would also bring up any other reactions to vaccines in the family. From there, the doctor and parent would decide what is best for the child–perhaps delaying a vaccine or breaking it up is the solution (MMRV and Tdap are easily separated for this very reason). My niece had a reaction to one of her shots. When it came time for my nephew to receive that shot, his physician took precautions. That too is not uncommon. If people you care about are going to doctors where this information is not being shared and such precautions are not made an option, well then that’s a bad doc. As for someone with a compromised immune system, the CDC has special recommendations for such cases.

A vaccine should not be administered when a contraindication is present; for example, MMR vaccine should not be administered to severely immunocompromised persons.
Persons who administer vaccines should screen patients for contraindications and precautions to the vaccine before each dose of vaccine is administered.

Any doctor not taking caution with a child with immune dysfunction simply is a quack. My eldest has a robust immune system, my youngest, compromised. They have had different vaccine schedules. Currently, my youngest daughter’s immunologist oversees and consults with her pediatrician on all vaccines. That also is typical in cases like ours. This page is a great resource which breaks down in detail who should and should not receive various vaccines.

If a doctor is utilizing practices that go against that list, they should be held accountable and possibly lose their license. Let’s face it though, Jenny, this is not a common occurrence. I mean, are you meeting that many people on the playground and at PTA meetings who have had these experiences? Are physicians that lazy and that hungry for a lawsuit? Are parents that misinformed about vaccines that this is happening frequently? Do parents never read the forms they sign, especially when they are signing permission to have their kid poked with a needle? Real talk: these points you make just don’t make sense to me.

I guess it’s possible your friends have had crappy doctors. I mean, really, let’s discuss all that negligence you mention in that one paragraph! Or, and I have a suspicion this is the accurate conclusion, your concerns are a bunch of bullshit. I get it. You have something to sell, you’re marketing yourself, your books, your interviews, your speaking engagements. As a single mom myself, I know all about hustling to care for your kids. I know that without the “vaccines are evil” campaign, you would stand to lose a lot of money. More than likely, your current job on TV is only due to your controversy and role in the anti-vaccine movement. Autism and vaccines have kept your name in the headlines.

Without all that fear, without that horrible autism sending kids into outer space, without frightening a new mom into thinking she won’t have any say in her child’s care, well, you become irrelevant. You have a lot to gain from selling parents your message. I suppose that’s why you were so adamant at insisting your son had autism—you lose all credibility at Generation Rescue and your books seem like a cruel joke at that point. It’s also why you shifted to a “green” vaccines campaign (which is still very much ANTI-vaccine). You knew selling the typical anti-vax message (as seen here and here and here) to the masses, to your audience, would be harder and you might have more to answer to. Now you can say you never said to not vaccinate (well, except you did…). You also continued to claim that vaccines gave your son autism, and that is was “like a spaceship came and stole the child’s soul.”

And so now, in light of outbreak after outbreak after outbreak, you are here to say “I’m not anti-vaccine.” Kudos to you for changing your message when the going gets tough. You have something to sell, and want to stay relevant. Some people would just bow out. I may have called you many things in the past few years, not all of them nice, but I can say nothing bad about your determination.

Your words speak for themselves, Jenny. You have never been and you are not now “pro-vaccine,” so just cut the crap.

Here’s what a pro-vaccine mom sounds like.

My daughter was diagnosed with autism, and no, I do not believe vaccines played a role. I did substantial research into the science at hand, read up on the many studies done which disproved any link between autism and vaccines. I met with geneticists, biologists, and neurologists and discussed my concerns. I have come to an educated, and not emotional, conclusion: vaccines have helped improve my daughter’s health and played no role in her autism. Part of my daughter’s overall health concerns is a decreased immune response. Because of that, she has been hospitalized with infection and is prone to illness. Had she not received her vaccines, it’s likely she would have faced more hospitalizations, and for her, something like measles would most likely prove to be fatal. With her vaccines, her immune system strengthened and she is protected. If she were to catch a disease for which she has been immunized against, it would not be as traumatic. I am grateful for that. It’s possible she would not be alive today if not for her immunizations. I don’t say that lightly, Jenny. My daughter was in the hospital for surgery at 15 months of age and contracted an infection while there. It landed her in the PICU, she was barely conscious and teams of doctors and specialists were unsure what was happening to her (her infection, particularly where it began in her body, was that rare). I almost lost her then. I never want to see her that sick, and I wish for no other parent to ever have to go through that either. My daughter is now almost 10, she is stronger and healthier with each passing year. I am relieved to know that should she come in contact with someone who has say, mumps, her body is much more prepared to fight it off. Without immunizations, she may not be able to fight off such diseases, even if other kids are able to. I can assure you, Jenny, I would not pick measles or mumps over autism. Not ever.

If today, after years of writing and speaking on the subject, I were to write a piece stating that I am anti-vaccine, people would be baffled, and rightfully so. When you’ve been hollering into proverbial bullhorn (and a literal one!) for years about how harmful and scary vaccines are, it’s quite difficult for us to believe that this whole time you were not anti-vaccine. So, give us a few minutes to pick our jaws up off the floor.

Listen, Jenny, can we put all this vaccine nonsense aside for a minute? For years, you’ve been a thorn in my side. My boyfriend asked me the other night if you were my arch-villain. He said you were my Joker. I guess that makes me Batman (but I’d really rather be Wonder Woman!). Anyway, how great would it be if I could be Wonder Woman and you could be Superwoman and we could make the world a better place for our kids together? That’s what hurts most, Jenny, and why you have become my Joker. You had a platform. You had a face. You had a voice.

Instead of using that for good, for talking about what the autistic community really needed, you “gathered your troops” as you say, you hit the media outlets proclaiming that autism is “like getting hit by a bus” and that it means “never being able to be touched by mom.” You wrote books. You went on TV. I received phone calls after your Oprah and Larry King appearances. Every. damn. time. you have made some type of statement on autism or vaccines, my phone rings and my inbox fills up. Now, I’m the first to say no one should take parenting advice, let alone medical advice, from a celebrity. I’ve also gone to bat and said I don’t solely blame you for the escalating outbreaks in recent years. But, let’s face it—you had the platform. People listened.

You gave “autism moms” (and what was it, “warrior moms”?) hope. If they stopped “poisoning” their kid and tried any number of (questionable) “treatments” such as chelation and injections, their kids might “recover” from autism. You instilled fear in those who had newborns or were considering families. They heard your story, a heartbreaking account, over and over again. For years, you continued to decry autism, that it kicked your ass and how awful it was. All those years, all those appearances, all those chances to spread knowledge and real awareness. Instead, Jenny, you circulated your own fears and myths, all the while bashing individuals on the spectrum. How you repeatedly described autism, the nerve you have now to ever discuss services needed for adults. Remember when you didn’t even know what happened to autistic adults? And after years of describing autism in only the most negative of ways, you expect the public to want to extend their help in job training or other programs to those on the spectrum? You’ve taken us backwards. I honestly cannot forgive you for that.

As I said earlier, we are all waiting, Jenny. This letter is so long because it’s been seven years in the making. We’ll keep waiting, and we’ll keep writing. When you discount the statements you have made for years, over your opinion and view on vaccines, then we might take you seriously when you tell us you are pro-vaccine. Until then, you will reside in the quack-science corner. Don’t stay in the infrared sauna too long!


Lauren, Concerned Mom & Sometime Caped Crusader


See:  Jenny McCarthy on Vaccines 2007-2012