Whooping cough outbreaks another thing to thank vaccine conspiracy people for

Kids are getting (and dying of) preventable diseases. Thanks again, Jenny McCarthy!

Published July 10, 2012 6:19PM (EDT)

                (<a href='http://www.shutterstock.com/gallery-162706p1.html'>sergei telegin</a> via <a href='http://www.shutterstock.com/'>Shutterstock</a>)
(sergei telegin via Shutterstock)

Hey, are you a conscientious hippie parent too concerned about the strange chemicals in the vaccines to get your child vaccinated? Well, you're the worst, and you're part of the reason kids in the U.S. are suddenly dying of preventable diseases, including ones the industrialized world thought had been effectively wiped out.

After 10 infants died of whooping cough in California a couple of years back, they successfully got it under control by requiring vaccinations for middle- and high-school kids, but now, of course, it's an epidemic in Washington state, where there are lots of parents delaying or forgoing vaccines for their precious children. (Similar outbreaks are happening elsewhere in the country, too.)

Whatever became of the monster who did the most to popularize, in the U.S., the formerly fringe idea that vaccines are dangerous, former television personality and model Jenny McCarthy? She is still around, being awful everywhere.

The entertainment industry is actually determined to force McCarthy on us, whether we care about her or not. And not just as a performer -- though she's currently the host of some awful summer dating/competition/reality/human-garbage-embarrassing-themselves show on NBC -- but as someone whose opinions and (vile, dangerous) views we should care about. She developed a talk show, thankfully aborted, for Oprah's cable channel, then was in talks with Bravo, and as far as I can tell VH1 is set to begin airing her "Horrible Lies About Autism and Naughty Jokes Variety Hour" at some point later this year.

And the Huffington Post, for years the most prominent major "news" site on the Web to regularly promote vaccine conspiracies (and plenty of other fringe pseudo-science bullshit), is still giving her a platform: Her last post on the subject of autism was published three scant months ago. (Her last post explicitly on the false "link" between autism and vaccines came in January 2011.)

HuffPo has otherwise improved its coverage (probably thanks to the professionalizing influence of AOL), with its slightly ridiculous science correspondent Cara Santa Maria presenting this interview with "Panic Virus" author Seth Mnookin under the unintentionally hilarious headline "Vaccines & Autism: Controversy Persists, But Why?" (In large part because of the website publishing this video, Cara.)

Meanwhile, in West Virginia, we come across the conservative version of the generally liberal vaccine/autism conspiracy. There, parents are begging the state Legislature to allow them to except their kids from vaccine requirements, because vaccines are apparently made out of aborted fetuses ...?

"Fourteen of the vaccines required by the state of West Virginia contain aborted fetal tissue, of over 150 babies, and their cell lines are aging," Lee told lawmakers. "That bothers me as a Christian, that I have to choose between my faith in God and sending my children to public or private school."

Public health officials sought to address such concerns during the hearing. Dr. Raheel Khan, assistant professor of pediatrics at West Virginia University, explained how some vaccines have been cultivated in cells that were developed from cells taken from aborted fetuses more than 40 years ago.

"No pregnancies were intentionally terminated to produce these vaccines," Khan said. "None of these vaccines contain any genetic material from the donor cells."

How about that! It turns out that there is actually more of a grain of truth to the "vaccines are made out of abortions" line then there is to the "vaccines cause autism" story. Good work, conservatives.

Today's good news is that the growing use of the HPV vaccine is leading to herd immunity, despite the best efforts of people like Michele Bachmann and Jenny McCarthy who want your children to get cancer and die.

By Alex Pareene

Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon and is the author of "The Rude Guide to Mitt." Email him at apareene@salon.com and follow him on Twitter @pareene

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Autism Health Jenny Mccarthy Politics