June 2, 2017
Ron Waksman, Vice President, Digital Global News
Executive oversight of Global News editorial standards and practices.
Re: Concerns About Editorial Standards
Dear Mr. Waksman
I’m writing in response to the commentary by Global News Video Journalist, Alexa MacLean – ‘Autism ‘myths’ fuelled by the Internet, Halifax health experts say’ (June 1, 2017).
Ms. MacLean interviewed two self-identified “vaccine experts” – Dr. Noni MacDonald and Dr. Isabel Smith. Ms. MacLean, Dr. MacDonald, and Dr. Smith make a number of statements that are either deceptive or outright dishonest and require retraction and correction.
False Statements About Dr. Wakefield
Ms. MacLean makes the statement – “Dr. Wakefield lost his license after proclaiming vaccines cause autism” and “Skepticism that’s been heavily influenced by former British physician Andrew Wakefield, who conducted a study on the link between the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and autism. The study has since been debunked.”
I assume Ms. MacLean is referring to the so-called “Wakefield study” that was published in the Lancet in 1998.
It is clear that Ms. MacLean has never read Dr. Wakefield’s Lancet paper and is simply regurgitating false statements, promulgated by a captured and compliant media. If Ms. MacLean had actually read the Lancet paper she would have discovered that Dr. Wakefield never claimed the MMR vaccine causes autism, nor was this the intention of the study. Ms. MacLean has not done her research on this matter and fact-checked statements.
The Lancet study examined the relationship between bowel disease and regressive developmental disorders. The findings of Dr. Wakefield and 12 other researchers in the Lancet paper have never been “debunked”. Their findings have been replicated by dozens of laboratories around the world and this relationship is now accepted medical science. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/130/Supplement_2/S160
Dr. Wakefield’s own statement in the Lancet paper is: “We did not prove an association between measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine and the syndrome described.” Dr. Wakefield concluded that: “Further investigations are needed to examine this syndrome and its possible relation to this vaccine.”
Vaccine – Autism Link
Ms. MacLean then interviews Dr. Isabel Smith, Chair in Autism Research who makes the statement – “There is simply no association between vaccines and autism.” Dr. Smith seems unaware of the substantial and growing body of evidence of a vaccine – autism link. To state that there is “there is simply no association” between vaccines and autism is to be either grossly ignorant of the body of scientific research into the vaccine-autism link, or Dr. Smith is being intentionally dishonest.
The body of evidence of a vaccine – autism link includes the following:
- A report in the Pace Environmental Law Review Journal reviewed 83 cases of vaccine-induced brain injury that resulted in an autism diagnosis, which were compensated by the U.S. Federal Vaccine Injury Compensation system https://digitalcommons.pace.edu/pelr/vol28/iss2/6
- There are now more than 128 independent studies that show a relationship between vaccines and autism. https://www.scribd.com/doc/220807175/128-Research-Papers-Supporting-the-Vaccine-Autism-Link
- Dr. William Thompson, a Senior Scientist with the Vaccine Safety Division of the CDC and the lead statistician and co-author of the 2004 CDC study that is used by vaccine proponents to deny a link between the MMR vaccine and autism took whistleblower status in 2014 to reveal CDC scientists colluded to commit scientific fraud in order to obscure the link between the MMR vaccine and autism.
Dr. Thompson claims the federal agency ordered him and his colleagues to destroy study findings that confirmed a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. Representative Bill Posey read Dr. Thompson’s statement into the Congressional record.
This alarming disclosure is the basis of the 2016 documentary Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe. The media, to its discredit, has actively tried to censor this film, refused to inform the public of this significant disclosure, and has failed to advocate for a full investigation of Thompson’s claims.
- Award-winning journalist, Sharyl Attkisson investigated the vaccine-autism link and compiled an extensive list of studies that show a vaccine-autism link. (What the News Isn’t Saying About Vaccine-Autism Studies – updated November 27, 2016). https://sharylattkisson.com/what-the-news-isnt-saying-about-vaccine-autism-studies
Attkisson concluded –
“The body of evidence on both sides is open to interpretation.
People have every right to disbelieve the studies on one side.
But it is disingenuous to pretend they do not exist.”
- Bernadine Healy, the former head of the National Institutes of Health, stated that the vaccine-autism link is not a “myth”. Dr. Healy disclosed that her colleagues at the Institute of Medicine did not wish to investigate the possible link between vaccines and autism because they feared the impact it would have on the vaccination program. This failure to fully investigate the vaccine-autism link is politics, not science.
There is an abundance of evidence that a vaccine-autism link exists. It is dishonest and irresponsible journalism to make the statement – “scientists have debunked the only study that said there was a link between vaccinations and autism”. This is clearly a false statement that needs to be retracted.
“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.”
~ Aldous Huxley
Evidence Based Medicine
Dr. MacDonald claims to know all about the negative impact “non-evidence based” information has on public health. Dr. MacDonald implies that the current vaccine program is “evidence based”. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The major criticism of the vaccine industry is its systemic failure to conduct long-term clinical trials that scientifically prove the safety of the current vaccine program. The prestigious Institutes of Medicine (IOM) found that the safety of the current childhood vaccine schedule has never been proven in large, long-term clinical trials:
“The committee’s review confirmed that research on immunization safety has mostly developed around studies examining potential associations between individual vaccines and single outcomes. Few studies have attempted more global assessment of entire sequence of immunizations or variations in the overall immunization schedule and categories of health outcomes, and none has squarely examined the issue of health outcomes and stakeholder concerns in quite the way that the committee was asked to do its statement of task. None has compared entirely unimmunized populations with those fully immunized for the health outcomes of concern to stakeholders.” http://www.nvic.org/PDFs/IOM/2013researchgapsIOMchildhoodimmunizationschedulea.aspx
Vaccines have not been tested for carcinogenicity – the ability to cause cancer; toxicity – the degree to which a substance can damage an organism; genotoxicity – the ability to damage genetic information; mutagenicity – ability to change the genetic material; the impact on fertility, or for long-term adverse reactions.
The current vaccine schedule has never been tested for safety in the real world way in which the schedule is implemented. No independent trials confirm the safety of giving multiple vaccinations at once. Research shows a dose-dependent association between the number of vaccines administered simultaneously and hospitalization or death. No long-term clinical evidence exists that show vaccinated children have better overall health than unvaccinated children.
The absence of scientific evidence of vaccine safety leads one to conclude that vaccination is ideology rather than evidence-based medicine.
“The further a society drifts from the truth,
the more it will hate those who speak it.”
~ George Orwell
The gold standard of scientific research compares a subject group with a control group. A true clinical trial utilizes a substance that is known to be harmless or neutral (placebo). Most vaccine safety trials use other vaccinated populations or placebos containing aluminum as the control group. Conducting vaccine safety trials without a neutral placebo is not good science. It is not ethical science. It is not responsible science. In fact, this is not science. The vaccination program is essentially and uncontrolled experiment on our infants and children.
Dr. MacDonald is either unaware or chooses to ignore that vaccine manufacturers are not required to demonstrate that vaccines actually reduce the rates of disease contraction, contagion, complication or mortality. Despite the lack of supporting evidence it is assumed that antibody titers equate to immunity. Vaccines are the only medication where evidence of efficacy and absence of harm are not required before approval. Vaccine effectiveness ought to be evaluated based on evidence the vaccine actually prevented the targeted illness and improved overall health. This does not occur in the vaccine paradigm.
As an advocate of evidence based medicine, Dr. MacDonald ought to direct her energies and concern to the conspicuous lack of evidence to support the claims of the vaccine industry that vaccines are safe, effective, and necessary.
Dr. MacDonald’s advice in this matter is worth considering:
“When you hear something that sounds better then it should, a simple way to solve a really complex problem, stand back, pause, take a deep breath and say, what’s the science behind this?”
Ms. MacLean’s interview with “vaccine experts” is an example of biased and dishonest journalism. Nowhere in the interview do any of the “experts” acknowledge that the growth of the so-called “anti-vaxx” movement is out of real concern for the safety of vaccines. Most individuals questioning vaccine safety and effectiveness are parents who naively trusted medical professionals and had their children vaccinated, only to experience their children being harmed by the vaccines. I am one of these parents.
Parents whose children have been harmed by vaccines are not “making money” as claimed by Dr. MacDonald. In fact, caring for a vaccine-injured child can be financially debilitating. Instead these parents are warning other parents that we are not being told the truth about vaccine safety and effectiveness, and pointing to the lack of scientific evidence behind these claims.
Labeling individuals who express concern about vaccine safety, effectiveness, or necessity as “anti-vaxx” is clearly intended to bias the discussion and over simplify a critical and complex issue. Such biased journalism would be obvious were we to refer to those expressing concern about the safety of a particular medication as “anti-drug”. Such labeling is dishonest and irresponsible.
The movement that is raising concerns about the safety of the current vaccine program is typically neither pro or anti vaccination. Rather this movement is characterized by a commitment to safeguarding the right of Canadians to make voluntary and informed decisions about health care, and demand independent and verifiable scientific evidence of the safety of the vaccine program. I would expect all journalists to support these efforts rather than undermine them.
Ms. MacLean would be advised to consider the advice of Dr. Peter Doshi, Associate Editor for the British Medical Journal. Doshi makes the following statements about good journalism as pertains to vaccinations: http://www.bmj.com/content/356/bmj.j661.full?ijkey=PLLsazuxmr6PVC1&keytype=ref
Good journalism on this topic will require abandoning current practices of avoiding interviewing, understanding, and presenting critical voices out of fear that expressing any criticism amounts to presenting a “false balance” that will result in health scares.
. . . if patients have concerns, doubts, or suspicions — for example, about the safety of vaccines, this does not mean they are “anti-vaccine.”
“Approaches that label anybody and everybody who raises questions about the right headedness of current vaccine policies as “anti-vaccine” fail on several accounts.
Firstly, they fail to accurately characterize the nature of the concern. Many parents of children with developmental disorders who question the role of vaccines had their children vaccinated . . . and people who have their children vaccinated seem unlikely candidates for the title.
Secondly, they lump all vaccines together as if the decision about risks and benefits is the same irrespective of disease — polio, pertussis, smallpox, mumps, diphtheria, hepatitis B, influenza, varicella, HPV, Japanese encephalitis — or vaccine type — live attenuated, inactivated whole cell, split virus, high dose, low dose, adjuvanted, monovalent, polyvalent, etc.
This seems about as intelligent as categorizing people into “pro-drug” and “anti-drug” camps depending on whether they have ever voiced concern over the potential side effects of any drug.
Thirdly, labeling people concerned about the safety of vaccines as “anti-vaccine” risks entrenching positions. The label (or its derogatory derivative “anti-vaxxer”) is a form of attack. It stigmatizes the mere act of even asking an open question about what is known and unknown about the safety of vaccines.
Fourthly, the label too quickly assumes that there are “two sides” to every question, and that the “two sides” are polar opposites. This “you’re either with us or against us” thinking is unfit for medicine.
Contrary to the suggestion — generally implicit — that vaccines are risk free (and therefore why would anyone ever resist official recommendations), the reality is that officially sanctioned written medical information on vaccines is — just like drugs — filled with information about common, uncommon, and unconfirmed but possible harms.
Medical journalists have an obligation to the truth. . . . It’s time to listen—seriously and respectfully—to patients’ concerns, not demonize them.”
Increasing Mistrust of Vaccine Science
I suggest the increasing mistrust of the vaccine industry and the growing movement of vaccine hesitancy is because this industry presents as definitive when it isn’t; it lacks honesty and transparency; and too many children are being harmed. Much of what is offered as vaccine science is pseudo-science – marketing propaganda masquerading as science. Dr. MacDonald and Dr. Smith would be more worthy of trust if they were honest about the state of the science, or lack of science, as pertains to vaccination.
We need Global to be an honest broker of medical information and work to safeguard and protect the rights and freedoms of Canadians including the right to informed consent and the charter rights to security of the person.
It is my expectation Global News will retract the dishonest and deceptive statements made by Ms. MacLean, Dr. Smith, and Dr. MacDonald and make a public correction.
I look forward to your considered response.
Ted Kuntz, parent of a vaccine injured child
Vice President – Vaccine Choice Canada
Global News Halifax
Alexa MacLean, Video Journalist
Dr. Noni MacDonald, Professor of Pediatrics at Dalhousie University
Dr. Isabel Smith, Chair of Autism Research
Vaccine Choice Canada