By Kim Stagliano
You might have missed the December 23rd USA TODAY article on the effect of celebrities on healthcare knowledge and decisions. It appears that when Katie Couric tells viewers to get a colonoscopy she's doing the right thing, according the the medical powers that be. Sally Fields can tell you to take a pill that has side effects longer than your arm - and she's as pure as The Flying Nun. J. Lo can tell you to get the pertussis vaccine for your child, with zero disclaimers on side effects required, (preferably NOT while wearing that hideous catsuit from New Year's Eve.) But when Jenny McCarthy asks questions about vaccine safety, she's "wrong."
Americans are back to eating spinach and hamburger because they belief the risk of e.coli is gone. Not so with vaccines. Many parents have lost trust in the AAP and the vaccine manufacturers. They are afraid of the side effects. The Gardasil marketing push followed by the H1N1 pandemic overkill did not help allay fears. Jim Carrey said it best, "We are not the problem. The problem is the problem." (See here.)
Check out the quote from the article by the Wyeth funded pro-vaccine group Every Child by Two (See our post about ECBT last year HERE.) Someone send Amy Pisani a tissue, will you? And tell Africa they dodged a big bullet for the time being.
...Doctors and public health groups say they struggle over the best way to respond to celebrity claims.
At Every Child By Two, an immunization campaign co-founded by former first lady Rosalynn Carter, board members were initially inclined to ignore celebrities who question vaccine safety, says executive director Amy Pisani. Now, the group spends 80% of its time explaining why vaccines are still critical.
"We were poised to start working in Africa," Pisani says. "But we were forced to pull back just to re-educate people here in the United States."
For good or bad, research shows that stars exert powerful influence not just on popular opinion, but on public health.
•Vaccines. A USA TODAY/Gallup Poll of 1,017 adults found that more than half were aware of McCarthy's warnings about childhood shots. More than 40% of adults familiar with her message — 23% of all adults surveyed — say McCarthy's claims have made them more likely to question vaccine safety. The Nov. 20-22 poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points... Read the full article in USA TODAY.
Kim Stagliano is Managing Editor of Age of Autism.