Smallpox vaccine I’ve been following the uproar over ABC’s planned hire of Jenny McCarthy as one of the hosts of The View. ABC is hiring McCarthy to replace Elisabeth Hasselbeck, a right-winger whose contract wasn’t renewed because of her unpopularity with viewers, and who will jump to (surprise!) Fox.

I find the network’s decision to give such a prominent position to this woman — whose job includes sharing her opinions with viewers — incredibly irresponsible. Salon’s Alex Pareene sums it up:

McCarthy certainly has a more pleasant, or at least less confrontational, television style [than Hasselbeck]. Really the only problem with hiring her is that her life’s mission at this point is the advancement of dangerous fictions about vaccines. She devotes a great deal of energy to promoting the untrue belief that vaccines lead to autism, and it seems possible that she now views her career as a television personality and prominent celebrity as a means of carrying out her mission to spread what she believes is the truth about autism.

McCarthy joined this movement after her son turned two and was diagnosed with autism, and she seized on research published in The Lancet in 1998 that linked vaccinations to autism. That research was fraudulent, and its publisher, Andrew Wakefield, was later stripped of his medical license and The Lancet retracted the published research.

McCarthy declared, as a fact, that vaccinations had caused her son’s autism, and promoted this idea in venues aimed at mothers, such as on Oprah. McCarthy later claimed that she had cured their son through a combination of diet and vitamins. She accuses the government of being afraid to confront “the truth” about vaccines. Although she now admits her son never had autism, she is still selling fear of the childhood schedule of vaccines as dangerous. She has put the full force of her celebrity behind convincing parents to leave their children unvaccinated and vulnerable.

Vaccines have nearly eliminated a multitude of formerly deadly childhood diseases. But many of those diseases have come back from near extinction because gullible parents aren’t having their children vaccinated — and children have died because of it. We’ve seen a rapid increase in outbreaks of pertussis (whooping cough), measles, and mumps in the U.S. For example, last winter whooping cough hit its highest rate of infection in 50 years in the United States. Study after study has refuted the claimed link between vaccines and autism. The Anti-Vaccine Body Count website, dedicated to tracking the illnesses and deaths associated with the anti-vaccine movement, cites more than 118,000 illnesses and more than 1100 deaths from these preventable diseases, and 0, that is zip, zero, no, diagnoses of autism scientifically linked to vaccines.

The fear of vaccines doesn’t potentially harm only the children whose parents forgo vaccination, it harms other children (and adults) as well, because it threatens the “herd immunity” that we rely on to protect the larger population from disease.

It’s irresponsible for a broadcast television network to put Jenny McCarthy on their network in a role where she will give her opinions every day to a daytime audience largely made up of women and mothers.

I am hoping the uproar might be enough to change the network’s hiring decision. If you are so inclined, write to ABC and ask them to find a different replacement for Elisabeth Hasselbeck and keep Jenny McCarthy off The View.

Finally, a postscript to last week’s post is a new report from the ACLU, You Are Being Tracked, detailing another way we are being tracked and monitored. [You can download the PDF at the link.]

A little noticed surveillance technology, designed to track the movements of every passing driver, is fast proliferating on America’s streets. Automatic license plate readers, mounted on police cars or on objects like road signs and bridges, use small, high-speed cameras to photograph thousands of plates per minute.

The information captured by the readers – including the license plate number, and the date, time, and location of every scan – is being collected and sometimes pooled into regional sharing systems. As a result, enormous databases of innocent motorists’ location information are growing rapidly. This information is often retained for years or even indefinitely, with few or no restrictions to protect privacy rights.

Photo Credit: James Gathany Content Providers(s): CDC [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons