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Another 'View' on Jenny McCarthy

Photograph by Getty Images

I was absolutely over the moon when Barbara Walters announced that Jenny McCarthy would be coming to The View in September. It’s encouraging to me that the show’s executives have the courage to stand by its name and offer co-hosts from many backgrounds and with a variety of perspectives. Jenny McCarthy is a great choice because she’s herself, and she doesn’t apologize for her controversial views, including those on vaccination.

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In 2007 McCarthy went on a campaign against child vaccinations, claiming a connection between vaccinations and autism after her son was diagnosed with autism. Due to her claims, and those of a few other celebrities, many parents began opting out of vaccinations in the fear that their child would get autism. Following McCarthy’s claims that vaccinations cause autism, there have been a number of studies to disprove her and the idea that autism is in any way caused by vaccinations. Although there has never been any admission or published proof to substantiate any connection between vaccinations and autism as we know, there have been a handful of cases where the government did award families of children with autism millions of dollars in settlement for “pain and suffering” due to vaccinations.

I’m one of those earthy types. I grow a garden, eat organic food and shop almost exclusively at farmers markets for locally grown produce. My first choice for health care is holistic medicine over traditional methods. I admit that I can be a little skeptical of traditional medical doctors. I believe that doctors can be overly influenced by the pharmaceutical industry and the money that drugs generate, and so I’ve gone to great lengths to limit the drugs I take, including over-the-counter drugs. I go a more conventional route when it comes to my son, but I’m very thoughtful about what goes into his body and what the side effects might be. First and foremost, I am an advocate for my son’s health and safety. In that role, I ask questions always and usually challenge professionals who claim to know what is best for him.

I am also one of those parents who chose to grill their pediatrician about vaccination. In the end, I decided to have my son vaccinated, but at a much slower pace than is generally recommended. For starters I never allow my son to get more vaccinations than one on any given visit to the doctor’s office. And I don’t see any harm in being extra cautious and taking our time getting vaccinations.

As a parent of a child with special needs I understand the fear and helplessness.

It seemed like the moment I pushed my son out of my body, the doctors wanted to start vaccinating him. In the early days, I flat out declined. Having a son with Down syndrome, I wanted to be particularly mindful about his body’s reactivity before he started getting vaccinations. After we were home for many months, I did agree to the earliest shots but not before learning that he has several allergies, including an allergy to eggs—which may be a complication when receiving some vaccinations.

As a parent of a child with special needs I understand the fear and helplessness that would cause Jenny McCarthy—or any other parent—to say damn near anything to get answers and solutions for her child. Having something “go wrong” with your child is a chilling experience, and I have great compassion for Jenny McCarthy and every parent who walks this unique path. The difficulty in the vaccination/autism battle is that vaccinations impact the entire population and make us all vulnerable. There’s no easy solution here. This is a personal issue and choice for every family that could have harmful effects for us all.

Jenny McCarthy is my inspiration in one way; she took on the medical and pharmaceutical industry and asked that they reconsider their practices with respect to vaccinations. It was an ugly fight, but as I see it, she empowered herself and other parents to listen to themselves first, question authority and make informed decisions for their children. If it’s one thing I’ve determined that I must be as a mom, it’s courageous. There are countless voices telling me what is right and best for my child, but a great many of those voices are those of big, profit-driven corporations, whose bottom line is more important than my son’s well-being. I must be courageous enough to do what feels right for my son even when others disagree. I must also be courageous enough to make mistakes and try again. As I see it, we are all unique and should be treated as such by the professionals with whom we entrust our children's health. I do not believe in one-size-fits-all vaccinations.

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If one child has even possibly been negatively impacted as a result of vaccinations, it’s worth taking the time for deeper discussion, further education and new studies to gain greater understanding. For this reason we need warrior moms like McCarthy to open their big mouths and question authority. Jenny McCarthy’s platform keeps her ideas in the minds and on the lips of Americans, and the discussion continues. Kudos to The View and Barbara Walters for having the courage to add diverse voices to their program, yet again. Let the games begin.

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