Tag: media

False Balance About Vaccines at the Chicago Tribune

As more folks are calling out vocal vaccine deniers, many are also learning the role of the media in helping fuel the anti-vaccine movement.

“Whatever you think about Andrew Wakefield, the real villains of the MMR scandal are the media.”

Ben Goldacre on The MMR story that wasn’t

Believe it or not, there likely would not have been a big scare over the DPT vaccine in the 1970s and 80s or concerns about the MMR vaccine if the media hadn’t given so much attention to the anti-vaccine players involved.

False Balance About Vaccines at the Chicago Tribune

Folks in the media have learned their lesson though, right?

“Balance? There is no balance. There is mainstream, superstrong consensus about the value of vaccination, and on the other side … nothing else, since there is no other side. The media have made parents worry about vaccines in a lame effort to provide balance and all points of view.”

Arthur Caplan on There is no other side to the vaccine debate

Well, apparently not all of them…

If you are quoting anti-vaccine activists, then you are doing something wrong...
If you are quoting anti-vaccine activists, then you are doing something wrong…

Why would the Chicago Tribune devote nearly 20% of an article to a parent who is against vaccines, especially without correcting her misinformation?

Why haven’t they learned that spreading this kind of misinformation is what scares parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids in the first place?

Are vaccinations about parent choice or public safety? That’s the title of the Chicago Tribune article. And maybe that’s why Illinois is among top 5 states for measles as debate heats up, the rest of the title…

How about we give parents a chance to make informed choices without being influenced by propaganda and misinformation?

More on False Balance About Vaccines at the Chicago Tribune

About Those Lawsuits That Almost Put Vaccine Manufacturers out of Business

So you likely know that there were a bunch of lawsuits against manufacturers of the DPT vaccine in the early and mid 1980s.

“As the number of lawsuits grew to hundreds during the early 1980s, the pharmaceutical companies making vaccines saw their liability insurance bills soar. Worried not only about multimillion-dollar settlements, but also even the legal costs of defending themselves successfully, several companies simply stopped making vaccine.”

How a Media Scare On Vaccine Started a ‘near-Epidemic’

That’s why the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Act passed in 1986, creating the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program and the Vaccine Court.

About Those Lawsuits That Almost Put Vaccine Manufacturers out of Business

But did those DPT vaccine lawsuits prove that vaccines aren’t safe?

Is that why vaccine manufacturers needed help to limit their liability?

“The total amount claimed in 1984 DTP vaccine suits ($1.3 billion) is more than 20 times the total value of 1984 sales of DTP vaccine at the market price of $2.80 per dose.”

Hinman on DTP Vaccine Litigation

Of course not!

While the older DPT vaccine did cause more local reactions, pain, and fever than the newer DTaP vaccine that replaced it, all of the serious reactions that triggered the lawsuits were later found to not be caused by the vaccine.

Most of the DPT lawsuits were thought to be frivolous.

That’s not surprising, as the same vaccine lawsuits that were succeeding in driving vaccine manufacturers out of business in the United States were failing in the UK and Canada!

This included the Loveday judgment in Great Britain’s High Court of Justice, Queen’s Bench Division and the Rothwell judgment in the Supreme Court of Ontario, Canada, both decided in 1988, with justices ruling that there was “insufficient evidence to demonstrate that pertussis vaccine can cause permanent brain damage in children.”

Similar cases were succeeding in the US though..

“The number (and dollar value) of suits increased in 1982, a year when broadcast and print media began to devote considerable attention to the alleged hazards associated with the use of pertussis-containing vaccines. Most of the media coverage has emphasized alleged risks of pertussis vaccines and has given relatively little attention to the benefits of their use.”

Hinman on DTP Vaccine Litigation

Most experts knew that most of the lawsuits were frivolous, but they weren’t able to stop the damage that was to come, as:

  • the DPT: Vaccine Roulette special aired on TV
  • Barbara Loe Fisher, believing that her child was damaged by the DPT vaccine, formed the Dissatisfied Parents Together organization and wrote the book DPT: A Shot in the Dark, which later influenced Bob Sears
  • there were temporary shortages of DTP vaccine in 1984, as “two of the three American manufacturers of the product decided to halt or restrict its sales.”

What else happened? I mean besides all of the studies proving the DPT vaccine was safe?

Parents who had been scared by the DPT controversy were ready and primed when Andy Wakefield showed up and told them that they had something new to worry about – the MMR vaccine and autism.

And of course, pertussis is now returning, as more parents are scared to vaccinate their kids and the newer DTaP vaccine isn’t as effective as DPT.

More on Those Lawsuits That Almost Put Vaccine Manufacturers out of Business

Six Degrees of Anti-Vaccine Separation

You know about the Kevin Bacon thing, right?

Six degrees of separation? The idea that most people are connected by six or fewer degrees of separation.

Six Degrees of Anti-Vaccine Separation

Not surprisingly, you don’t have to beyond a few degrees to see the connection between many anti-vaccine folks.

“Parents from around Southern California choose Gordon for his outspoken and controversial stance on vaccinations, driving from as far away as Santa Barbara and Long Beach.

They know he will lend a sympathetic ear to their concerns about the possible adverse side effects of childhood vaccinations — even though several large scientific studies have failed to find a connection.

His openness to alternative approaches has earned him an avid following. With thousands of patients, his practice is so busy that he no longer accepts new patients.”

Los Angeles Times on Doctor Contrarian

Especially the vocal anti-vaccine folks.

Few folks likely remember, but in 2000, just after Andrew Wakefield released his now retracted study, Dr. Jay Gordon and Cindy Crawford appeared on Good Morning America to discuss vaccines and how she had decided to delay vaccinating her baby.

After the segment, Dr. Gordon stated:

They edited the segment to make me sound like a vaccination proponent. We also have to understand the impact of a person as well-known as Cindy Crawford delaying vaccines for over six months.

March 1997 article in the LA Times describing how media savvy “skeptics” were attacking vaccines.

So while a lot of folks like to give credit to Bob Sears and Jenny McCarthy for starting the modern anti-vaccine movement, Dr. Jay and Cindy Crawford were on the scene far earlier.

Dr. Jay had even been featured in the LA Times before Wakefield published his paper!

Speaking of Jenny McCarthy, it is interesting to note that Jay Gordon was her pediatrician!

“Right before his MMR shot, I said to the doctor, I have a very bad feeling about this shot. This is the autism shot, isn’t it? And he said, “No, that is ridiculous. It is a mother’s desperate attempt to blame something on autism.” And he swore at me. . . . And not soon thereafter, I noticed that change in the pictures: Boom! Soul, gone from his eyes.”

Jenny McCarthy

Well, Dr. Jay is almost certainly not the pediatrician that swore at her after giving her child an MMR vaccine.

“Yes, there have been cases of Disney spread from Measlesland. I will give MMRs to kids 3 yrs+ if parents are worried.”

Jay Gordon

But it’s not hard to guess where she got some of her ideas about vaccines.

“Would any scientist give SIX vaccines at once to a baby? Asking for trouble. One at a time makes so much more sense.”

Jay Gordon

It probably makes even more sense if it is your pediatrician saying it…

“My name is Brittney Kara and my husband and I are parents who have chosen not to continue vaccinating our children. After thoroughly investigating and carefully weighing the risks and benefits of each vaccine, we have concluded that the current vaccines are not safe for our children and that they are not required for the optimum health of our children.”

Brittney Kara

Especially when you have a pediatrician who has said “I think that the public health benefits to vaccinating are grossly overstated” and who recommends that parents “Wait until a child is clearly developmentally “solid” before vaccinating because we just don’t know which children will react badly to immunizations.”

Is that where Brittney “Why Aren’t Vaccines Mentioned in the Bible?” Kara got her ideas about vaccines?

“I began researching vaccines in 2007 when I was pregnant with our first child. Dr. Jay Gordon was my pediatrician growing up and since I have always held him in a high regard he was the first person I turned to. He was very cautious about the current CDC schedule and his research inspired me to start my own. I began following the work of Dr. Russell Blaylock, Dr. Joseph Mercola, Dr. Sherri Tenpenny, and Dr. Suzanne Humphries, among others.”

Brittney Kara

What about Alicia Silverstone and Mayim Bialik?

How many celebrities got their ideas about vaccines from Jay Gordon?

Suspicions about the DPT were not confirmed. In fact, it was found that the DPT vaccine did not cause any of the neurological problems that folks claimed, something that seemed to trigger the anti-vaccine feelings in some pediatricians.

How many other people have been influenced by the anti-vaccine celebrities that Jay Gordon has inspired?

More on Six Degrees of Anti-Vaccine Separation

Vaccine Op-Eds

The Editorial Boards of the leading newspapers in the United States are making sure we know their views about vaccines and vaccine hesitancy.

One of the first vaccine op-eds appeared in The New York Times.

It started with The New York Times, but certainly didn’t end there.

Vaccine Op-Eds

In addition to two hearings before Congress, many other major newspapers have published vaccine editorials of their own.

“It’s no mystery how we got here. On the internet, anti-vaccine propaganda has outpaced pro-vaccine public health information. The anti-vaxxers, as they are colloquially known, have hundreds of websites promoting their message, a roster of tech- and media-savvy influencers and an aggressive political arm that includes at least a dozen political action committees. Defense against this onslaught has been meager. The C.D.C., the nation’s leading public health agency, has a website with accurate information, but no loud public voice. The United States Surgeon General’s office has been mum. So has the White House — and not just under the current administration. That leaves just a handful of academics who get bombarded with vitriol, including outright threats, every time they try to counter pseudoscience with fact.”

The New York Times on How to Inoculate Against Anti-Vaxxers

“The wretched pox is getting closer. We hope you and yours are vaccinated.”

Chicago Tribune on Major new study adds to our plea: Vaccinate your children against measles

“But a child with fragile health, whose doctor advises to delay vaccines for health reasons, could be in extreme danger in Washington state because so many parents use philosophical exemptions. Vulnerable children are much more likely to be exposed to measles than they should be because Washington allows parents to skip required immunizations based solely on their personal beliefs.”

The Seattle Times on End philosophical vaccine exemption

“We can get kids vaccinated, or we can be in danger together.”

Chicago Sun-Times on Measles, anti-vaccine myths and some advice for Illinois

“Treating a disease like measles and stopping its spread is an expensive proposition. Not to mention, it endangers those who can’t get vaccinated, including vulnerable newborns.”

The Baltimore Sun on It’s about time for a backlash against anti-vaxers

“Recent outbreaks underscore the risks of allowing nonmedical exemptions.”

USA Today on Measles outbreaks underscore risks of allowing nonmedical vaccination exemptions

“The point is, people who do not get vaccinated are threatening the whole population, and DeFoor’s letter is a reminder that failing to get vaccinated can have lifelong consequences.”

The Gainesville Sun on Anti-vaccine myths are dangerous

“The best solution, however, is for parents who are tempted to claim a religious exemption to look at the facts. If your fear of vaccines is based on information repeated in social media or by an anti-vaccine group, you need to try again. Look at medical studies or talk to your doctor.

The measles vaccine can save your child’s life, and it can save the lives of those who are medically unable to take the vaccine.”

Tuscaloosa News on Measles vaccine a must for your child and others

“This isn’t one of those scary epidemics in which the cause and solution are unclear. The cause is a reckless embrace of myth over scientific fact. The solution is vaccination.”

St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Measles is back, thanks to misinformation and loopholes in vaccination rules.

“Yet the distrust of anti-vaxxer parents is a threat to everyone’s children and not just their own.”

The Guardian view on vaccination: a duty of public health

“The anti-vaxxers’ hypothesis rests largely on the shoulders of bunk science that has been discredited and disproven by a number of sources. But this hasn’t stopped their ideas from taking hold.”

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Preventable problems: Anti-vaxxers rely on bunk science

“We identify with parents’ desire to protect their children. But shunning proven vaccinations is making families and communities less healthy, not more so. We urge lawmakers to champion educational efforts to help parents understand that lesson before a major outbreak strikes here.”

Austin American Statesman on Austin’s anti-vaccination rate is nothing to brag about

After reading these Op-Eds, it is even more amazing to realize how far we have come from when the media used to be part of the problem.

Whatever you think about Andrew Wakefield, the real villains of the MMR scandal are the media.”

Ben Goldacre on The MMR story that wasn’t

It’s nice that they are advocating for vaccines and our children now.

More on Vaccine Op-Eds

Are New Federal Vaccine Laws Coming?

Have you seen the headlines?

CNN ran a story about how the Federal government might step in to change lax vaccine laws.

I wouldn’t be surprised if you haven’t, as few media outlets took the click bait and ran with the story…

Are New Federal Vaccine Laws Coming?

So what’s the story?

FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb originally told Axios that “Too many states have lax laws.”

This led to the article by CNN.

“Some states are engaging in such wide exemptions that they’re creating the opportunity for outbreaks on a scale that is going to have national implications,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said Tuesday in an interview with CNN.

If “certain states continue down the path that they’re on, I think they’re going to force the hand of the federal health agencies,” he added.

FDA chief: Federal government might step in if states don’t change lax vaccine laws

Force the hand of the federal health agencies to do what?

“The commissioner was vague on when he thought the federal government should take action and what exactly that action should be. “You could mandate certain rules about what is and isn’t permissible when it comes to allowing people to have exemptions,” he said.”

FDA chief: Federal government might step in if states don’t change lax vaccine laws

Yeah, except neither the FDA, CDC, nor any other federal health agency could actually do that.

“Historically, the preservation of the public health has been the primary responsibility of state and local governments, and the authority to enact laws relevant to the protection of the public health derives from the state’s general police powers. With regard to communicable disease outbreaks, these powers may include the enactment of mandatory vaccination laws.”

Mandatory Vaccinations: Precedent and Current Laws

Of course, that hasn’t kept anti-vaccine folks from getting their feathers ruffled.

Is a story about something that can't really happen a coordinated attack on our medical freedom?

What could the Federal government do about vaccines to cause folks to revolt?

“Any federal mandatory vaccination program applicable to the general public would likely be limited to areas of existing federal jurisdiction, i.e., interstate and foreign commerce, similar to the federal quarantine authority. This limitation on federal jurisdiction acknowledges that states have the primary responsibility for protecting the public health, but that under certain circumstances, federal intervention may be necessary.”

Mandatory Vaccinations: Precedent and Current Laws

Not much.

There isn’t much room for the Federal government to intervene to improve vaccination rates at the state level, except maybe to make sure that vaccines are readily available to everyone that wants them.

Federal jurisdiction over public health matters derives from the Commerce Clause, which states that Congress shall have the power “[t]o regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States….”

Mandatory Vaccinations: Precedent and Current Laws

Or is there…

Vaccine preventable diseases are just a plane ride away.
Vaccine preventable diseases are just a plane ride away.

Considering that most measles outbreaks are imported, one very simple Federal law that could help might be one that simply reminds folks who plan a trip out of the country to get vaccinated and protected.

That could help them remember to get caught up on their vaccines so that they don’t come home measles, triggering an outbreak.

Not a requirement to get vaccinated, as that would be hard to enforce, but education and reminders about the recommended vaccines you should get before a trip.

Would that cause anti-vaccine folks to revolt?

Are New Federal Vaccine Laws Coming?

Did a Top Cancer Scientist Suddenly Die After Getting a Yellow Fever Vaccination?

We are seeing many reports that Professor Martin Gore, an oncologist at London’s Royal Marsden Hospital for more than 35 years, died suddenly after getting a yellow fever vaccine.

Could that be true?

Could someone really die after getting a routine vaccination?

Did a Top Cancer Scientist Suddenly Die After Getting a Yellow Fever Vaccination?

Of course, it could be true.

Although vaccines are very safe, they are not 100% risk free. And tragically, they do very rarely have life-threatening side effects.

To be fair, we don’t know the full story about what happened to Prof Gore, but the media reports do say that he suffered total organ failure shortly after getting his yellow fever vaccine.

What we don’t know is how shortly after getting the vaccine or if there is any evidence for another cause for his having organ failure.

Still, although most side effects are mild, it is reported that the yellow fever vaccine, which has been available for more than 80 years, can rarely cause:

How rarely?

About 1 in 55,000 for severe allergic reactions, 1 in 125,000 for severe nervous system reactions, and 1 in 250,000 for life-threatening severe illness with organ failure.

And the risks are likely higher if you are older than age 60 years, although YEL-AND and YEL-AVD are not reported to happen with booster doses of the yellow fever vaccine.

“People aged ≥60 years may be at increased risk for serious adverse events (serious disease or, very rarely, death) following vaccination, compared with younger persons. This is particularly true if they are receiving their first yellow fever vaccination. Travelers aged ≥60 years should discuss with their healthcare provider the risks and benefits of the vaccine given their travel plans.”

Yellow Fever Frequently Asked Questions

Why would you get the yellow fever vaccine if you were older than aged 60 years and you knew there was a higher risk of severe side effects?

Yellow fever itself is a life threatening disease without a cure and a case fatality rate of up to 50%, and again, YEL-AVD is not common, occurring in about 0.4/100,000 doses.

So you would typically want to get vaccinated if you were traveling to an area where yellow fever was a risk.

“Since January 2018, 10 travel-related cases of yellow fever, including four deaths, have been reported in international travelers returning from Brazil. None of the 10 travelers had received yellow fever vaccination.”

Fatal Yellow Fever in Travelers to Brazil, 2018

In addition to outbreaks, yellow fever is still endemic in forty-seven countries in Africa and Central and South America, leading to 170,000 severe cases and 60,000 deaths in recent years, including some deaths in unvaccinated travelers returning from these areas. Did you read about these deaths in the paper?

Although it is not on the routine immunization schedule, if you are traveling somewhere and yellow fever is a risk, you should get a yellow fever vaccine.

Professor Gore’s death, at age 67, is a tragedy, no matter the cause.

That we are having to talk about it because anti-vaccine folks are using his death to push their idea that vaccines aren’t safe is unconscionable.

More on Yellow Fever Vaccine Deaths

Why Are You Still Worried About the MMR Vaccine?

We know why most folks got scared of the MMR vaccine.

Who's to blame for low immunization rates and continuing outbreaks?
Who’s to blame for low immunization rates and continuing outbreaks?

And most of us remember when most folks welcomed the MMR vaccine the end of endemic measles in the United States.

Why You Were Worried About the MMR Vaccine

Of course, that all changed when Andrew Wakefield spoke at the press conference for his 1998 Lancet paper and said:

“And I have to say that there is sufficient anxiety in my own mind of the safety, the long term safety of the polyvalent, that is the MMR vaccination in combination, that I think that it should be suspended in favour of the single vaccines, that is continued use of the individual measles, mumps and rubella components… there is no doubt that if you give three viruses together, three live viruses, then you potentially increase the risk of an adverse event occurring, particularly when one of those viruses influences the immune system in the way that measles does. And it may be, and studies will show this or not, that giving the measles on its own reduces the risk of this particular syndrome developing… the risk of this particular syndrome developing is related to the combined vaccine, the MMR, rather than the single vaccines…. People have been saying for some time, people on the periphery of autism, have been saying for some time that this may well be related to bowel damage.”

Although there was no evidence for any of that, vaccination rates went down and measles rates went up – the Wakefield Factor.

MMR vaccination rates had dropped below 80% by 2003, when the first measles outbreaks in the UK began. They didn't fully recover until 2012.
MMR vaccination rates had dropped below 80% by 2003, when the first measles outbreaks in the UK began. They didn’t fully recover until 2012.

But no, it wasn’t one person at a press conference that us lead down a decade of worry about the MMR vaccine.

“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

Andrew Wakefield had plenty of help!

Not only from anti-vaccine celebrities, but from the media and their scare stories.

Why Are You Still Worried About the MMR Vaccine?

But that is all old news.

Over and over again, we see new studies that show that the MMR vaccine is safe and is not associated with autism.

Andrew Wakefield’s work was never replicated.

The MMR vaccine never contained thimerosal and doesn’t even contain aluminum, which I mention only because those are ingredients that some folks get scared about, not because they are harmful.

Vaccines are safe. The MMR vaccine is safe.

And more and more, as predicted, we are seeing why vaccines are necessary – more and more outbreaksOutbreaks that are proving to be deadly.

Why are you still worried about the MMR vaccine?

Because anti-vaccine folks are still scaring you away from vaccinating and protecting your kids!

Don’t listen to them!

More on MMR Vaccine Fears