Brian Shilhavy
Health Impact News Editor

Popular news broadcaster, Katie Couric, interviewed  the mother of a young lady who died after receiving the Gardasil vaccine, as well as one of the lead doctors who conducted clinical trials for Merck, on her day-time talk show, Wednesday, December 4th. She also interviewed another mother and daughter who have been affected by the vaccine. (Videos below)

That a major network allowed something negative about vaccines to be aired is quite rare. If you visit the Katie Couric website to read about the show, however, you will find nothing in print that is negative regarding the Gardasil vaccine, but instead you will find an article by a physician recommending the vaccine, as well as links to the CDC, which of course, is pro-vaccine. Even when you watch the videos below, you will see pop-up messages from social media by people supposedly stating they received the vaccine and nothing bad happened to them.

The issues communicated in the show regarding the Gardasil vaccine, which are readily available online and not new, are probably less significant than how the mainstream media responded to the show. Attacks on Katie Couric for talking to a parent of a child who died from vaccine injuries, and a physician who was involved in bringing the vaccine to market, clearly show the mainstream media bias and censorship that still exists regarding vaccines.

Alexandra Sifferlin, writing for Time Magazine, was one of the first to publish a hit piece: Is Katie Couric The Next Jenny McCarthy? A former Playboy Bunny spreading misinformation is bad enough

Here are some excerpts from this Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism graduate:

There is no “HPV Vaccine Controversy.” At least, not when it comes to the injection’s safety. And yet, that was the title of the lead segment on Katie Couric’s daytime talk show, “Katie,” this afternoon.

The bottom line is that there is no scientific evidence that the HPV vaccine causes adverse effects beyond normal vaccine side effects, such as dizziness, nausea, and pain and redness at the injection site.

The damage a former Playboy Bunny has been able to do is bad enough. But Couric’s misdeeds are all the worse given that she’s taken much more seriously than Jenny McCarthy.

Sifferlin’s treatment of the subject is very typical of mainstream media’s coverage of vaccines. The rules of investigative journalism do not apply. For them, it is a closed issue: vaccines are proven to be safe and effective by science, and to suggest otherwise puts one on par with a mass murder.

And that’s almost exactly how Michael Hiltzik of the LA Times described it, taking some time off from defending Obamacare and getting in his hit piece: Katie Couric puts the anti-vaccination movement into the mainstream

The anti-vaccination movement has long since become a public menace. It’s responsible for the resurgence of numerous serious diseases that were on the decline, including measles, mumps, and whooping cough.

Now the movement has been given a big booster shot by Katie Couric, who devoted a large portion of her daily talk show Wednesday to some highly emotional and scientifically dubious claims by critics of Gardasil, a leading vaccine for human papillomavirus, or HPV.

Again, Hiltzik perfectly exemplifies the media bias towards vaccines and that the investigative principles of journalism do not apply:

To be fair, Couric announced at the outset of the segment that she’d had her own two daughters immunized against HPV. The segment also featured a pediatric expert advising that the HPV vaccine is the best tool we have for the early prevention of HPV infection and therefore for safeguarding against its possible consequences, which include cervical cancer in women and other cancers in men.

But those portions of the show had the flavor of “balance,” presented to stave off accusations of pandering to ignorance. The real punch of the show was its portrayal of HPV vaccination as “controversial.” Couric led the segment off by declaring that “some people say the risk (of the vaccine) may outweigh the benefits, and there are claims that it could be dangerous or in a handful of cases, even deadly….We want to keep our kids safe, but is  the vaccine the way to go?” Merely to ask the questions is to validate them. (Emphasis added).

Did you catch that last sentence: “Merely to ask the questions is to validate them.” The topic of vaccines is exempt from regular investigative journalism, and if you ask the wrong questions, expect to be attacked just for asking the question. The public does not deserve such information – journalists know better.

What Time Magazine and the LA Times have in common is that they are part of a dying breed of print media in the new digital age. Unlike syndicated television, print media has seen its revenue from advertisers plummet as they struggle to come up with new economic models to sustain popular news websites, which are expensive to operate.

Gone are the days of advertisers purchasing large amounts of ad space in print media where it is very difficult to measure the ROI (return on investment) for advertising dollars. In the new digital era of Internet publishing, ROI can be determined exactly, and advertisers are bailing from many news sites  because traffic does not correlate well to clicks and purchases. Most of these former print media giants of the past are not economically sustainable in the digital era, and one has to wonder if it isn’t mainly Big Pharma and Big Food that is keeping most of them alive for now, as they try to keep the big brands afloat in a rapidly changing consumer market.

So Katie Couric gets attacked for “asking the wrong questions.” Can you imagine what would have happened if she had truly reported the facts regarding Gardasil that are so readily available in countries outside of the U.S., or in the alternative media on the Internet?  It is still very unlikely that her network producers would have allowed such basic facts as these to be broadcast:

How about the fact that Julie Gerberding was in charge of the CDC from 2002 to 2009, which includes the years the FDA approved Gardasil as a vaccine, and then resigned from the CDC on January 20, 2009, and is now the president of Merck’s Vaccine division?

How about the fact that the U.S. government makes royalties from the HPV vaccines? In November 2010, Dr. Eric Suba submitted a Freedom of Information Request to the Office of Government Information Services to discover the amount of money the U.S government earns from Merck’s sale of Gardasil. But apparently the government is immune from revealing those figures, as you can read for yourself the response Dr. Suba received here.

No, the mainstream media is not upset at Katie Couric for covering those facts, because she didn’t. They’re just upset that she asked the wrong questions.

Vaccine Epidemic
by Louise Kuo Habakus and Mary Holland J.D.

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