"The Brady Bunch" star Maureen McCormick is denouncing anti-vaccination activists for using an episode of the iconic sitcom to promote their cause.
In an NPR report Sunday, the actress, who played eldest daughter Marcia Brady in a blended family of six children, objected to an anti-vaxxer meme that uses a 1969 episode of the lighthearted family series to downplay the potential seriousness of measles. The episode, "Is There a Doctor in the House?" depicts the Brady children delighted that the disease is keeping them home from school.
In real life, however, "Having the measles was not a fun thing,” McCormick, 62, told NPR. "I remember it spread through my family."
The actress said that when she learned of the meme months ago, "I was really concerned with that and wanted to get to the bottom of that, because I was never contacted."
She added, "I think it's really wrong when people use people's images today to promote whatever they want to promote and the person's image they're using they haven't asked or they have no idea where they stand on the issue." McCormick noted that from her own perspective "as a mother, my daughter was vaccinated."
The report said the episode is used often by anti-vaxxers, including activists such as Illinois general practitioner Dr. Toni Bark. "You stayed home like [on] the 'Brady Bunch' show," Bark, who is in her late 50s, told NPR, adding, "We never said, 'Oh my God, your kid could die. Oh my God, this is a deadly disease.' It's become that."
In fact, there were 41 deaths in the U.S. from measles the year the episode debuted, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An estimated 400 to 500 people died from measles each year before a vaccine was introduced in 1963, with 48,000 hospitalized annually and 1,000 suffering encephalitis from measles. By 1984, only one measles death was reported.
Producer Lloyd J. Schwartz, son of the late "Brady Bunch" creator Sherwood Schwartz, confirmed that his father did not intend an anti-vaccination message. "Dad would be sorry, because he believed in vaccination, [and] had all of his kids vaccinated," Lloyd Schwartz told NPR.