17 thoughts on “Vaccines and the Media: No Room for Balance

  1. OldGene says:

    I will never understand how these people sleep at night, knowing they are actively frightening parents with the potentially dreadful results.

    These parents need a perspective on what risk is in addition to serious lessons on what science is. Perhaps a trip to or serious documentary by Dateline Central Africa to see the devastation of easily avoidable, yet common diseases.

    To my mind, this type of misrepresentation by the media is both wilful, and bordering on the criminal.

  2. daedalus2u says:

    One of the most widely and repeatedly found characteristics of people with autism is a larger number of minicolumns in the brain. The number of minicolums is set at ~6-8 weeks post gestation, still in utero, still in the first trimester.

    Nothing 2 or 3 years later can change that.

  3. hatch_xanadu says:

    Wow. Little late jumping the stupid train, eh, Matt Lauer? But, doggone it, you got there in good time.

    And you’re right, OldGene; it is willful.

  4. hatch_xanadu says:

    And amen to the intent behind “controversy”. And as far as “balanced” media coverage goes, the very fact that people perpetuating this myth get even one iota of coverage, let alone “equal” coverage, shows that there is absolutely no intent whatsoever toward “balanced” reporting. Are we in danger of attack by mutant robot pterodactyls? Some say no, but this guy says yes. It’s quite the ongoing controversy!

  5. tmac57 says:

    I watched the show, and came away thinking that it was fairly weak. Some have argued that you can only do so much in one hour, but those familiar with Dateline will know that they routinely do 2 hour segments on much less important topics (wife overboard a cruise ship), so there is really no excuse for not going deeper into the problems (fraud?) with Wakefield’s original study.
    I have to say, I am really impressed with the way Dr. Snyderman refused to cow down to the ‘controversial’ argument.

  6. acuccia says:

    The Dateline show mentioned several large studies showing no link between MMR vaccine and autism, and I found references to one of them in this post (the NEJM article). So I looked it up, read a few bits that I could understand, and found things like “adjusted relative risk of autistic disorder, 0.92″. I don’t know what that means. Are there any places to go for good summaries of the studies that can be understood by non-scientists?

    For context, I am fairly scientifically literate, but my family is not, which means that I’ve got 3 nephews and a niece here in Los Angeles that have not had the MMR vaccine. And when I tell them that there are huge studies showing no link between the vaccine and autism, they start asking me questions about the studies. That’s a good thing. I’d like to tell them exactly what was studied, and what the results showed. Unfortunately, I am not up to the task of interpreting that study. And if I can’t explain it to them, and why it’s a better study than Wakefield’s study, then why should they trust it (or me)?

  7. Catherina says:

    Actually, the controversy did not spread “across the world” at all. It is confined to English-speaking countries. German parents give you a blank stare when you ask them about MMR and autism. There may be a whacko anti-vaccine movement, but even though they translated some of Wakefield’s allegations into German, they were never successful to “spread” this particular myth since they did not have the backing/support of the media. I guess this underscores the decisive role of the media in the success of the MMR autism myth in the UK and the US and it does also mean that Wakefield did nothing “single handedly”. If his story had not been picked up by the media, the Lancet paper would not have managed to impact on vaccination rates.

  8. Scott says:


    I’d suggest starting with the “SBM topic-based reference” (one of the tabs at the top of the page) section on vaccines and autism. That’s what it’s meant to do, so hopefully it’ll be helpful. And if you can see ways it could be made more helpful, I’m sure the SBM crew would love to hear them.

  9. John Snyder says:


    As Scott said, try the SBM topic-based reference on this subject. We’re working to add many more references here, so stay tuned. Here are some more places to try:

    AAP – Review of vaccine studies

    AAP – Vaccine Safety


    As I say in my post, I agree absolutley that the media is responsible for allowing this myth to spread and take root. Wakefield, however, is responsible for starting it, and for making sure it doesn’t go away.

  10. Deetee says:

    Brilliant post, and great repository of references.

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