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.