The Daily Mail were involved in scaremongering about the MMR vaccine, but later characterised parents who failed to vaccinate their children as morons and blamed Andrew Wakefield for starting the scare. At one point, the paper was publishing articles in England bashing the HPV vaccine while at the same time running a campaign in Ireland for the vaccine to be made available. They have also written articles scaremongering about hepatitis B vaccination and the vaccine for H1N1 (swine flu).
The newspaper, having been a major player in the media’s MMR hoax, then turned on those they described as “MMR refuseniks” for failing to vaccinate their children. Having probably been at least partly responsible for the decision some of their readers took not to vaccinate, the Mail then refused to take any responsibility for the part they played. A recent article in the Mail continues their apparent policy of blaming Andrew Wakefield’s research for the scare. It claims that “Public confidence in the triple jab was knocked by research that linked it to autism, despite this since being discredited.” No mention is made of the host of negative stories run by the newspapers (including, notably, themselves). The Mail actually published an article calling parents who failed to vaccinate their children “morons”, which I thought was hypocritical to say the least. Examples of the Mail’s output include pieces from Halvorsen, Hitchens, Carling, and the Kirsty Robinson Russian roulette article. Having used comment from Halvorsen and the JABS organisation to whip up public concern about MMR, the Mail have continued to go to them for quotes about other vaccines.
Then there’s the HPV vaccine: myself and fellow blogger JQH wrote about a Mail article that we considered to be irresponsible. JQH wrote to the editor and later complained to the PCC, although his complaint was rejected. Meanwhile, Martin Robbins of Lay Science found that the Mail were campaigning for and against the HPV vaccine in different countries. It may be difficult to understand the Mail’s motives in calling for vaccines to be provided in Ireland while at the same time scaremongering about the same vaccine in England, but both positions (whether pro- or anti-vaccine) were contrary to the government line in each country.
The Mail are now having their say on swine flu. Guess what? I’m not sure whether I can trust them to tell me the truth about this vaccine. That’s one of the problems with hypocrisy and humbuggery – they tend to erode trust. It is worth reading DeeTee’s post on Lay Science that looks at the concerns raised by the antivaccination lobby. DeeTee writes that: “The risks of problems such as vaccine-associated GBS are significantly less than the risk of influenza-induced GBS, and are miniscule compared to the serious risks that can arise from influenza and its other complications.” 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’ve noted recently that the Mail have written about an increase in reports of adverse events from Tamiflu (but did not mention that the increase could be due to an increase in use of the drug) and I have also written about the Times publishing an article on swine flu and vaccination from guest writer Richard Halvorsen (as did the author of the Non-Toxic blog). I mentioned hepatitis B in the introduction and I wrote at the time that it looked as if the Mail had an anti-vaccine stance. In light of Martin Robbins’ piece on the Mail’s HPV campaigning, it seems that their stance is not an ideological one. Perhaps they are just hopelessly contrarian.
EDIT: The Daily Mail have a poll up and at the time of writing (16:44 on 20/08/09) 81% of respondents will not have the swine flu vaccination. Poll page.