We need a vaccination against health advice from celebrities
Jim Carrey is on a roll with his latest anti-vaccination campaign. The Truman Show actor has condemned the governor of California as a "corporate" fascist and accused him of agreeing to poison children by making vaccinations mandatory for all children attending public or private school.
The governor's new law removed an exemption for religious or personal beliefs, meaning exemptions will only be available to children with serious health issues.
This prompted Carrey, a long-time campaigner against toxins in children's vaccines, to launch a blistering Twitter tirade. Carrey weighed in specifically on thimeorsal, a mercury-containing preservative which - despite having no provable side effects - hasn't been widely used in vaccines since 2001.
During his Twitter rant, Carrey used photos of children he implied were "vaccine-injured". Except they aren't. One child he used a photo of - a boy called Alex - actually has a genetic syndrome called tuberous sclerosis (TSC). Alex, like many kids with TSC, also has autism. None of this has anything to do with vaccines. Carrey has also since apologised to the parents of these children after posting their pictures without their permission.
From Madonna's quest to "neutralise radiation" to Tom Cruise's dismissals of psychiatry, celebrities are seldom shy about expressing their views on health and science - even when they haven't a clue what they are talking about. But aren't we supposed to be more cynical these days?
Shockingly, we aren't. We even seem to have reached the point where we give equal weight to what a medical expert says about science and what Jenny McCarthy (a former Playboy model who says vaccines triggered her son's autism and that she "healed" it through diet and detoxes) says about science.
This - coupled with celebrities seeming to be so close to us now on social media - makes aping their ideas and lifestyles dangerously easy for us to do.
The notion that the MMR jab is linked to the developmental disorder autism dates back to a study of just 12 children published in The Lancet in 1997. The research - led by Andrew Wakefield, a gastroenterologist at the Royal Free Hospital in London - has since been discredited. Yet fears about the vaccines - for measles, mumps and rubella - have resulted in many parents refusing to have their children inoculated - and so we now are seeing something of a resurgence in cases of measles.
When an A-list celebrity like Jim Carrey sets out on an anti-vaccine crusade, he uses his celebrity status to encourage parents to forgo widely accepted and life-saving preventative measures, putting their own children and others at risk. It's a shameful use of celebrity status. We need to stop listening.
- Lorraine Courtney