By Anne Dachel
April 27 CBS News put out a Google News link to "10 deadly myths about childhood vaccines" by Seth Mnookin. (See Ten Deadly Myths about Vaccination HERE)
Coming from the CBS website, it looked like an official news report but in reality, it was a series of slides, each with the description of a supposed "myth" about vaccines.
This was the introduction:
"What's the truth about childhood vaccines? Are they an effective way to safeguard kids against a range of potentially deadly illnesses? Or do they cause autism and other medical problems? Keep clicking as Seth Mnookin, the author of 'The Panic Virus: A True Story of Medicine, Science, and Fear,' separates vaccine fact from fiction with his list of common misconceptions. It's information that just might save a life."
The message was clear: There are a lot of myths out there and Mnookin is the source of truth, according to CBS. Very strange since Mnookin is not a CBS correspondent nor a medical doctor but a journalist taking a one-sided advocacy view of the vaccine safety issue and being given a platform on the CBS website to sell his new book.
Mnookin started out right away with MYTH #1: "Vaccines cause autism." We were told that "dozens of studies involving millions of children have found no link between childhood vaccines and autism." Vaccines are safe, they certainly don't overwhelm the immune system and they not responsible for serious health problems. According to Mnookin, there's no problem with the ever-expanding vaccine schedule and no need to delay any vaccines.
I don't know why someone who's not a medical expert was considered a qualified source to declare controversial claims about vaccines to be "MYTHS," but CBS let Mnookin do it. How do people at CBS reconcile promoting Mnookin's statements as gospel truth with the well documented news reports by one of their veteran investigative reporters, Sharyl Attkisson? She's given us years of ground-breaking investigative reports about vaccine safety questions that are yet to be fully answered by people like Mnookin who pretend that nobody should be asking any questions.
Report by Sharyl Attkisson in 2008: (HERE)
Dr. Bernadine Healy, former head of the National Institutes of Health, stated that the good scientific studies haven't been done to examine whether there is or is not a causal association between vaccines and autism.
Report by Sharyl Attkisson in 2010: CBS on Vaccination HERE
"[V]accines cause injury or death. Very rarely, patients are left with what's known as 'encephalopathy,' the medical term for brain damage.
"In fact, CBS News has found nearly 1,300 cases in which vaccine-related brain damage has been compensated in court over the past 20 years."
"Since the late 1980's, more than 2,100 families have received compensation for vaccine injuries under the federal program designed to help in rare instances of severe vaccine side effects. And more than half of those awards are for brain injuries."
Report by Sharyl Attkisson in 2010: (HERE)
"The first court award in a vaccine-autism claim is a big one. CBS News has learned the family of Hannah Poling will receive more than $1.5 million dollars for her life care; lost earnings; and pain and suffering for the first year alone.
"In addition to the first year, the family will receive more than $500,000 per year to pay for Hannah's care. Those familiar with the case believe the compensation could easily amount to $20 million over the child's lifetime.
Report by Sharyl Attkisson in 2011: (HERE)
"The tragic death of little Elias Tembenis is yet another vaccine injury case you probably won't hear much about. Yet some medical experts believe it could teach us something about how to make vaccination safer."
"Elias was born on Aug. 23, 2000 and appeared healthy until Dec. 26 when he received his second dose of DTaP vaccine. His parents noticed some swelling around the injection site. According to court records:
"Early in the morning on December 27, 2000, Elias's parents found him seizing in his crib and took him to the emergency room ...Within one day, he developed a fever, which led to a complex febrile seizure. Subsequently, Elias developed epilepsy. This fact pattern is commonly seen in the Vaccine Program."
"According to court records, after the DTaP reaction, the once-healthy baby ended up with debilitating medical problems, including features of autism, ear infections and developmental delay. His parents first filed their case as one of the ‘omnibus’ group of autism cases to be heard in federal vaccine court."
Report by Sharyl Attkisson in 2011: (HERE)
"For all those who've declared the autism-vaccine debate over, a new scientific review begs to differ. It considers a host of peer-reviewed, published theories that show possible connections between vaccines and autism."
Are we to believe that a responsible journalist like Sharyl Attkisson, who takes care to get her facts straight, has had it wrong for years and that the evidence she presented in her reports are just myths? I would suggest that CBS consider letting the public hear another point of view from an expert whose perspective challenges that of journalist Seth Mnookin, especially when it comes to whether or not there are outstanding questions yet to be answered about the causal association between vaccine complications and the development of autism in some children.
On April 20, 2011, veteran journalist Robert McNeil interviewed Dr. David Amaral about the possible causes of autism for the PBS NewsHour series, Autism Now. Amaral is the head of the MIND Institute at UC-Davis and a leading expert on autism. He joined other experts who acknowledge the possibility that a subgroup of children are genetically vulnerable to vaccine reactions and permanent brain damage, including that which would lead to development of autism. He called for more research into finding these subgroups of susceptible children. HERE
Amaral said, "In their case, having the vaccines, or particular vaccines, particularly in certain kinds of situations -- if the child was ill, ... vaccinations for those children actually may be the environmental factor that tipped them over the edge of autism. And I think it is incredibly important, still, to try and figure out what, if any, vulnerabilities, in a small subset of children, might make them at risk for having certain vaccinations. ...And I frankly don't think that there's going to be a large group of children that -- their autism is caused by their standard immunizations. But you know, it could be a small subset."
The big question is why is CBS allowing such a one-sided presentation without balancing it with an opposing view to allow for balance? It wouldn't be hard for CBS to find a real expert to put together a similar slide show called "10 Reasons Why You Should Make Well Informed Vaccine Choices." I can guarantee it would have a receptive audience among Americans who are asking questions about vaccine safety and getting bogus answers from self-styled experts like Mnookin.
Anne Dachel is Media Editor for Age of Autism.