The web is abuzz about an interview antivax activist and public health threat Jenny McCarthy did with Time magazine. A lot of folks seem to think that McCarthy is backtracking on her claims that vaccines cause autism. Let me be very clear: that simply isn't true. McCarthy is still making the same debunked, discredited, and dangerous claims:
Each of these theories [proposed by antivaxxers] has been thoroughly discredited by scientific research, but that has done nothing to silence McCarthy and her Generation Rescue colleagues. "Come and see our kids," says McCarthy. "Why won't the CDC come and talk to the mothers, talk to the families? Then tell us there isn't a link."
Sounds to me like she's up to the same old health-hazard hijinks. So why are so many people saying she's changed her mind? In some of the emails I've received and on a few websites, they're claiming that McCarthy has admitted that her son never was autistic, and instead had Landau-Kleffner syndrome, a neurological disorder. But that's wrong; she never admits that in the article -- the author suggests that Evan's symptoms are similar to Landau-Kleffner, but that's it. As recently as three weeks ago, McCarthy and her equally deluded boyfriend Jim Carrey both publicly defended Andrew Wakefield, the disgraced doctor credited for starting the modern movement claiming vaccines cause autism. You can find that statement on the Natural News website, run by the equally wrong Mike Adams, who couldn't find reality with three sherpas and a GPS. So why is this misinformation that McCarthy has changed her mind being spread so much? Part of the problem is an article in Hollywood Life, which obviously mischaracterizes the Time interview, saying:
And she is also reversing her initial position that the MMR shots caused Evan’s autism.
Nowhere in the Time interview does she reverse her position! Hollywood Life is wrong, plain and simple. In fact, the Time article author says plainly:
...[McCarthy] blames the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine for giving her son autism.
I don't see how this could be any more clear. [Note: the URL for the Hollywood life article is even a misstatement: "http://www.hollywoodlife.com/2010/02/26/jenny-mccarthy-says-her-son-evan-never-had-autism/"; McCarthy said no such thing in the interview.] So she is still standing by her earlier claims. Mind you, she still says she "cured" her son of his disorder by putting him on a gluten-free diet, which, to be clear, is nonsense. In fact, a lot of people have wondered if her son was ever autistic, and is now simply doing better as he ages; many disorders mitigate with time. Also, this is a person who claims we are injecting our kids with too many vaccines, but has no issue injecting herself with the most dangerous protein known to humanity, so clearly her viewpoint is somewhat skewed from reality. I urge people to read the article from Time magazine in its entirety; the author is clear he thinks McCarthy is wrong, that all of science and reality are stacked against her, and he even states simply that she is "dangerous". I agree. She is a terrible influence on people; her science is wrong, her medical advice is dangerous, and she gives people false hope. There is hope for parents with autistic children, but that hope comes through understanding the situation, using real evidence and data, and in knowing that thousands upon thousands of doctors are trying to understand autism as well. If there's hope, it's through science. I know that McCarthy loves her son, and I do think she's trying to help. But I also know that her claims about vaccines and autism are completely wrong, and instead of helping she's making things far worse -- not just for kids with autism and their parents, but for the population as a whole because vaccinations rates have dropped and we're seeing a resurgence of preventable diseases. This misinformation being spread about her isn't helping. Her stance has not changed, and she is still a force for antireality. People listening to her are not helping their own children, and if they don't vaccinate their kids they are putting everyone else in danger as well. [Update: Surly Amy at Skepchick has similar thoughts on this.]