Ottawa Citizen channels Jenny McCarthy in cheesy vaccine story

Ottawa Citizen reporter Elizabeth Payne put in a cheesy performance in her role writing “An anti-vaxxer makes her case,” and so did her editors. This article — about how easy it was for an Ottawa mother to obtain an exemption from vaccination for her son — fails to meet journalistic standards on several grounds.

The article features a large photo of Jenny McCarthy, as if McCarthy had a role to play in the mother’s decision. McCarthy played no part at all in influencing the mother, as Payne confirmed. McCarthy’s only role was to discredit the mother through an attempt at guilt by association — McCarthy was identified as a Playboy centerfold. Except this was a case of guilt by non-association.

Payne tells us that the mother, who is well educated, came to her conclusion after extensive research. But Payne tells us nothing about the research. If she didn’t ask the mother, why was she not curious as to the evidence the mother found compelling? If she did ask the mother, why didn’t Payne pass on the evidence? It would have been interesting to learn, for example, if the mother had been persuaded by the views of some of the world’s top scientists: These include people of the caliber of Dr. Bernadine Healy, advisor to three U.S. presidents and the former head of the National Institutes of Health, who expressed doubt over claims that vaccines aren’t responsible for autism.

Payne also reports that the mother feels justified in her decision not to vaccinate her son because he has numerous allergies. Did Payne ask any specialist if Payne’s decision, in hindsight, might have saved her son from grief? Had Payne done so, she would have discovered that the presence of allergies often points to a contraindication for vaccines.

Payne’s article also falls down in accepting the myth that herd immunity protects the population when 95% of people are vaccinated. Herd immunity has failed repeatedly at that level. For that reason, government officials now speculate that levels closer to 100% would be needed to achieve herd immunity.

Payne’s article even betrays sloppy journalism as regards the article’s reference to McCarthy. McCarthy was identified as an “anti-vaxxer,” a characterization that McCarthy denies and that Payne would have been unable to substantiate. McCarthy, who has no ideological opposition to vaccines, sees herself as an advocate of safe vaccines.

An interesting aspect to this article involves the mother’s identity, which was kept confidential at her request to avoid public criticism over her decision to avoid vaccinating her son. “I am not doing it because I like being different and I like being ridiculed,” she explained. Sadly, because of journalists like Elizabeth Payne, parents are being demonized for their vaccination decisions, even in those instances when those decisions prevent their children from being seriously harmed.

Our rating

The Ottawa Citizen and Elizabeth Payne require three Band-Aids for their sloppy, one-sided and incurious story of one mother’s decision not to vaccinate her son, and a fourth Band-Aid for gratuitously bringing Jenny McCarthy into the story.



  1. It is frustrating to see the repeated and compounded mistakes regarding legitimate grounds for exemption from vaccines in Ontario. I hope you can publish an article about this. Ontario law mandates several vaccines for children at school under age 17 unless the parent gets one of two specific government forms signed and given to the school. One form is for all inclusive exemption on religious or personal beliefs that must be signed by an elected official, The other is for specific and time limited exemption on medical grounds that must be filled in and signed by a licensed MD, and may be required to be renewed annually. Ontario law does not mandate vaccines for infants (surprised?) or children not attending school. Parents have the universal right to refuse to vaccinate a school child for religious or personal beliefs and still send the child to public school as long as they comply with the requirement to get a signed exemption form. It costs nothing and needs no defense. Science research on vaccine safety and risks are irrelevant to parents seeking exemption for religious or personal beliefs. We do NOT have to justify our beliefs or find evidence to prove we deserve this under the law – any more than we have to prove why we don’t want to eat a particular food, drink alcohol or have sex. Threats to force us are illegal. However, if we are seeking exemption on MEDICAL grounds we have to prove to a doctor at our own expense that our child should not be vaccinated due to being already immune, too sick, severely allergic to specific ingredient(s) or at increased risk of adverse effects from ingredients or pathogen(s) in a specific vaccine. Even then, the doctor can refuse to agree with us and give the Medical Officer of Health final say. Ontario should not remove the universal right to exempt a school child from vaccination. But this appears to be the aim of many officials like Gelinas, and ignorant and hostile journalists like Payne. Parents should NOT be re-directed to beg for medical exemption that requires extensive research, argument, lab tests and personal cost – yet depends on the whim of a professional who can never be held responsible for the bad outcome.


  2. CDC .., NORC,, NIC at chicago selected study sent to be telephoned questioned about all your vaccination history ? Could it be this study is aimed at the very older generation..


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