It's been years since actress Jenny McCarthy insisted vaccines gave her son autism — a statement with no scientific founding.
The study she based this opinion on has been retracted, and the author lost his medical license. It's a claim that has been proven wrong time and again — the newest, largest-ever study shows there is absolutely no link between the MMR vaccine and autism.
We're now feeling the increasing effects of the fear this falsehood has helped create. Cases of measles are spiking around the world, and the World Health Organization has listed "vaccine hesitancy" on its list of top threats to global health.
Now, another famous mom is making claims about vaccines, albeit less controversial, but the effects could still be dangerous. Angela Price, a lifestyle blogger who is married to Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price, posted a video Tuesday promoting an "alternative" vaccine schedule to her 124,000 Instagram followers. Her two young daughters are vaccinated, she confirms in the video, but under certain conditions.
"I do do most of the vaccines, not all of them, and I do an alternative schedule," Price said.
"So like today, Millie will only get two vaccines, because I only do one live vaccine each time."
Price's comments came as she recommended helpful baby books to new parents on the occasion of her daughter, Millie, turning two months old.
One book she suggested parents check out was The Vaccine Book by Robert Sears, a California pediatrician whose medical license was placed on probation last year for alleged medical negligence and inappropriately exempting a toddler from all vaccines, according to Forbes.
"I absolutely loved it," Price said of the book.
"I think the biggest problem with vaccines is people aren't educating themselves. You don't know what you're putting into your child."
Don't follow Price's lead: Pediatrician
Alternative vaccine schedules are not recommended by health professionals and parents shouldn't take Price's advice, Dr. Michael Dickinson, a pediatrician in Miramichi, N.B, and former president of the Canadian Paediatric Society, told HuffPost Canada in a phone interview.
The routine vaccine schedule isn't arbitrary, he added.
"It was set up in order to offer maximum protection for children at a time when they are most vulnerable, so if you deviate from the normal schedule for whatever reason, you are almost always introducing risk and leaving kids vulnerable to these infections at a time when they're most at risk," Dickinson said.
"Stick with the schedule."
It worries Dickinson when people with influence, such as Price, promote views that go against medical advice, he said.
"It does make me worried, especially when the basis for a lot of these recommendations isn't sound."
The problem with alternative vaccine schedules
Sears is infamous for promoting an alternative vaccine schedule, "a formula by which parents can delay, withhold, separate, or space out vaccines," according to 2009 publication in Pediatrics that outlines all the problems in the 2007 book. The publication's authors — who include Dr. Paul A. Offit, the chief of Infectious Diseases and the director of the Vaccine Education Center at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia — say Sears' book misinforms parents.
"At the heart of the problem with Sears' schedules is the fact that, at the very least, they will increase the time during which children are susceptible to vaccine-preventable diseases. If more parents insist on Sears' vaccine schedules, then fewer children will be protected, with the inevitable consequence of continued or worsening outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases," the authors wrote.
"In an effort to protect children from harm, Sears' book will likely put more in harm's way."
WATCH: No link between autism and vaccines. Story continues below.
Experts in Canada strongly encourage parents to stick to the routine vaccine schedules set by each province.
"Vaccines work best when they are given on time, beginning when your child is very young," the Public Health Agency of Canada notes on its website. "The vaccination schedule is designed to protect your child before they are exposed to vaccine-preventable diseases."
On Wednesday, in light of the measles outbreak, Canada's Chief Public Health Officer urged healthcare professionals to talk to vaccine-hesitant parents.
"Seeds of doubt are often planted by misleading, or worse, entirely false information being spread in campaigns that target parents on social media and the internet. It is no wonder some parents are confused and concerned," Dr. Theresa Tam said in a news release.
"Parents want only the best for their children, always. Some parents may question, hesitate or delay vaccinating their children for a variety of reasons, but they all want to protect their children from harm."
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On Thursday, in response to the "big deal" she says was made of her Instagram post, Price posted a blog explaining and defending her stance on vaccines.
"I do all the vaccines, I just use an alternative schedule. For an example instead of giving 4 vaccines at 2 months, I would do two at 2 months and then another two at 3 months," Price wrote.
But, she also wrote that "following any doctor blindly is not ideal."
"It is shocking how many parents don't even know what disease they are vaccinating their kids for, let alone the ingredients in these vaccines," Price wrote.
"Lastly, I do not consider myself an expert on this subject but I have done my homework and discussed it at length with my doctor so I feel very comfortable with my decision. I do believe that vaccines are not 100% safe for 100% of kids so I respect any decision a family makes regarding this subject."
CORRECTION: an earlier version of this story implied Jenny McCarthy's son is 20 years old. He is 16. This reference has been deleted.
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