UPDATE: The Ottawa Cancer Foundation cancelled the appearance of Jenny McCarthy as their featured “Bust A Move” celebrity, due in large part to the Ottawa Skeptics’ #dropjenny campaign on twitter and social media – read more here.
In 1998 Andrew Wakefield published a fraudulent paper linking autism to the MMR (Measles, Mumps, and Rubella) vaccine. What followed was a growing movement of scared parents who began avoiding getting their kids vaccinated for fear that they would become autistic. For years scientists could not repeat the results found by Wakefield. Finally in 2004, Wakefield was found to have a conflict of interest in favour of finding a link between the vaccine and autism. In May of 2010, Andrew Wakefield was found guilty by the General Medical Council and was struck of the medical register and banned from practicing medicine. The rumour campaign against vaccines was picked up by Jenny McCarthy, an actress with no scientific or medical background. She became the mouthpiece for the supposed controversy, despite the fact that there was no scientific basis for any of the claims she made. Despite this, her fame allowed her greater publicity. She used her son’s supposed autism* to gain sympathy, and to tug at the heartstrings of worried parents everywhere.
Hordes of new parents opted against vaccines. Not just the MMR, but others as well. Parents began sending pox pops to one another, and holding chicken pox parties. Adults who had previously had their vaccines, opted against getting their regular boosters. Since that time, the western world has seen a re-emergence of various diseases that before this time had been on their way to extinction: whooping cough, measles, mumps, and many more.