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The MRC's Double Standard on Vaccines

The Media Research Center hates it when people fearmonger about vaccines -- while it fearmongers about anti-HPV vaccines like Gardasil.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 10/9/2013

Julia Seymour wrote in an April 3 Media Research Center Business & Media Institute item:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found further evidence that childhood vaccines and autism are “not related,” in spite of high profile anti-vaccination voices like actress Jenny McCarthy and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

The mainstream media had helped spread fears of vaccination several years ago. In 2005, Kennedy’s scary claims about vaccines were reported on ABC, CBS, in Time magazine and in other media outlets as well. It took until 2008, for some media outlets to do an about face on the issue.

Not only does Seymour make no mention of anti-vaccine fearmongering in conservative media -- where WorldNetDaily serves as a leader -- she makes no mention of the MRC's own anti-vaccine fearmongering, particularly on the subject of vaccines like Gardasil that help prevent cervical cancer by stopping the human papillomavirus:

  • A February 2007 NewsBusters post by Mark Finkelstein railed against the idea that the anti-HPV vaccine should be given to girls as young as 11, approvingly citing a right-wing columnist who claimed that administering the vaccine is "telling prepubescent girls that it’s just fine for them to have all the sex they want, ’cuz now they’ll be vaccinated! And isn’t it against the law to have sex with children?"
  • In a 2007 MRC Culture & Media Institute item, Kristen Fyfe declared that she would not allow her teenage daughter to get the vaccine because HPV "is not passed through casual contact, like measles, mumps, chicken pox or any of the other diseases for which mandatory vaccination makes sense. No matter how germ-infested my child's classroom is, one germ she won't catch there is HPV."
  • A 2008 CMI article complained that the media was "ignoring reports that some women have suffered convulsions, paralysis and death after being vaccinated" with Gardasil, citing her fellow fearmongerers at WND as evidence. For all its fearmongering, the article provided no evidence that the rate of serious side effects of Gardasil is any worse than any other vaccine; instead, the fearmongering continued, declaring that "The media continue to keep quiet about the side effects associated with the drug even when young girls' health and lives are at stake."
  • A 2009 CMI article declared that a media report on Gardasil filed to mention that "the only reason to administer the vaccine is the assumption that girls will be sexually active. It is an assumption that they are incapable of abstinence. In fact, nobody in the segment mentioned that abstinence is the only 100 percent effective way to avoid HPV."
  • A 2010 CMI article declared Gardasil to be "an unnecessary risk," huffing, "What's truly a failure is calling Gardasil a cervical cancer vaccine and not reporting all the side effects." It also referenced claims about side effects by the National Vaccine Information Center, failing to mention that the NVIC has an anti-vaccine agenda.

Apparently, it's OK to fearmonger against vaccines at the MRC when a moral case can be devised. And the MRC has continued to rail against vaccine fearmongering while carving out an exception for Gardasil.

A July 10 CMI item by Katie Yoder complained that news reports were giving Gardasil credit for a dramatic drop on HPV infections among teenage girls while ignoring its supposed "dangerous side effects." But as ConWebWatch has documented, anti-HPV vaccines are considered safe -- no less than the Centers for Disease Control agrees -- and the serious side effects Yoder warns about are extremely rare.

Yoder cited the Washington Times to claim that "the Department of Health and Human Services’ National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program recently lost almost $6 million in response to 49 victims’ complaints claims against HPV vaccines. Between 2010 and 2011, there were 26 deaths reported in correlation with Gardasil in addition to seizures, paralysis, blindness, pancreatitis, speech problems, short term memory loss and Guillain-Barré Syndrome – all this according to the FDA’s Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System."

First, as even the most basic researcher knows, correlation does not equal causation, so the "26 deaths reported in correlation with Gardasil" Yoder cites does not mean they were caused by Gardasil.

Second, it was not a Washington Times article Yoder was quoting but, rather, an article by Dr. Peter Lind at a separate site, Washington Times Communities, where "individual contributors are responsible for their content, which is not edited by The Washington Times." Lind -- the kind of anti-vaccine activist the MRC otherwise criticizes -- is citing the right-wing Judicial Watch, which is opposed to Gardasil apparently because it opposes everything remotely linked to the Obama administration.

If Yoder is going to attack Gardasil's supposed severe side effects, she should also tell the truth about the agenda behind its critics.

A week later, however, Scott Whitlock howled in a July 15 MRC item that "ABC has officially announced that one of the vacant spots on The View will be filled by Catholic-bashing, anti-vaccine conspiracy theorist Jenny McCarthy":

In addition to spewing disgust for the religious, the former nude model– notably not a doctor and someone with zero scientific experience– has led a crusade against childhood vaccinations. Despite there being no connection between autism and vaccinations, McCarthy has pushed this falsehood for years.

The TV personality's claims have been debunked in liberal outlets such as Huffington Post.


So, why is ABC giving her a platform to push conspiracy theories? Are Barbara Walters and the producers of The View now anti-science?

Whitlock's outrage over McCarthy anti-vaccine activism might be taken more seriously if his employer wasn't doing the same thing.

In the same vein, a July 15 BMI item by Kristine Marsh laments "vaccination scares led by the media and celebrities championing outdated science." Like Whitlock, Marsh makes no mention of her employer's own vaccination scares.

The MRC is so opposed to Gardasil, in fact, that it considers an effort to promote use of it to be a waste of money.

One entry in's curiously anti-gay "Waste Watch" feature is a July 24 article by Eric Scheiner complaining that "The National Institutes of Health has awarded $544,188 to the University of California this year for a study on how to boost the number of young girls getting Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccinations in Los Angeles County."

Scheiner doesn't explain why he considers this money to be a waste; rather, he tries to fearmonger about the vaccine, hyping "772 serious adverse side effects, including 32 deaths, among the millions of doses administered to young girls between June 2006 and December 2008."

Scheiner then skews what the Centers for Disease Control has said about HPV vaccine to suggest that it's on the verge of banning it:

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it continues to recommend HPV vaccination -- "based on information available today."

Along with the Food and Drug Administration, the CDC examined adverse effects from the Gardasil HPV vaccine from June 2006 through December 2008.

Of the 23 million doses administered during that period, it counted 12,424 adverse events, 776 of which it described as "serious," including 32 deaths.

Neverthelss, the CDC concluded that the vaccine's benefits continue to outweigh the risks at the present time.

CDC says it continues to "closely monitor" the vaccine's safety and will take additional action, if warranted, to protect the public.

In fact, the CDC has been much more affirmative about the overall safety of the vaccine that Scheiner suggests, stating that "No new or unusual patterns of adverse events to suggest a HPV vaccine safety concern."

It seems that the MRC needs to explain to its readers why anti-HPV vaccines are exempt from its criticism of anti-vaccine fearmongering.

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