False balance in the vaccine “controversy”

The Pediatric Insider

© 2013 Roy Benaroch, MD

Science relies on the best available evidence—what we can observe and test and measure. It is not a modality for understanding the ineffable, the divine, or matters of faith. But to figure out what’s going on in a human body, to understand how it works and how to keep children healthy, science has proved to be the best method we’ve got.

Unlike in matters of faith, there is no point at which science is 100% certain of anything. If the next observation doesn’t fit what we think we understand, we have to change our understanding. So far, we’ve not experienced or observed a building suddenly changing the orientation of gravity and flying into the sky. As more and more buildings are observed not flying upwards into the sky, we become more and more convinced that Newton pretty much had it right when he figured out how gravity works. Millions of tests, both formal and informal, have confirmed that until you get into teeny quantum scales, Newton’s theory of gravity is da bomb. It works, it’s as proven as anything can be in science.

So when science reporters talk about gravity, they don’t go find some uninformed malcontent to rip on Newton. Reporting science doesn’t have to entail giving “balance” to whatever side someone can make up. There’s no debate among serious science about gravity, even though many physicists are studying it and trying to figure out how it works. In other words, though there is still more to know, what we do know is pretty darn solid.

Yet many reporters still seem to want to find that kind of balance when writing about vaccine issues, as if scientists and doctors are still debating whether they’re good, or whether they work. No, the mountain of evidence at this point is so overwhelming, there’s no debate at that level. That doesn’t mean they’re not being studied—hundreds of vaccine studies continue to be published yearly, as more and more is learned—but it does mean that the debate, if there is one, isn’t among the doctors.

Case in point: a “news” article from a CBS-affiliated station in Las Vegas, channel 8, titled “Doctors debate need for child vaccinations.” The author first interviews a pediatrician, who points out that “”Vaccines are one of the most important advances in the field of pediatrics in the last fifty years, incredibly important.”

Then, in counter-response, the author talks with someone identified as a “holistic physician”, who says that times have changed and that some vaccines are not necessary.

Nowhere in the article does it mention that the “holistic physician” isn’t a physician, or anyone with any training in evidence-based pediatrics or immunology or infectious disease. The “physician” is a chiropractor, as easily determined by a Google search of his name. The sources belie the very title of the article: it’s not doctors debating anything.

Interviewing a chiropractor for a scientific or reliable insight into vaccines would be like interviewing me about car repair. I haven’t been trained in that, I don’t know how to do it, and I’m smart enough to have a mechanic I trust do the work. I’m not going to give advice about something I know nothing about.

As I’m writing this, the comments under that article are wonderful—they vilify the author for his source, and for not even identifying the source’s “credential.” I emailed the journalist who wrote this, and have not heard back.

I’m not going to hold my breath. That journalist thinks he knows what he’s doing, just like the chiropractor who advises against vaccines.

Explore posts in the same categories: In the news, The Media Blows It Again

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6 Comments on “False balance in the vaccine “controversy””

  1. These alternative practitioners only generate interest for non-acute conditions. No ambulances pull up to the chiropractor or naturopath’s office. It would be very obvious then that their ideas don’t work.


  2. shari Says:

    Great post. I love how the anti vaccine folks talk about how some vaccines aren.t necessary anymore but fail to mention that they aren’t necessary anymore because…they worked!


  3. Dr. M Says:

    Thought you would enjoy this. It is a great visual representation of how vaccines save lives. Plus it’s Penn and Teller.


  4. Dr. Roy Says:

    That’s great!! Thanks!


  5. Dr. Roy Says:

    How about that, retracted!

    For those who wish to see the original article: http://web.archive.org/web/20130810042527/http://www.8newsnow.com/story/22976343/doctors-debate-need-for-child-vaccinations (thanks to Wayback machine!)


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