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Is Barbie Our Best Weapon Against Whooping Cough?

Can Barbie save us from whooping cough?

My kids’ closest friends recently came down with whooping cough. They seem fine most of the time, and then they start coughing and hacking. Sometimes they cough so hard they throw up. Tears run out of their eyes. It’s pretty tough to watch, and they expect it to continue for up to six weeks.

None of these kids were vaccinated because their mom doesn’t trust vaccines. She’s part of a growing number of parents who are choosing not to vaccinate their children because they’ve been misled about the science behind vaccination.

The anti-vaccine movement is as old as vaccines themselves. But recently it’s gained momentum through the outspoken activism of celebrity Jenny McCarthy.

Jenny is charismatic, passionate and beautiful. She’s a great spokesperson for her movement. Pro-vaccine advocates are struggling to get their message across as well, with only doctors, scientists, public health officials and school nurses on their team.

What they need is a star to take up the cause. A blonde powerhouse adored by parents and children. What vaccine advocates need is Barbie.

At least, that’s the opinion of one Washington Post columnist. Her idea is pretty simple: people are swayed by the opinions of a pretty, compelling spokesperson. As she says:

“Barbie could put on a tiny labcoat and little white high heels to go with her pro-immunization message. That’s not a far-fetched idea, given the overwhelming data being ignored by parents.

She’s being sardonic, but it’s not a terrible idea. Explaining vaccination to kids is hard, and dolls often help kids understand difficult subjects like why they need to suffer through painful shots at the doctor’s office.

I don’t think Barbie can do much to sway anti-vax parents, though. The anti-vaccine folks I know don’t tend to be big fans of Barbie. They tend to avoid plastic toys altogether, and to treat mainstream media like a contagion on par with whooping cough. That’s a bit of a stereotype of course, but it’s one with some roots in reality. Enough so that I think a charismatic leader for vaccination would have to appeal to the crunchy granola aesthetic more than Barbie ever could. Maybe Soleil Moon Frye would be a good antidote to Jenny McCarthy? What celebrity do you think should speak up for vaccination?

Photo: tracheotomy bob

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