Antivaccine lunacy: Is The Media finally getting it right?

The Pediatric Insider

© 2014 Roy Benaroch, MD

The media likes to report “both sides to a story”—which makes sense, when a story has two legitimate sides. Two political parties arguing over how to fix a problem, or two eyewitnesses who saw two different things.

But there are times when it doesn’t make sense to report “two sides.” Articles about the Holocaust do not have to include the few fringe lunatics who deny it happened; articles about geography do not have to include quotes from people who think the earth is flat. Or at the very least, if fringe beliefs are reported, they ought to be reported in the context of the bigger picture. Yes, some people think fluoride is put in the water so the government can track us via their spy satellites. But those people shouldn’t get half the airtime in an article about dental health.

Apart from the fallacious “two sides” style of reporting, it’s also apparent that traditional media reporting seems to favor the underdog. The colorful side, the side with nothing to lose, the new point of view, the shocking, the people who challenge the establishment—those can be interesting stories, and I understand why journalists like to feature them. Dog bites man versus man bites dog. I get it.

But unfortunately, by uncritically featuring antivaccine conspiracies and lies, the media has contributed to an erosion of confidence in vaccines. The facts show they’re safer than just about any other medical intervention. They’re safe, and they work. There’s no “vaccine controversy” among any legitimate health organization in any corner of the globe. The controversy has been manufactured and propagated, built on fear, lies, and exaggerations.

Now, the good news: it looks to me like the pendulum is swinging. Stories no longer uncritically parrot antivaccine canards. In fact, I’ve seen some stories that are finally telling the truth in the most unvarnished, blunt ways:

If you’re feeling brave, wander through the comments on these articles. Yes, there are plenty of antivaccine posts—but there are even more posts that contradict them. People don’t seem willing to just let the antivaccine claims sit there unanswered. That’s refreshing. And hopeful.

Young people are getting into the act, too. A wonderful new movie has been produced by California high school students, called “Invisible Threat.” (view the trailer) It’s just been released to excellent reviews, and I think images like this will go a long way towards reassuring parents and fighting back against irrational fears.

It’s time to not only push back against antivaccine propaganda, but also to highlight the good news. We need to continue to speak up. Vaccines have saved millions of lives, and there is a whole lot to be happy about and thankful for. Our kids can be safe and protected. It is a time for optimism. Make sure your kids are happy, and healthy, and safe—vaccinate on time. And tell your friends.

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2 Comments on “Antivaccine lunacy: Is The Media finally getting it right?”

  1. Great thinking, great writing.


  2. Anna Says:

    I really enjoyed reading this post. It truly is optimistic. I wish that vaccine efficacy was more obvious to general public, we all could benefit from that. Hopefully more people will understand that the vaccines save lives and not vaccinating can cause serious health problems on global scale.


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