Anti-vaxxer Jenny McCarthy to front Ottawa cancer charity fundraiser
It’s disappointing to see that the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation has selected Jenny McCarthy to headline their fundraising Bust a Move event this year. Jenny McCarthy is a deeply controversial figure with anti-scientific and anti-health views on vaccination and autism, and is a very poor choice to represent ORCF.
The chair of the event said McCarthy was not chosen for her views, and that she’d be surprised if people were upset by the choice. But of course people are upset – and with good reason.
McCarthy has claimed for years that vaccines cause autism, a wholly unsupportable position. She and the organisation she fronts, Generation Rescue, discourage vaccinations and promote dangerous and evidence-free “cures” such as chelation therapy for autism. Like it or not, her views carry weight with the general public; a study from the University of Michigan found 24% of parents placed “some trust” in information provided by people like Jenny McCarthy. Her belief that the MMR vaccine causes autism has likely contributed to the decline in childhood immunisations for measles, mumps, and rubella, diseases which have seen a tragically unnecessary resurgence in recent years. Vaccination rates are now in decline across North America.
So what about the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation? They work to improve cancer survivorship, helping “patients and families live and thrive with cancer”, working “to improve the odds and experience of cancer survivorship.” Many Ottawans will have passed by their Cancer Survivors Park at Riverside and Industrial. They do good and important work, but whoever made the decision to book Jenny McCarthy has done this organisation no favours at all.
The backlash should have been entirely predictable. McCarthy has been an outspoken critic of demonstrably proven and effective science and medicine for so long that it’s inevitable people will be outraged by her selection to headline a cancer charity fundraiser. McCarthy’s goals and that of the ORCF are clearly in conflict: for example, rates of HPV-associated oropharyngeal and anal cancers, both preventable with the HPV vaccine, continue to rise, even as uptake of the vaccine remains low. They should not be giving a platform to someone who has done so much to lower vaccination rates and reduce herd immunity – especially when cancer survival, for the immunocompromised, can depend upon it– and when higher rates of HPV vaccination could prevent certain cancers from even forming.
Vaccines work. McCarthy is a public health menace for saying otherwise and their association with her brings ORCF into disrepute. When you have a PR problem, first fix the problem and the PR can fix itself. There’s a lot of goodwill out there for ORCF; they need to cancel this booking and find someone else for Bust a Move Ottawa. It’s the right decision and one for which they will be applauded. I’ll personally donate a hundred dollars if they do.