Apr 28 2010

The Vaccine Wars

Last night Frontline aired a show called The Vaccine Wars. You can watch the full episode online here. Overall, they did a good job of representing the current state of the science, and the anti-scientific nature of the anti-vaccine movement.

The overall theme of the piece was that anti-vaccine parents are irresponsible and go against the science. In fact, their view are immune to science, as they dismiss the evidence which contradicts their position, and constantly shift the goalposts when evidence goes against a link between vaccines and autism.

The piece did cut some corners on details, but probably will only be noticed by someone steeped in the anti-vaccine movement.

Of course, the anti-vaccinationists have started their whining. To be fair, we complain when journalists do a terrible job of reporting science, which can be interpreted as taking an editorial position with which we disagree. But then it is our job to demonstrate that they got the science wrong. Handley and Gordon are just complaining that their point of view was not catered to.

Gordon is complaining on (of course) the Huffington Post that his interview was not used. Welcome to the club. Any expert who makes themselves available to journalists will at time experience taking time to provide a great deal of information, or to give a long interview, and then have it end up completely on the edit room floor. Or, at times they will just use a quote or two, but miss your main points.

I am not defending this – I think it mostly reflects the fact that journalists and producers write their story before they investigate, and then search for quotes to plug into their narrative. But at other times, a serious journalist will gather a great deal of information, and then decide what the story is, which means some points of view will be left out.

It is heartening to see that those of us who have been defending vaccines from their ideological and pseudoscientific opponents are getting mainstream media attention.

See the show for yourself – it’s worth the hour.

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