Let’s Stop Blaming Jenny McCarthy for Anti-Vaccination Beliefs

Let me start by saying that I am absolutely pro-vaccination. Still, I’m not going to lie: The idea of pumping a little baby full of chemicals and dead viruses has never sat well with me. Sure, I know that vaccines are medically-proven life-savers, which is why I do it, but after every shot my boys get, I watch for fevers or lethargy. One of my boys recently had a reaction to an antibiotic which cured his ear infection, but left him with a harmless rash. It happens. Sometimes medicines that are good for kids are a bit too much for their little systems. Nevertheless, the pros far, far outweigh the cons.

I chose our pediatrician not for his stance on vaccinations but because he’s one of the best in our area, and because he was my pediatrician. He’s a little old school, a little new school, and he knows his stuff. He’s experienced, well-respected, he does his research, and I trust him. It turns out that he follows a delayed vaccination schedule, so my boys have always received only one shot per visit, and they never get a shot if they’re sick. They didn’t get the flu shot until they were 18-months-old, and they didn’t receive the MMR vaccine until they were two-years-old. Sometimes we have to go back a month later for a booster, which is inconvenient, but it makes me much more comfortable. I follow his trusted advice and my mother’s intuition, and it feels right for us. I’m sure many will take issue with this and I’m alright with that, but my children are vaccinated.

Do I think that some kids have adverse reactions to vaccinations? Absolutely. Do I think that vaccinations cause autism though? No. I know a lot of people still do though. They’ve read suspicious “studies” on the Internet, they’ve heard anecdotal stories, and yes, maybe even remember that Jenny McCarthy’s son became autistic soon after a vaccination.

But Jenny McCarthy never told them not to get their kid vaccinated! She didn’t. She put her story out there, talked about her own fight to try and cure her son, and advocated for both “greening” vaccines and delayed schedules. Both she and her organization, Generation Rescue, have been a source of support for families struggling with an autism diagnosis and searching for alternative therapies. Over the weekend, she even wrote in a Chicago Sun-Times piece that she is “pro-vaccine” and has been from the beginning.

Still, somehow, she became the poster girl for the anti-vax movement. And recently, she’s been the one that people are blaming for the measles outbreaks in communities where families aren’t vaccinating their kids. But even if she were anti-vax, it wouldn’t be her fault. Nor would it be the fault of Kristin Cavallari, who truly is anti-vax. If you want to blame anyone for not vaccinating their kids, blame the people who keep putting out bad information and the people who are blindly buying it!

In all honesty, I understand why some parents are afraid, even if it’s misguided and misinformed. They heard a story about a friend of a friend whose son got vaccinated and, soon after, started to regress. Their newsfeed is clogged with Big Pharma conspiracy theories. A simple Google search on “vaccinations and autism” turns up pages of fictional “studies that your doctor doesn’t want you to see.” If you ask me, it’s fear-mongering, plain and simple.

Still, mothers and fathers have a right to read everything, make their own choices for their children, do their own research, and follow their own instincts. Those who choose not to vaccinate their children are not trying to be reckless or endanger lives. They obviously don’t realize they’re getting false information. They’re just trying to keep their babies safe. They’ve decided this is the best option for them. Of course, it’s a decision that both science and the medical community agree is incredibly negligent, but it’s their right as parents.

Unfortunately though, while most parenting choices are to-each-their-own, the decision not to vaccinate has consequences for the community. And if you live in an area where there have been outbreaks of once-defunct diseases, you may be a little angry. Hate-tweeting Jenny McCarthy, however, is not the answer, especially since she’s not the problem. Honestly, I’m not sure what the answer is because, as a parent, I know that once you make a decision about the health and safety of your child, it’s very tough to be swayed…even by a celebrity. 

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