April 16, 2014 11:37 am
Updated: April 16, 2014 11:44 am

Jenny McCarthy backtracking on anti-vaccination, but is it too late?

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TORONTO – Jenny McCarthy, the celebrity mom who has been outspoken about linking vaccines to autism, is eating her words.

In an op-ed published in the Chicago Sun Times, McCarthy said that she’s “pro-vaccine.” It’s just that she was misbranded and misunderstood, she suggests.

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“I believe in the importance of a vaccine program and I believe parents have the right to choose one poke per visit. I’ve never told anyone to not vaccinate,” McCarthy said.

Her 11-year-old son, Evan, was diagnosed with autism in 2005. After that, McCarthy had publicly suggested that vaccinations may have triggered his disorder.

READ MORE: Anti-vaccination movement means preventable diseases making a comeback

McCarthy is fanning the flames in an already controversial and very timely debate. Measles outbreaks have been reported across Canada and into the United States. So have cases of mumps and whooping cough.

She says “blatantly inaccurate blog posts about my position have been accepted as truth by the public.”

Her opinion piece incited backlash from her critics. McCarthy provides statements she made about vaccination in the past – including “Please understand that we are not an anti-vaccine group. We are demanding safe vaccines.” Her critics say it’s too little too late.

READ MORE: 6 vaccination myths debunked

“Jenny, as outbreaks of measles, mumps and whooping cough continue to appear in the U.S.—most the result of parents refusing to vaccinate their children because of the scare stories passed around by anti-vaxxers like you—it’s just too late to play cute with the things you’ve said,” a TIME columnist wrote.

“You are either floridly, loudly, uninformedly anti-vaccine or you are the most grievously misunderstood celebrity of the modern era.”

What does this mean for parents who may have been led to believe, under celebrity advice, that vaccination isn’t safe?

READ MORE: How should health officials reverse an anti-vaxxer movement?

In a previous interview with Global News about how to reverse an anti-vaxxer movement, Dr. Ran Goldman said that the Internet is key.

He’s cognizant of where the health care system may have gone wrong in reaching out to parents.

“The anti-vaccination movement is using very proficiently the online platform. They’re able to spread stories that are usually very rare or very powerful and not always based on any scientific evidence,” Goldman said.

He’s had his hands full at the B.C. Children’s Hospital. The province has been rocked by outbreaks of measles — more than 300 cases in the Fraser Valley alone – cases he calls “very troubling.”

That’s why he spearheaded the website medschoolforparents.com, a free resource for parents in Canada and worldwide. It’s not just about vaccinations either.

“Jenny McCarthy reaches 250,000 people on one YouTube video. Physicians can use the same medium to get to the same parents and explain the scientific evidence behind immunization. We didn’t play catch up on time,” he said.

The recent upswing in these completely preventable diseases may be attributable to pockets of families who, for whatever reason, choose not to vaccinate, one doctor says.

READ MORE: What caused a whooping cough epidemic? Scientists blame parents

“When people say some of this might be related to low vaccine rates among people, that’s a huge understatement,”Dr. Gerald Evans, a Queen’s University medicine professor and director of infection control at Kingston General Hospital, told Global News.

“It’s all because of vaccination rates falling. It’s 100 per cent blamed on the fact that people aren’t getting vaccinated,” Evans said.

carmen.chai@globalnews.ca

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