Home > Get Involved, In the News, Science & Research > Concerned Parents Call Out Irresponsible Media

Concerned Parents Call Out Irresponsible Media

May 16, 2012

Modern culture is often reflected in everything from the skewed view of popular reality shows and viral YouTube videos, to the personal discussions friends have on Facebook and in online chat rooms.  Since we are bombarded by such a wide variety of media, today’s parents must constantly navigate the popular messages and decipher between that which serves to entertain, versus that which is intended as news and information.  The challenge is that this is becoming increasingly difficult to do – especially when it pertains to parenting and children’s health.

Recently, one of our Vaccinate Your Baby Facebook friends discovered an online article entitled Why Shouldn’t We Vaccinate Our Children , which appeared in the Family Health section of Discovery’s “The Learning Channel” site.  The author is a senior writer at HowStuffWorks.com, co-host of the Stuff You Should Know podcast, and posts on Facebook at the official Stuff You Should Know page.  While one may read his article in hopes of learning how “stuff” (like vaccines and our immune systems) work, the article fails to deliver anything but broad generalizations and unsupported suggestions.   Rather than providing parents with a clear understanding of the science behind vaccines, the article is a disappointment that suggests parents be concerned about vaccines without offering any solid evidence.

If The Learning Channel were truly committed to helping people “learn”, and the author wanted to write about “stuff you should know“, then the article should have included information from those who do know stuff.  Specifically stuff about vaccines.  That’s not to say that the writer must be an infectious disease specialist in order to present accurate information on  immunizations.  But it would have been better if an expert was actually consulted on the article.  Without any specific references or resources to refer to, this author’s piece is completely unsubstantiated, yet disguised as something that some may consider credible.    Even though he suggests that people do “independent research on this issue,” he fails to direct readers to reputable sources where they can gain further information.

Fortunately, several members of the Vaccinate Your Baby Facebook page were quick to raise concern.  They recognized that this author’s piece was dangerously irresponsible and they wanted to do something about it.  By alerting such organizations as Every Child by Two, these civic-minded parents initiated a deliberate action that rallied a strong and unified community of vaccine supporters.  Numerous organizations have already agreed to sign onto a letter calling for more responsible reporting on immunization issues that impact public health and safety, and they intend to direct that letter specifically to the Discovery Channel site.  The concerns that were raised have even caught the attention of many other bloggers and science writers.  Seth Mnookin, author of The Panic Virus: The True Story Behind the Vaccine-Autism Controversy, has extensively researched vaccines and is extremely well-versed on the issues related to immunizations.  In his recent blog post entitled Taking Stupid to a Whole New Level, he quickly points out several issues that were misrepresented in this Discovery article.  And what do you know…Seth actually includes links supporting evidence.

Sadly, reckless articles like the one appearing on TLC are precisely what perpetuates parental concerns about vaccines.  If we are to ensure that today’s parents are well-educated on immunization issues, we must insist that media references to vaccines be grounded in science and not speculation.  There is a time and a place for a writer to express their opinions on vaccines.  It’s healthy to continue to evaluate current immunization policies and practices.  It ensures that we are doing the best we can to offer safe and effective disease prevention.  And while this type of dialogue is often encouraged here on Shot of Prevention, as well as on other immunization related blogs, it’s important that the mainstream media doesn’t disguise personal opinions as evidence based information.  Concerned parents, like those on the Vaccinate Your Baby Facebook page, will continue to call out irresponsible media and we will do what we can to correct the misinformation out there in hopes of helping parents to make well-informed decisions about immunizations.

  1. Snoozie
    May 16, 2012 at 10:22 am

    All of us are responsible for making sure the media does not value entertainment over public health. While the vaccine “debate” may score some ratings points, it leaves children vulnerable to disease. Thank you, Shot of Prevention and Vaccinate Your Baby for giving parents the accurate information they need so that they may call out the media when the media is being irresponsible.

  2. liz allen
    May 16, 2012 at 10:22 am

    I read the linked article, and thought it sounded very reasonable, giving both sides of the issue. I didn’t think it was irresponsible at all.

  3. Snoozie
    May 16, 2012 at 10:27 am

    When issues have two sides, it might be responsible to present both. However, this issue does not have two sides. It has science and scientific consensus, and then it has those who deny that science. Giving denialism a platform is irresponsible. We don’t need to present every topic as though it has two sides.

  4. May 16, 2012 at 10:36 am

    There is no debate, it’s people who trust modern medicine and then there are nutters!

  5. May 16, 2012 at 10:50 am

    The TLC article is an excellent example of dangerous information that can be found on the Internet and SOP points out tremendous errors with the TLC’s writing. There wasn’t an expert consulted for article and it lacks any credible references or resources to back up its ‘theories’.
    Fortunately, there are many websites for those seeking evidence-based scientific research. SOP and Vaccinate Your Baby are great assets for directing parents towards such sources, for example: Immunization Action Coalition (http://www.immunize.org/), National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (http://www.nfid.org/), and The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Vaccine Education Center (http://www.chop.edu/service/vaccine-education-center/).
    It’s vital that parents and those on the Internet use validated websites that are created and reviewed by scientists, and healthcare professionals who have the scientific background and medical education to authenticate their articles. Otherwise they may fall victim to poor research, online scams and misinformation that can lead to dangerous decisions that affect their child’s (and even their own) health and safety.

  6. May 16, 2012 at 11:00 am

    Liz, that article was totally error ridden, poorly researched, dangerously distorted and actually also poorly written. Quite cowardly, TLC has removed all comments from this article, because all of them called TLC and the author out.

  7. Kelly
    May 16, 2012 at 11:01 am

    I also thank Shot of Prevention for bringing this irresponsible reporting to my attention. Journalists writing about immunizations owe it to their readers to get their facts straight. Another piece of misinformation in that article is this passage:

    The active ingredient in a vaccine is an extremely small dose of a virus or bacteria. Immunotherapy is based on the fact that an immune system exposed at an early age to a small amount of a potentially harmful biological agent will have the chance to develop the antibodies it needs to fight it.

    This is not how vaccines work. The active ingredient in a vaccine are antigens. These antigens can be inactivated or weakened (attenuated). These are not “potentially harmful biological agents”. The whole point of the vaccine is to expose the immune system to the antigens in a form that is not harmful, so that the body can generate a protective immune response without the child having to suffer the illness first. (Note: Live attenuated vaccines do pose a risk to those that are immunocompromised and those with immunocompromised children should talk with their child’s doctor to see if the vaccine is right for them.)

    The CDC Pinkbook gives a good overview of how vaccines work: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/pinkbook/index.html

    The WHO maintains a list of credible websites for vaccine information. I would recommend parents just rely on these sites rather than sites written by non-experts that might contain misleading and inaccurate information.

    http://www.who.int/immunization_safety/safety_quality/vaccine_safety_websites/en/index.html

    There is also no shame in relying on expert opinion to make this decision and spend your time enjoying your child rather than getting bogged down reading articles on the internet. We use expert professionals all the time if we hire a lawyer, mechanic, accountant, plumber, electrician, etc. When my mechanic recommends replacing the pads on my brakes to prevent an accident, I don’t spend hours on the internet “researching” brake pads. Why should recommendations for immunizations be any different? If I didn’t have a scientific background, I would absolutely put my doctor to work for me, by asking a bunch of questions related to my concerns.

  8. May 16, 2012 at 11:03 am

    Thank you, Shot of Prevention team for calling the media out for their dangerous negligence and lazy “both sides” write ups. The TLC piece was very poorly researched, full of errors (e.g. about Thimerosal in mumps and rubella vaccines), irrelevant factoids (why would Yellow Fever vaccine be relevant for the US schedule) and dangerous fear mongering (vaccines do NOT cause autism).

  9. Kate
    May 16, 2012 at 11:13 am

    I am so glad this article was addressed for its irresponsible message. TLC should be ashamed for presenting such false information that could potentially sway caregivers to place their children in danger.

  10. Th1Th2
    May 16, 2012 at 11:21 am

    The inherent danger, of course, is that, even though it’s a small dosage, a vaccine is essentially the deliberate introduction of a virus or bacteria into the body. This means that there is a tiny chance the preventative cure will actually lead to contraction of the disease.

    I like it when they used the words “inherent”, “deliberate” and “essentially”. “Preventative cure”? Never when the principle of vaccination is infection promotion.

    Shot of infection. Anyone?

  11. Kelly
    May 16, 2012 at 11:28 am

    For anyone who might not be aware, Th1Th2 is a troll. I have encountered this troll a couple of times. Discussion is futile, so best just to ignore it.

  12. May 16, 2012 at 11:30 am

    wow – who lifted that stone? You realise, Thingy, that you are taking the criticised article at face value here? If OP and troll agree, TLC must have really done badly ;)

  13. Lawrence
    May 16, 2012 at 11:33 am

    Ignore insane troll, she is a one trick pony….

  14. Lawrence
    May 16, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    Unfortunately, I have been disappointed with THC, TLC, Discovery, etc for a while now – since they seem to give a platform to some very weird and woo-ful topics, including Nostradamus, 2012, aliens, Big-Foot, etc.

  15. Th1Th2
    May 16, 2012 at 1:05 pm

    Exactly what I expected. Blogs like this can never move forward with its agenda once the promoters realize their “inherent”, “essential”, and “deliberate” infection-promoting scheme.

    A.E. had said, “Never do anything against conscience even if the state demands it.”

  16. Tsu Dho Nimh
    May 16, 2012 at 6:16 pm

    You know … the link you give, courtesy of the magic of the Internet and HTML re-directs, now appears to go to an entirely different article.

    Your link to this: http://tlc.howstuffworks.com/family/why-shouldnt-we-vaccinate-our-children4.htm

    now goes to this:

    http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/life/human-biology/5-things-to-consider-when-deciding-to-vaccinate-child.htm

  17. May 17, 2012 at 1:31 am

    This is so ironic. Our
    O’clock newspaper just published an irresponsible columnist opinion on vaccines which ignited an uproar in our medical community. They are now printing a follow up story with solid information !!! Poor journalism is out of control and vaccines are. Huge sufferer from this !!

  18. May 19, 2012 at 2:50 am

    Concerned parents? Funny. You mean concerned astroturf group.

  19. May 19, 2012 at 7:15 pm

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    site, this web site is actually amazing.

  20. liz allen
    May 28, 2012 at 9:38 pm

    An Italian court recently ruled that it had been proven that the MMR caused autism in a little boy. A federal court ruled that several shots given at the same time caused autism in Hannah Poling. If you say it was only because she had a preexisting mitochondrial disorder, studies have found that 70% or more of autistic children have a mitochondrial disorder. A recent study proved that the hepatitis-B vaccine caused a mitochondrial disorder, that it is likely that the vaccine causes the disorder, and not that the disorder was preexisting.

    The DPT was taken off the market because it was proven to have caused so many cases of brain damage, seizure disorders, or death. Do you not care about vaccine-damaged children? How can you all gang up to insist that this article Five Things Parents Should Consider Before Vaccinating Their Child was nothing but lies which must be censored and not allowed to see the light of day? I read it, it was very moderate and middle-of-the-road. There are a lot of facts about the dangers of vaccines, and too many permanently-damaged children for you to get impartial people to agree that people have no right to read information on both sides, and then make up their own mind. That’s why we have freedom of the press.

  21. Lawrence
    May 29, 2012 at 11:44 am

    @Liz – the Italian Court was a ruling of civil law, not Science. The ruling on Hannah Poling was not a ruling of autism – and certainly not a 100% proof either (given the relative lax rules of evidence used).

    And please cite your “recent study” regarding the HepB vaccine.

    The real information on DTaP is:

    http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/vis/downloads/vis-dtap.pdf

  22. Thomas
    June 5, 2012 at 5:27 pm

    You’d expect an astroturf group to censor opposing views – like the biomedical shill group AOA does. Yet this site doesn’t censor even the most egregious fools.

  23. ella
    July 6, 2012 at 8:59 pm

    Lawrence,
    Recent study on hep-B vaccine:
    Apoptosis. 2012 Jan 17. [Epub ahead of print]
    Hepatitis B vaccine induces apoptotic death in Hepa1-6 cells.
    Hamza H, Cao J, Li X, Li C, Zhu M, Zhao S.
    Source
    Key Lab of Agricultural Animal Genetics, Breeding, and Reproduction of Ministry of Education, College of Animal Science and Technology, Huazhong Agricultural University, Wuhan, 430070, People’s Republic of China, Heyam68_hamza@yahoo.com.
    Abstract
    Vaccines can have adverse side-effects, and these are predominantly associated with the inclusion of chemical additives such as aluminum hydroxide adjuvant. The objective of this study was to establish an in vitro model system amenable to mechanistic investigations of cytotoxicity induced by hepatitis B vaccine, and to investigate the mechanisms of vaccine-induced cell death. The mouse liver hepatoma cell line Hepa1-6 was treated with two doses of adjuvanted (aluminium hydroxide) hepatitis B vaccine (0.5 and 1 μg protein per ml) and cell integrity was measured after 24, 48 and 72 h. Hepatitis B vaccine exposure increased cell apoptosis as detected by flow cytometry and TUNEL assay. Vaccine exposure was accompanied by significant increases in the levels of activated caspase 3, a key effector caspase in the apoptosis cascade. Early transcriptional events were detected by qRT-PCR. We report that hepatitis B vaccine exposure resulted in significant upregulation of the key genes encoding caspase 7, caspase 9, Inhibitor caspase-activated DNase (ICAD), Rho-associated coiled-coil containing protein kinase 1 (ROCK-1), and Apoptotic protease activating factor 1 (Apaf-1). Upregulation of cleaved caspase 3,7 were detected by western blot in addition to Apaf-1 and caspase 9 expressions argues that cell death takes place via the intrinsic apoptotic pathway in which release of cytochrome c from the mitochondria triggers the assembly of a caspase activation complex. We conclude that exposure of Hepa1-6 cells to a low dose of adjuvanted hepatitis B vaccine leads to loss of mitochondrial integrity, apoptosis induction, and cell death, apoptosis effect was observed also in C2C12 mouse myoblast cell line after treated with low dose of vaccine (0.3, 0.1, 0.05 μg/ml). In addition In vivo apoptotic effect of hepatitis B vaccine was observed in mouse liver.

  24. Chris
    July 6, 2012 at 9:48 pm

    How does the in vitro and the mice model relate to humans?

  25. lilady
    July 6, 2012 at 11:27 pm

    @ Lawrence: About that civil court case in Rimini, Italy that the notorious anti-vaccine organizations are touting….The magistrate based his plaintiff’s decision on the testimony of an *expert* using the fraudulent research of Andrew Wakefield. The mother of the child, while under sworn oath, claimed the child was immunized at seven months of age; still under “sworn oath”, the mother then stated that the child was immunized at fifteen months of age.

    The decision by the Italian jurist has been roundly condemned by legal experts around the world and the defendant is appealing the decision.

    I *wonder* why the full details of this case were not revealed by the notorious anti-vaccine websites?

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  1. May 18, 2012 at 12:21 pm
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