Home > Anti-Vaccine Watch, Safety-Autism > If “mommy knows best” than Jenny McCarthy is wrong

If “mommy knows best” than Jenny McCarthy is wrong

Not that this will settle anything, because science fact is not decided by arguments from popularity, but I think it is important to point this out. Many in the anti-vaccine community appeal to a “mommy knows best” argument, in which they will tell a very emotional story about how a mother saw their child fade away right after getting a vaccine. McCarthy herself has told her son’s story many times, telling us how she, to paraphrase, saw his soul fade away right after the vaccine. The implication is that mothers of autistic children know that their children’s autism is caused by vaccines.

Nevertheless, surveys do not support this notion. A survey of 62 families of autistic children found out that only 29% of parents of autistic children blame vaccines for their children’s autism (page 6). So if mothers know best, it appears McCarthy is in the minority within the community of parents of autistic children. It appears, at least from this survey, that about 70% of parents of autistic children do not blame vaccines for their children’s autism. So if the results of this survey hold, and can be extrapolated out to the entire population of parents of autistic children, which is quite a stretch to be honest, it would appear that for every mommy instinct blaming vaccines, there are two mommy instinct not blaming vaccines.

So what does this mean for the vaccines-autism “controversy”. Absolutely nothing; the correlation, or lack there of, between vaccines and autism is a scientific issue, not a popularity contest. The fact is what it is, regardless of what parents think, and I’m willing to say that even when parental opinion is on my side. Is Jenny McCarthy, and all the rest in the anti-vaccine community, willing to do the same? The answer to that question would shed so much light on their ability, and willingness, to find out the truth.

  1. October 25, 2010 at 11:26 PM

    I don’t doubt that most parents of children with autism do NOT blame vaccines for their children’s issues. However this study:

    1. is from data collected in 2002 — early on in the “vaccines cause autism” meme war
    2. Has a very small sample size (62 families)
    3. Was a convenience sample from a conference.

    That said, I’ll look around to see if there is a later study.

    • Skepdude
      October 26, 2010 at 9:46 AM

      Absolutely, that’s why I made sure to say if the results hold, and if they can be generalized. Either way, the main point I want to make with this entry is that what parents believe to be the cause is inconsequential to what really is the cause, regardless if they agree with us or McCarthy & Friends.

  2. October 26, 2010 at 6:43 AM

    Since when does being a mommy confer a medical degree? 😉

    And I agree:

    So what does this mean for the vaccines-autism “controversy”. Absolutely nothing; the correlation, or lack there of, between vaccines and autism is a scientific issue, not a popularity contest.

  3. October 26, 2010 at 11:30 AM

    I honestly don’t understand why more parents aren’t offended by her suggestion that kids with autism are “soulless”. It’s so wretched. This is what bothers me the most about the antivax campaign… I know that they have moved on to arguing that vaccines don’t actually prevent disease, but their central stance is really that autism is worse than dying of polio or pertussis or the kind of permanent harm that can result from some of the other vaccine-preventable diseases.

  4. edita simms
    October 26, 2010 at 12:30 PM

    The problem is, science has only tested 2 of the 36 recommended Vaccines. The people you refer to as “anti-vaccine” are not that at all. What they want is safe, proven and tested vaccinations for our children, and I don’t understand why this creates such hostility, unless you work for one of the Pharma companies that profits from vaccinations. Since when do we trust the government or the pharmaceutical industry to determine which 36 toxins should be injected into our babies without question or liability. Just doesn’t make sense to me. Thank God Jenny and others like her are willing to call attention to this. It’s not quackery, it’s responsibility.

    • October 26, 2010 at 2:04 PM

      Dear Edita,

      Could you kindly provide some references for your claim that “science has only tested 2 of the 36 recommended Vaccines.”

      Your vaccine count is also in error. Between birth and 60 months 10 unique vaccines are given, or 11 if the child is vaccinated against influenza. You could even make the count go as high as 15 if you count each annual influenza vaccine separately

      The vaccines are:
      Hepatitis B
      DTaP (protects against diphtheria Tetanus & Pertussis)
      Haemophilius influenzae type B (Hib)
      Pneumococcal congugates vaccine
      Poliovirus (inactivated)
      MMR (protects against measles, mumps, rubella)
      Varicella (chickenpox)
      Hepatitus A

      If you are counting the separate illnesses protected against, the number still doesn’t add up to 36, but to 15.

    • Skepdude
      October 26, 2010 at 2:37 PM

      Responsibility requires one to do a minimum amount of research, which it is clear you have not done. There are no 36 recommended vaccines. The vaccines recommended in the US are 11, given in various doses (that may be where the number 36 is coming from). Source: http://goo.gl/yMqZ

      Which 2 have been tested? Where are you getting your information?

      Where is the hostility you refer to? Please quote my hostile statement.

      I work for one of the Pharma companies? Really? You disagree with me so therefore I’m being paid to hurt children?

      Edita, have you ever researched any of the talking points that have been fed to you via McCarthy & Friends? Do you understand the scientific process and how we come to know what we know?

  5. edita simms
    October 26, 2010 at 4:53 PM

    Ok. let’s say they want to give children 36 shots of toxins.. better?

    Here’s a link to the CDC with a list of ingredients in vaccines. http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/pinkbook/downloads/appendices/B/excipient-table-2.pdf I’m no scientist, but do you need to be to be concerned about injecting these things into a newborn baby, even in trace amounts? Can you please point me to the information that says the ingredients in these 36 injections have been tested to be safe? And can you help me to understand why a newborn baby needs a Hepatitis vaccine?

    And what do you say to a mother when her child has a stroke, seizure or just “vanishes” within 24 hours of receiving a vaccination. Coincidence? I’ve witnessed this personally, and you’ll never convince me of that.

    Safe Vaccines at the right time.. that’s not too much to ask. Please explain the scientific process to me so I can better understand what makes this ok. Try not to be insulting, and I’ll try to understand.

    • Skepdude
      October 26, 2010 at 8:23 PM

      Sure, I have already handled your question about Hepatitis. (http://tinyurl.com/3y66cy3)

      Each and every vaccine that is part of the US CDC schedule has been tested for safety. Pick any one of them and I will point you to studies about their safety. The caveat is that vaccines are not 100% safe, but they are much much safer than the diseases they protect against. Pick any one and I will provide you with the statistics you require.

      I cannot change your feelings and emotions with logic; it is just impossible and I understand that. All I have to say to that mother is that I am very sorry for her loss.

      In some cases a seizure can be a rare side effect of vaccines. There is no evidence that vaccines lead to strokes or autism (I assume that is what you mean when you say the child “vanishes”). I understand the need for answers, as a parent I experience it many times and I know how hard it is not to make certain connections.

      Vaccines are as safe as anything else human being engage in. Every year in the US 45,000 people die in car accidents. Compared to vaccines, cars cause much more death and mayhem, yet how many parents that worry about vaccines think twice about strapping their child in a carseat? Think about that.

    • October 27, 2010 at 6:09 PM

      Hi, Edita.

      In response to “injecting these things into a newborn baby,” please note a good paragraph from the excellent “History of Vaccines site,”

      “Can babies’ immune systems handle so many vaccines?

      * Yes. Studies demonstrate that infants’ immune systems can handle receiving many vaccines at once—more than the number currently recommended. The immunization schedule is based on infants’ ability to generate immune responses, as well as when they are at risk of certain illnesses. For example, the immunity passed from mother to child at birth is only temporary, and typically does not include immunity against polio, hepatitis B, Haemophilus Influenzae Type b, and other diseases that can be prevented by vaccination.” (http://www.historyofvaccines.org/content/articles/top-20-questions-about-vaccination)

      You might also find this as helpful as I have, as a mom of two fully vaccinated (and unharmed) kiddos; it’s called “Some Common Misconceptions about Vaccines” and is by the CDC: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vac-gen/6mishome.htm

      Therein, the CDC talks a little bit about why the vaccination schedule is like it is–for instance, multiple vax at one visit has benefits for time (which you know we don’t have enough of–ever!–as parents), lessening stress on the child, and money savings for the parents–to address your “safe vaccines at the right time” question.

      Every Child by Two has some great vaccine success stories at http://www.ecbt.org/advocates/immunizationsuccess.cfm

      Lastly, Edita, mom to mom, I hope you will reconsider receiving at least some vaccinations yourself (adults should get a TDaP booster, especially if they are going to be around the immunocompromised or infants who cannot yet be fully vaxxed), if not for your children’s safety, then for the safety of the children with whom you come in contact through work, church, and/or out and about in the public such as at the grocery store, bank, library, or the like.

      Thanks for the article, Skepdude.

  6. October 26, 2010 at 9:09 PM

    Edita Simms, you are more correct than you know when you say that you are “no scientist”. I would also gather that you have exactly zero knowledge of chemistry. Did you know that a banana has more “formaldehyde” than the entire series of shots that a 10 year old child gets. That’s just ONE banana. And did you know you get more “aluminum” from breast milk (assuming breastfed for 6 months) than the entire childhood series of shots. Please, you are appealing to ignorance, not facts. Or would you prefer to see these statistics: http://factsnotfantasy.com/deaths.php I’m sure the makers of Iron Lungs would love to have you as a spokesperson.

  7. edita simms
    October 27, 2010 at 8:09 PM

    I appreciate your point of view Skepdude, as well as your attempt to educate/enlighten me. I can’t change my personal experience or my feelings about it regardless of what science you point me to. That’s what our own life experiences does. For the record, my newest grandchild is being vaccinated, with the co-operation of an understanding doctor on a schedule the parents can cope with. I don’t like the disparaging feelings between the two sides as we all want the same thing.. healthy and alive children. I don’t ever want people to stop having this discussion, and I don’t think we should. Thanks for our thoughtful response. Please stay open/fair with the discussion as that’s the only way we’ll make progress. It would help if people would stop calling them (JM & friends) “anti-vax” as that is not my experience with them, and it just serves to divide. They have the same concerns as you, just a different life experience. And I look forward to some new updated data on this topic.

    • Skepdude
      October 28, 2010 at 10:20 AM

      Edita, I understand your point of view; I do not agree with it, but at least I am happy that your grandchild is being vaccinated, even if not in the recommended schedule.

      As far as Jenny McCarthy is concerned: whenever someone put themselves out there as discussing science, one must accept the critique and not hide behind the “be nice to me” veil. One cannot be allowed to go around spreading patently false information without being called out. I don’t see the term McCarthy & Friends as derogatory, and the term anti-vaccine suits her perfectly. What else do you call someone who keeps saying there is antifreeze in vaccines, a complete fabrication? Either she really does not know, and is not willing to do the research, in which case she shouldn’t be talking about this, or she knows but cares less about the truth. Either way it is a problem in my book.

      I know that science and facts cannot change the mind of a parent who has gone through a traumatic experience which they blame on vaccines. I don’t expect to be able to change those minds. But, on the other hand, it comes down to simple math: vaccines have side effects and some children will suffer from them, very few, but some will, nevertheless the diseases these vaccines prevent against would make many, many more children suffer, orders of magnitude more. If we can save hundreds of thousands worldwide every year, but that comes at the cost a few, then I think the cost-benefit analysis demands we save the hundreds of thousands.

      Reality is what it is despite what we may wish it to be. And the best way to discover reality is the scientific method. Personal stories can touch an emotional cord, but many times they tend to mislead people if they are used as proof. Unfortunately, and I know how harsh this sounds, personal stories do not dictate reality. You know why? Because for every story of a child presumed hurt/dead by a vaccine, there are thousands of children hurt/dead by the diseases the vaccines protect against.

      I will always keep an open mind, but please you do the same. If you start “knowing” you’re right and everybody who disagrees is wrong, you’ll never get to know the truth. And isn’t that more important than feeling like you have figured it all out already?

  8. edita simms
    October 29, 2010 at 3:08 AM

    That’s exactly the attitude you have.. it’s that all or nothing You know you’re right and everyone else is not only wrong, but also stupid. You sound like a hired hand for the pharmaceutical industry to debunk and discredit anyone that might threaten the lucrative thing they’ve got going with the US Government. I’m more afraid of putting my blind faith in the government than I am of my babies getting Hep B or chicken pox the first year of life. Way More. However, I do appreciate your Disclaimer on your About Page. Thanks for clearing that up. Go on posting your 10 year old surveys, convince yourself your right, and ignore all the opposing data that’s available.

    Disclaimer: The information in this blog should not be regarded as medical advice. I am not a doctor; I am not trained and do not have the expertise needed to provide medical advice. I am a parent, who is trying to find out as much information as I possibly can about vaccines and vaccine preventable diseases. This is a journey of discovery, and as such, it is quite possible that bad information might find it’s way in this blog. Please speak to your doctor about any questions you might have, and especially before making any medical decisions.

    • Skepdude
      October 29, 2010 at 9:56 AM

      There you go with the accusations again; why do you keep doing that? I have posted a lot of data to support my side on this blog, just look at my scientific evidence page; and it is only the small part that I’ve unearthed in the last 6 months.

      Where is all this opposing data that you claim is available? What is your claim anyway? That vaccines cause autism? that’s been debunked a long time ago. That thimerosal is dangerous? Debunked. That MMR is dangerous? Debunked. You still haven’t made one specific claim about vaccines that we can objectively evaluate.

      The survey is old, but if you read the whole thing I wrote I said that it doesn’t matter what parents think, reality does not depend on people’s beliefs, and I say that even if all the parents of autistic children did not blame vaccines. That’s not how science works, and I say that even if popular opinion is on my side.

      Why are you refusing to see that I am being fair here?

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