The Front Porch ran the article “Vaccine Data: One More Tool for Parents” in the March issue.
Vaccine article showed bias
This article showed bias and blatant disregard and disrespect for the families/people who opt out of vaccinations and/or question the safety of vaccines or who choose to do so on a delayed or reduced schedule. While this is quite common, it is tiresome and not an accurate portrayal of all of the information available or sides involved. I noticed two interviews and information in this article regarding children with cancer who could not have been vaccinated at one time and then blanket, opinionated statements following those interviews regarding a number of topics. However I did not see any interviews of families with children who have been injured by a vaccine or information on families making other choices and decisions. It seems to simply be acceptable to ignore the people who find themselves on the opposite side of this debate or that even raise questions and compare them to Jenny McCarthy (does anyone on staff or the people quoted in the article know of anyone directly who has based their decision making on this topic on what she has said?) and make other inaccurate and inappropriate representations and accusations.
There are benefits and risks to either choosing to vaccinate or not. Vaccination is a medical intervention and the notion that people make this decision lightly or use exemptions as a convenient loophole are not supported by any data or fact. The VAERS system of reporting is said to only contain around 10% of actual vaccine adverse events and reactions so to claim that an adverse event is extremely rare may not be accurate because enough data is not available and there may be more adverse events than are reported. Currently there has been no safety study done on the current, full immunization schedule. There have been studies done on individual vaccinations but none done on receiving them at the rate currently given. It’s unfortunate that any information that “rocks the boat” on this issue is ignored and dismissed.
Again, this issue is complex and heated and these decisions are for families to make in private with their doctors. It’s unfortunate that such a vicious, disrespectful tone has been taken in the media, news and elsewhere. Opportunities on both sides are being missed for meaningful, rational discussion. I wanted to point out that there is bias and disregard present in your article that doesn’t help the current debate tone regarding this issue.
Vaccine article stated facts
While I disagree with Ms. Buck’s assertions that your Front Porch article was disrespectful or vicious, she raises some important points. Like many parents who are opposed to vaccination, she appears to have a deeply held personal belief. However, just because one believes something very strongly does not make it so. The science is overwhelmingly in favor of the fact that the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks. Ms. Buck raises the concern that no opposing views were reported in the article.When media outlets give “both sides” in a story about something as crucially important as children’s health it creates a ‘false equivalence’ that could mislead some parents into believing that there are opposing scientific views, when, in fact, it is actually known science versus emotional beliefs. Doing so also gives a pulpit to what is in reality a very small proportion of the population (the overwhelming majority of parents support vaccination).
To Ms. Buck’s other specific points: she uses a common tactic of anti-vaccine advocates, which is to misrepresent scientific publications or quote them out of context as a scare tactic. For example, she mentions the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), implying that there may be more vaccine reactions out there than we know about. What she does not mention is that VAERS is but one piece of a very sophisticated and powerful vaccine safety monitoring system we have in the U.S. which has shown that vaccines are in fact amazingly safe. She also does not mention that her statement that “there has been no safety study done on the current, full immunization schedule” was a misrepresentation of one sentence taken completely out of context from a 220-page Institute of Medicine report. Here is what she left out from the actual conclusions of that report: “This report is the most comprehensive examination of the immunization schedule to date. The IOM committee uncovered no evidence of major safety concerns associated with adherence to the childhood immunization schedule. Should signals arise that there may be need for investigation, however, the report offers a framework for conducting safety research using existing or new data collection systems.”
Thanks to vaccines, like most parents today, Ms. Buck probably does not have much experience with vaccine-preventable diseases. Sadly, though, if enough parents take her approach, as this recent measles outbreak has shown, our children will suffer from potentially devastating—but entirely preventable—diseases.
Sean O’Leary, MD, MPH
Dr. O’Leary is a pediatric infectious diseases specialist at Children’s Hospital Colorado