Media Bias and Censorship of Vaccine Reporting

censorshipShortly before my 3 year old son was born, I began researching vaccines. I quickly realized I had opened a Pandora’s box. There was a lot of controversy surrounding vaccines. Confused and wanting to get my thoughts organized, I blogged about what I learned in this post, which is now one of the most popular on my blog.

Since then, the debate has only intensified – especially in the wake of the California measles outbreak, which has triggered a slew of stories on the subject. Articles and editorials in outlets like The Washington Post, The New York Times, BBC News, Time MagazineThe Economist and many others vilify the unvaccinated and pro-choicers, portraying them as being ignorant and irresponsible. A few even suggest that the unvaccinated be sued and that doctors who support vaccine choice have their licenses revoked. But why haven’t I seen any stories that mention any of the concerns I raised in my post about the Vaccine Controversy, I wondered?  I decided to look into it and now I’m now horrified by what I have discovered.

94TbAejigA core tenet of journalistic professionalism is objectivity, meaning “fairness, disinterestedness, factuality, and nonpartisanship.” Sadly, the mainstream media does not give fair coverage to the views of those who question the vaccine risk-reward equation.  They mislead readers by cherry-picking scary figures, such as the oft-cited statistic that,  “2-3 million people died per year from measles before the vaccine was introduced,” when in fact the vast majority of those deaths were from countries with poor sanitation practices. In fact, only a few hundred of those deaths each year were in the US – and that is out of about 3-4 million infected Americans per year back then. In other words, the death rate from measles in the United States before the vaccine was introduced was only about 0.015%. Why is this statistic never mentioned??

I am equally troubled by articles from authors who purport to represent the concerns of those who question vaccine safety and oppose forced vaccination by merely citing the two most controversial vaccine risk figureheads: Andrew Wakefield, the discredited scientist and Jenny McCarthy, whose “ex-Playmate” status is the first thing reporters latch on to, as if that has anything to do with the validity of her concerns. Somehow these reporters all fail to mention any of the following:

Why is the media taking sides in this matter? Much has been written about corporate influence of the media, beginning with their strong influence on the medical journals, which is the basis for most media reporting on healthcare topics. For example, this paper by Blasco and Sobbrio cites evidence explaining that the “symbiotic relationship between medical journal and pharmaceutical companies seem to have provided a very fertile ground for commercial media bias. Indeed, various scholars suggest that editorial decisions in medical journals have been, sometimes, influenced by advertisers’ concerns (Fletcher, 2003; Fugh-Berman et al., 2006).” This is described further on the wikipedia page for Medical Journalism. Pharmaceutical companies happen to also be among the biggest spenders on advertisements, so they fund a disproportionately high amount of the media companies’ budgets. In fact drug companies spend more on marketing than on R&D, which is interesting considering how often we hear them justify their high prices by blaming it on the high cost of R&D. They also spend spend more on government lobbying than any other industry.

What I didn’t know until very recently, however, is that US government officials, such as former health secretary Kathleen Sebelius, come right out and demand that media outlets not give fair coverage to the views of ‘these people’ (meaning those who question vaccine safety).  She stated in a magazine interview in 2010 that, We have reached out to media outlets to try to get them to not give the views of these people [vaccine safety critics] equal weight in their reporting to what science has shown and continues to show about the safety of vaccines,” as quoted in this paper by NYU Law Professor Mary S. Holland.

What other government and corporate-sponsored media manipulation tactics are being used that we’re not even hearing about?

As I said, I am horrified.

9 thoughts on “Media Bias and Censorship of Vaccine Reporting

  1. Nevra,

    It is indeed horrifying; it makes me stay up at night wondering. That’s no way to live. My little one goes to daycare with other 60 kids and I did choose to vaccinate. They daycare requires a copy of her immunization record.
    Thinking more about this, if i chose to no longer vaccinate, schools/daycare will pressure me to vaccinate – how does one go around it? I heard a letter from priest will do.

  2. I too am horrified, as you said if this is possible what don’t we know about. The media and politicians continue to vilify some, so as to take the focus off of those who are controlling it all.

  3. It’s news to you that the institutional left control the mainstream media and ride roughshod over legitimate criticism of their corrupt practices? The federal government knows that the fewer choices the plebeians can make, the better.

    Just look at the recent smearing of Soon, Monckton, Briggs, and Legates for being the latest contrarian scientists to debunk the prevailing global warming hoax, as an example.

    • You know, Scientists also say that there is no God. Everything scientist say doesn’t mean they are always right. I would rather take a chance on the vaccine,than have my child get a disease and possibly die from it. How many die from a vaccine? How many die from diseases? I still say, if they don’t want to vaccinate their children then keep them home and home school them. That way they won’t be spreading anything a child might be able to also get. I think that is only fair.

  4. A second core tenet of professional journalism is accuracy: due diligence, use of reliable sources, fact checking, cross-checking, third party corroboration and making sure one’s arithmetic is correct. Mainstream media controllers are political. They forbid the use of balance, objectivity and accuracy when it comes to reporting on a variety of subjects where vested political interests are involved and propaganda is required to maintain mass obedience. “It is the absolute right of the state to supervise the formation of public opinion.” J. Goebbels.

  5. What I really don’t get in all the controversy is the fear that parents of vaccinated children have of unvaccinated children. If their kids have the vaccine, then why should they worry about getting the disease? A bit of disconnect here, I think.

    • As my doctor explained, having a vaccinated child is like having them wear a seat belt ; this doesn’t prevent reckless drunk driving outside your control. In other words, it reduces the chance of getting infected, but if you put your vaccinated child amidst a bunch on unvaccinated kids, you are asking for trouble. No products guarantee anything in the absolute – they just increase the probability under predefined constraints.

      • The problem with the seat belt analogy is that the risk/reward equation is simple. There’s virtually no risk with seat belts but huge reward in terms of improved safety. The risk/reward equation with vaccines is not so black and white, unfortunately, due to all the reasons I cite in the post.

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