Great cause, poor choice
Anti-vaccine activist Jenny McCarthy seems like an odd choice for celebrity spokesperson for a cancer-foundation fundraiser.
The Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation is planning its Bust a Move for Breast Health fundraiser for March 2. It’s described as a “day-long fitness extravaganza” and the foundation deserves credit for organizing this event to raise money for a most worthy cause. “Funds from the 2013 event will be invested in the Cancer Foundation’s commitment to the Ottawa Hospital Foundation for the expansion of the Cancer Centre and programming at the Cancer Survivorship Centre,” the Bust a Move website explains. The goal this year is to raise $500,000.
On Tuesday, the organization announced that this year’s “celebrity guest” would be “the fabulous Jenny McCarthy.” She’ll be leading a workout class at the event.
McCarthy is a television personality, a model and an author of several books on various topics, including parenting, sex and fitness.
She’s also the face of the antivaccine movement, arguing that there’s a link between North America’s modern vaccination schedule and autism. She is perhaps the best known celebrity endorser of that particular wacky view.
All of which makes her a strange partner for an organization that’s working to promote good health. The one notorious paper suggesting a link between the MMR vaccine and autism was retracted by The Lancet last year. Vaccination is one of the greatest advances of modern medicine; it’s why diseases like “diphtheria” mean little more to us than a name on a vaccination card, when a century ago those diseases regularly killed children.
“In the last 50 years, immunization has saved more lives in Canada than any other health intervention,” the Public Health Agency of Canada explains in its immunization guide. To take just one example, there were about 61,000 cases of measles in Canada in the early 1950s. By the 2000s, that was down to less than 200. In the early 1920s, there were about 9,000 cases of diphtheria in Canada a year. Today, the disease is almost unknown. These are serious diseases that used to cause life-altering complications and death.
And vaccines, such as the HPV vaccine, are an increasingly important tool in cancer prevention.
“There’s something wrong with this generation of kids,” wrote McCarthy in the Huffington Post a few years ago. “They aren’t healthy.” Actually, the under-five mortality rate has plummeted in Canada over the last 50 years, and vaccines are one reason for that.
A health and fitness fundraiser, in service of a health-related foundation, should not hitch its wagon to an advocate for a harmful and unfounded ideology.