Tag: fake news

The Sharyl Attkisson Journalism Award

With rare exception, the media has long played a big influence in feeding the anti-vaccination movement.

“The media created the MMR hoax, and they maintained it diligently for 10 years.”

Dr. Ben Goldacre Bad Science

It didn’t start with Andy Wakefield and his MMR hoax though.

John Birch (B) and the other anti-vaccine heroes of the day on their way to fight the vaccination monster.
John Birch (B) and the other anti-vaccine heroes of the day on their way to fight the vaccination monster.

Satirical prints that were printed in the very early 1800s showed people getting vaccinated and sprouting horns or turning into cows. And long after that, just before Wakefield got folks scared of the MMR vaccine, another doctor in England got them scared of the DPT vaccine.

Dr. John Wilson took to the media to scare parents because he had “seen too many children in whom there has been a very close association between a severe illness, with fits, unconsciousness, often focal neurological signs, and inoculation.”

What followed was a drop in DPT vaccinations in many countries and vaccine lawsuits, even though his study was later found to be seriously flawed, with most having no link to the DPT vaccine.

The Media’s Role in Pushing Vaccine Misinformation

Many people don’t realize the role that the media plays a big role in fueling the anti-vaccine movement.

We recently saw that when folks had to be reminded that Oprah gave a very high platform to Jenny McCarthy and her views that vaccines caused her child to become autistic, even though she admitted on Oprah’s show that “she missed signs of Evan’s autism,” after telling everyone earlier that he had developed autism after getting his MMR, the “autism shot.”

“And then the nurse gave my son that shot. And I remember going, “Oh, God, no!” And soon thereafter I noticed a change. The soul was gone from his eyes.”

Jenny McCarthy on Oprah

Maybe these people and organizations should be recognized when they use false balance and poor reporting to promote pseudoscience and anti-vaccine talking points to scare parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

The Sharyl Attkisson Journalism Award

Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey went on a mission to Green Our Vaccines in 2008.
Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey went on a mission to Green Our Vaccines in 2008.

Remember Sharyl Attkisson?

Sharyl Attkisson was an investigational reporter for CBS News.

She is best known for defending Andrew Wakefield and trying to promote a connection between vaccines and autism.

In her honor, we will be awarding a Sharyl Attkisson Journalism Award for the folks in the media who have done the best job in promoting myths and fake controversies about vaccines and have used false balance in their interviews and articles to scare parents:

  • Lea Thompson for her anti-vaccine documentary DPT: Vaccine Roulette
  • Robert Kennedy Jr. for his now retracted “error-laced” expose about vaccines and autism (Deadly Immunity) that appeared in both Salon and Rolling Stone
  • the Huffington Post before 2012, when the “The site arguably features more scientific quackery than any other mainstream media outlet.”
  • Phil Donahue – before Oprah, we had the Donahue show, where Phil Donahue gave a huge platform to the first anti-vaccine celebrity pediatrician (no, not Jay Gordon or Bob Sears), Robert Mendelsohn. He also featured Lisa Bonet, of The Cosby Show fame, on his show back in 1990, when she told everyone that she wasn’t vaccinating her daughter.
  • ABC’s Good Morning America for giving a platform to Cindy Crawford and her celebrity pediatrician, Jay Gordon, MD
  • Oprah for giving such a huge platform for Jenny McCarthy
  • Katie Couric for her segment on Now with Tom Brokaw and Katie Couric about DPT “hot lots” in 1994, her 2008 segment, “How Independent Are Vaccine Defenders?,” on the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, and her more her more recent segment on the HPV vaccine on her daytime talk show, Katie.
  • Larry King for his interviews with Bill Maher, Jim Carey, and multiple interviews with Jenny McCarthy on  CNN’s Larry King Live
  • NBC’s The TODAY Show for rebroadcasting DPT: Vaccine Roulette to a national audience and more recently, giving a platform to Robert DeNiro to discuss his views about vaccines and autism and the movie VAXXED
  • ABC’s 20/20 for their segments about the hepatitis B vaccine, Who’s Calling the Shots?, and for another segment featuring Jenny McCarthy
  • ABC’s Nightline for their segment on vaccine injury featuring Barbara Loe Fisher
  • CBS’s 60 Minutes for their segment,The MMR Vaccine, featuring Andrew Wakefield
  • Lisa Liddane for her 2006 article in the Orange County Register, Asking questions about vaccinations, which features Bob Sears and talks about toxins and reasons why parents want to delay vaccines, devoting little space to why it is not necessary and very dangerous
  • Matt Lauer for his hour-long episode, A Dose of Controversy, on NBC’s Dateline, in which he interviewed Andrew Wakefield
  • Michelle Woo for her article in the OC Weekly, Dr. Robert Sears Takes on Both Sides of the Great Vaccination Divide, which claims he has found “a middle ground in America’s war on vaccinations”
  • the Des Moines Register for posting an article, Effectiveness, safety of vaccines questioned, by Eileen Dannemann, the founder of an anti-vaccine website
  • the Portland Tribune editorial board for their piece, Our Opinion: Vaccination issue begs for open debate, in which this free, weekly paper basically repeated many anti-vaccine talking points
  • David Bruser and Jesse McLean at the Toronto Star for their now retracted 2015 article, HPV vaccine Gardasil has a dark side, Star investigation finds,  which claimed that the HPV vaccine is unsafe
  • Frederik Joelving and Susan Matthews for the Slate article, What the Gardasil Testing May Have Missed, which claims that the clinical trials for Gardasil weren’t designed properly and based on anecdotal evidence, implies that it is causing women to develop POTS

Do you know anyone who deserves a Sharyl Attkisson Journalism Award?

What to Know About the Sharyl Attkisson Journalism Award

In addition to fake news about vaccines, we see a lot of poor reporting and false balance by some reporters and organizations that leads parents to think that there is still a real debate going on about the safety and importance of getting vaccinated and protected.

More On the Sharyl Attkisson Journalism Award:

Who to Trust About Vaccines

We hear a lot about fake news these days.

Fake news on Facebook, Twitter, and from our Google search results.

So who do you trust, especially on an important topic like vaccines?

Who to Trust About Vaccines

Hopefully you can trust your pediatrician, but the fact that we now have holistic pediatricians and “vaccine friendly” pediatricians who encourage parents to follow alternative schedules means that even then, you might be listening to the wrong person.

“Pediatricians who routinely recommend limiting the numbers of vaccines administered at a single visit such that vaccines are administered late are providing care that deviates from the standard evidence-based schedule recommended by these bodies.”

Edwards et al Countering Vaccine Hesitancy

What about a study published in a medical journal?

You have to trust that, right?

Not necessarily, considering that predatory, pay-to-publish journals are a thing. Just like they sound, these journals will publish just about anything – as long as your check clears.

And of course, anyone can put up a website or publish an e-book pushing anti-vaccine talking points or simply get in front of a microphone and lie about vaccines in an interview.

So how do you find trusted vaccine information?

Which Vaccine Websites to Trust

You have to learn to be skeptical when looking for information about vaccines.

Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey went on a mission to Green Our Vaccines in 2008.
Who are you going to trust about vaccines?

Some general questions experts recommend asking, and which will certainly help when visiting a website about vaccines, include:

  • Who runs the Web site?
  • Who pays for the Web site?
  • What is the Web site’s purpose?
  • What is the original source of the Web site’s information?
  • How does the Web site document the evidence supporting its information?
  • Who reviewed the information before the owner posted it on the Web site?
  • How current is the information on the Web site?
  • How does the Web site owner choose links to other sites?
  • What are they selling?

Fortunately, anti-vaccine websites are fairly easy to spot.

Anti-vaccine websites often filled with conspiracy theories, talk about BigPharma, and about how everyone else is hiding the truth about vaccines.
Anti-vaccine websites often filled with conspiracy theories, talk about BigPharma, and ideas about how everyone else is hiding the truth about vaccines.

They are often filled with vaccine injury stories and articles about how vaccines are filled with poison (they aren’t), don’t really work (they do), and aren’t even needed (they certainly are). And many will try to sell you fake vaccine detox kits and autism cures at the same time they are making you terrified about vaccines.

Tragically, their pseudo-scientific arguments can sometimes be persuasive, especially if you don’t understand that they are mostly the same old arguments that the anti-vaccine movement has been using for over 200 years to scare parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

Which Vaccine Journals to Trust

Why do “fake” medical and science journals exist?

Probably because there is a lot of pressure to get published.

Unfortunately, almost all of them get listed in PubMed, which is why anti-vax folks with a list of studies from PubMed don’t usually get very far when trying to argue against the fact that vaccines work, are safe, and are necessary.

So how do you know if you can trust the conclusions of a medical study or journal article?

It can help if you look for studies about vaccines that:

  • are published in a legitimate journal, like Vaccine or Pediatrics, and some of these high-impact journals
  • are not published in predatory journals
  • you can actually read, as just reading the abstract isn’t enough to know if you can really trust the conclusions that have been made in the article
  • don’t involve simply looking at VAERS data
  • are not written by folks with a conflict of interest that makes the article biased
  • are written by people who have expertise on the topic they are writing about

Most importantly, look for studies that have not been refuted by others already, as it is often hard to fully evaluate studies to see if they have been designed properly or have other major flaws.

Also know that research into the safety and efficacy of vaccines is much more complete than anti-vax “experts” lead (mislead) some vaccine-hesitant parents to believe. And that the great majority of people understand that the great benefits of vaccines far outweigh any small risks.

What to Know About Finding Trusted Vaccine Information

Learn to find trusted vaccine information, so you don’t get fooled by the latest tactics of the anti-vaccine movement.

More on Finding Trusted Vaccine Information

Are Immigrants and Refugees Spreading Disease in the United States?

Neither the tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore, nor the homeless, tempest-tossed, are not spreading diseases on our shores or anywhere else.
Neither the tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore, nor the homeless, tempest-tossed, are not spreading diseases on our shores or anywhere else. (Photo by Vincent Iannelli, MD)

Why do some folks think that immigrants and refugees are spreading disease in the United States?

It certainly doesn’t help that Lou Dobbs once pushed the false idea that “illegal aliens” were fueling outbreaks of disease in the United States:

“The invasion of illegal aliens is threatening the health of many Americans. Highly-contagious diseases are now crossing our borders decades after those diseases had been eradicated in this country.”

Lou Dobbs Tonight

He warned, on his show in 2005, that “there are rising fears that once eradicated diseases are now returning to this country through our open borders. Those diseases are threatening the health of nearly every American as well as illegal aliens themselves.”

The once “eradicated diseases” he was talking about was leprosy. Of course though, he was wrong – leprosy has never been eradicated and it has not been increasing. Since 1985, there have been about 100 to 300 cases a year in the United States – no where near the “7,000 in the past three years” that Dobbs reported.

Immigrant Disease Spreading Propaganda Blitz

More recently, “as the taxpayer funded refugee resettlement industry launches a propaganda blitz about the so-called World Refugee Day” in 2016, Breitbart News reported that “six diseases that were recently near eradication are making a comeback in the United States.”

Of these six diseases, three – measles, mumps, and whooping cough – are vaccine-preventable and have very little to do with immigrants or refugees. Often, they have to do with unvaccinated United States citizens traveling out of the country, getting sick, and coming home to start an outbreak.

There was an outbreak of measles among a Somali community in Hennepin County, Minnesota in 2011, involving 14, mostly unvaccinated people. But they were unvaccinated because the anti-vaccine crowd (Wakefield) scared them away from being vaccinated over fears of autism, not because they were recent refugees.

Another Breitbart disease, scarlet fever, is simply the rash that you get when you have a strep infection, like strep throat. It is very common in kids and the incidence hasn’t changed over the years in the United States. For an unknown reason, the UK is seeing higher rates of scarlet fever though.

The last two Breitbart News warns about are bubonic plague and tuberculosis.

While there were 16 cases of plague in the United States in 2015, that is not unusual. The CDC reports that “in recent decades, an average of seven human plague cases have been reported each year (range: 1–17 cases per year).”

“The bacteria that cause plague, Yersinia pestis, maintain their existence in a cycle involving rodents and their fleas.”

CDC – Plague ecology in the United States

Anyway, you get bubonic plague from infected fleas and flea bites, not other sick people. You can get pneumonic plague from a sick person, but that hasn’t happened in the United States since 1924.

What about tuberculosis? That must be increasing because of new immigrants and refugees, right?

Nope. After years and years of decreasing, the number of cases and incidence rate has leveled off at its lowest level, about 9,500 cases since 2013. That’s compared to just over 14,000 cases in 2005. While that’s not to say that more work has to be done in working to eliminate tuberculosis, it is not making any kind of comeback.

Other Breitbart articles warned that “Syrian Refugees Spreading Flesh-Eating Disease, Polio, Measles, Tuberculosis, Hepatitis” and “EXCLUSIVE – Syrian Refugees Bringing Flesh-Eating Disease into U.S.?”

The “Flesh-Eating Disease” Breitbart is talking about isn’t the flesh-eating bacteria. It is a parasite that isn’t even spread from person to person. It is spread by sand fleas.

And rates of tuberculosis are actually lower in Syria than in most of Europe.

“In spite of the common perception of an association between migration and the importation of infectious diseases, there is no systematic association.”

World Health Organization

Tragically, while there have been some outbreaks of measles, polio, and other diseases in Syria, refugees are not spreading these diseases to Europe or the United States.

Of course, Breitbart isn’t the only  one participating in the immigrant disease spreading propaganda blitz these days.

“Likewise, tremendous infectious disease is pouring across the border. The United States has become a dumping ground for Mexico and, in fact, for many other parts of the world.”

Donald Trump (2015)

From politicians spreading misleading information about “tremendous infectious disease” to everyone else spamming each other with tales of immigrants spreading everything from Ebola and EV-D68 to worms, the net result is folks being scared of immigrants and refugees for no good reason.

Mychal Massie, in an Invasion USA report for WND recently wrote about a briefing given to the Arizona State Senate warning about a “Medical Ticking Time Bomb” warning that “illegals” were bringing scurvy, pernicious lice, and worms, etc. into the US.

Now unless immigrants are stealing all of our vitamin C, I don’t think that we have to worry that we will start see epidemics of scurvy any time soon.

We might have to worry about even larger outbreaks of measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases, but it won’t be immigrants or refugees causing them. It will be because more folks are skipping out on getting vaccinated and protected.

For More Information on Immigrants and Refugees