Daily Mail Warn Of Flu Crisis

December 18, 2010 at 3:55 pm (Anti-Vaccination, Media) (, , , , )

As I write, the Daily Mail’s online Health section has no fewer than three links to recent articles on flu, swine flu, and vaccination. I thought it might be interesting to compare them to previous articles on the same subject.

Mother of two dies: A mother of two has died from swine flu in an outbreak of the virus which has claimed up to five lives in a 30-mile radius.

Fighting for her life: Girl, 9, is latest victim of swine flu epidemic sweeping Britain. The primary school pupil has been unconscious for a week since she was admitted to hospital with breathing difficulties caused by the deadly infection.

Pregnant women urged to have free flu jab as GPs warn major crisis is brewing. Pregnant women are being urged to get a flu jab as senior GPs warn they are ‘deeply concerned’ that a major flu crisis is brewing. For the first time, all pregnant women are allowed to have a free seasonal vaccination on the NHS.

In the third of those articles there is a line noting that: “Half of those who died were at risk because of underlying health problems yet none had received a flu jab.”

The Mail point out that 67.2 per cent of over-65s and 41.5 per cent of under-65s in at-risk groups have had the flu jab in England (lower than vaccination rates this time last year for at-risk groups).

It is possible that one factor contributing to the low uptake of flu vaccine is adverse coverage in the press.

Less than two months ago, the Daily Mail published an article on the seasonal flu vaccine containing the H1N1 (swine flu) strain. While it seems that swine flu itself is more likely to cause Guillain–Barré syndrome than the vaccine is, the Mail saw fit to bring up the possibility of an association between GBS and the flu vaccine – without mentioning that rather important point.

Back in 2009, the same MailOnline journalist wrote another article about swine flu and vaccination:

The Mail article quotes stalwarts of the anti-vaccination lobby Richard Halvorsen (a doctor who authored “The Truth about Vaccines”) and Jackie Fletcher (of the group JABS). If they wanted to have a balanced article discussing the pros and cons of a swine flu vaccine, they would not have invited comment from Halvorsen and Fletcher. It seems to me that the Mail wanted someone to provide comment alluding to sinister government behaviour – Fletcher characterises the government’s message for neurologists to watch for cases of Guillain-Barre Syndrome as follows: “The Government would not be anticipating this if they didn’t think there was a connection. What we’ve got is a massive guinea-pig trial”.

I wonder if anybody at the Mail feels any degree of responsibility for the low uptake of flu vaccine in at-risk groups.

More

The Mail weren’t alone in printing scare stories about swine flu vaccination: for example there were articles written by Dr Crippen for The Guardian and Dr Halvorsen for The Times.

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6 Comments

  1. jdc325 said,

    There’s a very sensible article on Swine Flu, Anti-Vaccinationists and Guillain-Barré Syndrome over at Lay Science (posted in 2009).

  2. Oliver Dowding said,

    Two things

    Re the quote that “half of those who died were at risk because of underlying health problems yet none had received a flu jab.”

    Do you have stats to show a) what the proportionate death rate is for the opposite group of people with “underlying health problems” who had been jabbed.

    May be hard to do the comparison due to the many other variables, e.g. their diet, age, and when they received the jab relative to when they became infected. Etc.

    In which case how is one to do any kind of meaningful comparison?

    I wonder if any drug company ever contemplates the relative susceptibility of those whose diet leads them to having good bodily defences, as opposed to those on a poor diet – neither of which is exclusive to any one sub-set of society. It may be thought by some to be expensive to have a healthy diet, but when one surveys the contents of trolleys, there is far too much in there that has no nutritional (thus defensive) value, yet is pro-rata very expensive and strips away badly needed £.

  3. jdc325 said,

    For flu, death is reported in 0.5–1 per 1,000 cases: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/pinkbook/downloads/flu.pdf

    Although the vaccine is not highly effective in preventing clinical illness among the elderly, it is effective in preventing complications and death. Among elderly persons, the vaccine is 50%–60% effective in preventing hospitalization and 80% effective in preventing death. During a 1982–1983 influenza outbreak in Genesee County, Michigan, unvaccinated nursing home residents were four times more likely to die than were vaccinated residents.

  4. Tweets that mention Daily Mail Warn Of Flu Crisis « Stuff And Nonsense -- Topsy.com said,

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by badscienceblogs, James. James said: Daily Mail Warn Of Flu Crisis: http://bit.ly/hAIiXw #vaccination #swineflu #flu [...]

  5. Metro: Twitter To Blame For Vaccine Fears « Stuff And Nonsense said,

    [...] I wrote a couple of days ago, the Mail are now warning of a flu crisis and reporting that pregnant women are being urged to get [...]

  6. Why I Write About The Daily Mail « Stuff And Nonsense said,

    [...] about the flu vaccine was followed just a couple of months later by an article warning of a “flu crisis“. Having previously raised the spectre of Guillain–Barré syndrome and muttered darkly [...]

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