Sunday, November 10, 2013

Science Illiteracy in the Daily Paper

As a former journalist, I find myself embarrassed by my profession more and more these days--and more and more grateful for the handful of news outlets that still adhere to journalistic ethics and a true understanding of "balance" in the discipline.

Today, November 10th, 2013, the Concord (NH) Monitor-News chose to accept an advertisement (and payment) from National Vaccine Information Center, the most notorious anti-vaccine group in the country, to run this embarrassment.

If you don't know why it's an embarrassment, that's okay--the unfortunate reality is that most people wouldn't, and that's what makes it so insidious. The whole "the flu shot gave me the flu" canard is pretty well entrenched in this country.

The flu shot does not give you the flu. It can't. It's physically impossible. Why? Because flu vaccines administered by needle are made with inactivated flu viruses (not infectious--dead) or no flu vaccine virus at all, which is how recombinant influenza vaccines are made.

That's what makes this advertisement from NVIC so laughable. It's like saying that the earth is warming because the American Girl Company is retiring "Molly, 1944." It's actually not laughable. It's maddening. It's maddening because I'm of the opinion that NVIC actually knows this is inaccurate information, but knows that it builds on an existing misconception that can bloom, for them, into general distrust of vaccines: their end-goal.

But I'm truly sickened by the editorial standards at the Concord Monitor-News. That it would allow such bald scientific illiteracy into their pages speaks volumes about the paper's approach to truth. And for a journalistic outlet, that is shameful. I've made my opinion known via Twitter this evening, and plan on following up with a letter tomorrow. I recommend you do the same. The Concord Monitor-News' Twitter handle is @ConMonitorNews.

If you'd like more information on the flu vaccine, check out the CDC's primer on the vaccine.

If you'd like to know why it's so crucial for children, in particular, to get the flu vaccine, check out this story in USA Today.

NOTE: I just noticed that an ad is playing on this site. I have no idea why and am working to sort it out. I apologize for this.

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