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Katie Couric tries and fails to undo the damage

December 6, 2013

Hi Reader,

I’ve shied away from the Katie Couric/HPV vaccination thing because it’s been covered by luminaries too numerous to list. However, I have noticed a defensive post regarding her misleading show on her website, and I feel compelled to address it, because it suggests that Ms. Couric and company simply do not get it. Among other things, the post states:

While many appreciated us raising the topic, others were critical of us for providing what they felt was a disproportionate amount of time to two families who faced the rare circumstances of seeing their children’s health deteriorate after receiving Gardasil. The health problems may or may not be linked to the vaccine.

This suggests that Couric show personnel still believe they were responsible in having these families on to discuss what they think were adverse reactions to the vaccine. The problems here are several-fold. First, the emotional testimony of these families is not scientific fact, but it does pack a wallop that panders to fear. The HPV vaccine has been shown many times to be safe and effective, period. The direct appeal to emotion such as presented on Couric’s show can often have the effect of over-riding logic and common sense, even if factually correct data are presented immediately following these statements.

We believe this is an important topic for discussion and wanted to share multiple viewpoints, so we included the doctor who oversaw the clinical trials of Gardasil, and who shared the clinical trial results that the vaccine only provides protection for a finite amount of time. She also questioned, given the overall success of Pap testing to screen for cervical cancer, whether the vaccine is necessary or just optional.

I am sure this is just an error on behalf of Couric’s staff, but Diane Harper is not “the doctor who oversaw the clinical trials of Gardasil”. She is one doctor who oversaw trials of Gardasil. There are many, many others out there, along with other scientists who have been actively investigating vaccine efficacy and safety. Why not bring them on the show, too? Ms. Couric could start with Dr. Rowhani-Rahbar and colleagues, who demonstrated that Gardasil may likely be protective for at least 8 years post-vaccination. At least. And that actually might be enough to get someone who is vaccinated through one of the most dangerous periods for HPV infection–the teenage years.

Further, if Ms. Couric really wanted “multiple viewpoints”, and she really wanted passionate anecdotes, then she should have considered having a person on the show who has or has had an HPV-related cancer. It’s quite difficult to fight emotion with science, so why not present the emotion of the “other side”? How about inviting Michael Douglas on the show, for example? The post goes on to state:

We do not want to leave our viewers with an irrational fear of the vaccine and for that reason we’re going to continue the conversation and invite a number of medical experts, journalists and scientists to weigh in here, on our site. We’ll keep you posted!

To this I say, it is TOO LATE, Ms. Couric. You presented irrational information about HPV vaccination, and now you wonder why there are irrational fears? Judging by the comments on your Facebook page, you have successfully “converted” people against HPV vaccination by failing to provide all of the facts, and by your reliance on anecdotes. Once a person has made a decision based on emotion, it is nearly impossible to pry them away from it. You obviously still have no idea of the damage that you have done, but you may get a glimpse of it when the “conversation continues”.

From → vaccines

16 Comments
  1. lilady permalink

    I wasted an entire hour viewing the “Katie” TV program because she was supposed to “address” the issues raised during her recent HPV program. What a disappointment as she made no attempt to mitigate the damages she has done to undermine immunizations programs to protect youngsters from HPV infections and cervical, penile, anal and head and throat cancers.

    It appears that Katie is going for the ratings, just like her colleague Sharyl Attkinson, who is in the pockets of the anti-vaccine, anti-science groups.

    What a disappointment.

    • No attempt to mitigate, that is for sure. And even if she tries now, I think it’s too late. The transcript from her show is already up at AoA, and quotes are being taken out of context and used by anti-vaxxers rampantly. What a shock.

  2. That just means, one had a conscience and the others didn’t.

    You are a shill, for Pharma and you know it!

    • You write as though “Pharma” means something, as though it is a corporation, rather than a conglomeration of people dedicated to researching and producing the medicines and healthcare aids (crutches, catheters, cannulas) that we use every day.

      • Sadly Joe is a known anti-vax troll here. He has already damned me to hell, so you know, it can’t really get any worse if you believe in that sort of thing.

    • Gosh, I wish Joe. Where is that Big Pharma Money Pot anyway?

    • Chris permalink

      And you, Mr. Harris, hate women. You would prefer that over ten thousand cases of cervical cancer continue to be diagnosed.

  3. I am sorely disappointed to see that in the US (at least), there is still a shying away from adequate sexual health education, compounded by things like this. It is entirely unacceptable for a developed country to still have this level of scientific illiteracy.

  4. Norman permalink

    There is always an element of suspicion for me when Wall Street is involved. However, I just attended a fundraising dinner for a local major cancer research endowment fund. The education I received that evening was an eye opener. The years of painstaking field research to identify a prospective cure or prevention then followed by carefully administered lab tests and field studies BEFORE seeking FDA approval (yet another process that can take up to 2 years or more) was stunning.

    Yes, I believe there are problems inherent in the approval process which need to be addressed. However, the myriad data presented showing the tremendous progress made in caner prevention and treatment over the last two decades was convincing.

    There are inherent risks in everything. As long as there is strong statistical evidence from well-executed studies that prove the overwhelming advantages of a particular medical procedure, prevention or cure, I am remaining open-minded enough to pursue such methods where warranted.

    Right now, the data supports that my wife and I obtain the HPV vaccine for our pre-teen daughter.

    • Norman, I can’t tell you how pleased I was to read your post. You took the evidence and considered it carefully, and came to what I personally believe is the correct conclusion. Believe it or not, that is a rare trait these days.

      I am always curious as to how this whole thing is playing out to the average parent walking around (not that you are average, but you do not seem to be invested in the vax vs. anti-vax drama). Most of the folks who post here are very passionately on one side or the other. Thanks for stopping by.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. More on Katie Couric, who doubles down even as critical coverage grows « Red Wine & Apple Sauce
  2. Harpocrates Speaks: Katie Couric Chooses Ratings Over Ethics

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