August 8, 2013 | Posted By John Kaplan, PhD

What do Jenny McCarthy and Bill Maher have in common? No, this question is not a joke. It is a serious question, very serious. They are both television talk show hosts and celebrities. This is important. Talk show hosts have the capacity to deliver their message to millions of people. They have a built-in credibility just because their message is broadcast to the masses. Why would they put them on television to tell us stuff if they did not know stuff? Well, perhaps they do not know so much. Perhaps they are just expressing opinions. Perhaps their opinions are wrong, dead wrong. Perhaps in expressing their opinions they are influencing people to make decisions which are dangerous. Perhaps they are influencing people to put their children at risk of serious disease and even death. If they are doing this they are dangerous. Jenny McCarthy and Bill Maher are dangerous. Both have been using their celebrity status to discourage people from getting themselves and their children vaccinated against dangerous diseases.

Jenny McCarthy has been a vocal leader in the anti-vaccine movement created by the false and disproven link between vaccination and autism. This link was predicated on false data published by Dr. Andrew Wakefield

It has been revealed that acting under a financial conflict of interest Wakefield falsified data indicating such a link. Wakefield’s paper was retracted by the publisher and his medical license suspended as a result. Do not be confused about this. This is settled science. A huge amount of research has demonstrated that no link exists between vaccines or any vaccine components and the development of autism. Jenny McCarthy has joined the most insidious anti-vaccine zealots by clinging to this disproven notion and defending the depraved actions of Wakefield. Jenny, by the way, defends her ability to make such claims on the basis that she is a graduate of the University of Google.

Bill Maher seems to base his anti-vaccine stance on a general mistrust of the medical establishment and a misunderstanding of what vaccines are and how they work. In contrast to Jenny McCarthy’s Google education Bill Maher graduated from Cornell University albeit in English and history and not medically related science. He seems to believe that undergoing vaccination is to “stick a disease into your arm”. Things have advanced a great deal since Edward Jenner inoculated against smallpox by providing cow pox vaccinations. Vaccines are no longer made from live disease inducing viruses. Bill Maher has largely directed his anti-vaccine statements toward flu vaccine and he actively discourages people from undergoing flu vaccination despite its demonstrated efficacy.

Both Jenny and Bill, as talk show hosts, have huge audiences to whom they can deliver their erroneous and dangerous messages. It is time to recognize that when celebrities advance their anti-vaccine agendas they discourage trusting fans from vaccinating themselves and their children. The unvaccinated fail to gain protection against disease and deny the health benefits of widespread immunity to the overall population. Make no mistake about it. Discouraging people from vaccination results in more people becoming ill with preventable diseases as well as more deaths from preventable diseases. Both Jenny and Bill need to recognize that they share responsibility for this increase in illness and death

Those who feature them and their views on national television share in this responsibility as well.

The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers a Master of Science in Bioethics, a Doctorate of Professional Studies in Bioethics, and Graduate Certificates in Clinical Ethics and Clinical Ethics Consultation. For more information on AMBI's online graduate programs, please visit our website.

1 comments | Topics: Celebrities , Fraud , Vaccines


Jim Finnerty

Jim Finnerty wrote on 08/09/13 10:59 AM

Good work John. Very incisive and complete analysis of the nonsense these people are propagating. Keep it up.

Jim Finnerty

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