The Daily Mail have this week published an article on the HPV vaccine. Remarkably, it’s actually quite good. Certainly better than those written by Rachel Porter, Paul Sims, and the anonymous (and ubiquitous) Daily Mail Reporter. (See here, here, here, and here for my thoughts on those articles.) The journalist in question is Fiona MacRae. The article is about girls being denied the “life-saving cervical cancer jab” because of the religious objections of schools. As I say, it’s actually quite good. The only quibble I have is that it includes the following sentence:
But critics say that vaccination at such a young age could fuel promiscuity.
Critics may say that. But I don’t think the evidence supports the viewpoint of these unnamed critics. In the fourth link to posts here on the Daily Mail and HPV vaccination above, there is this:
Since the article complained of was published, there has been this: No association was found between HPV vaccination and risky sexual behavior. I’d like to imagine that the Daily Mail will be careful not to repeat their claim given that researchers have now found no association between HPV vaccination and risky behaviour.
That is a relatively minor point of disagreement though. It is true that “critics say…”, it just happens that there is little or no evidence to support the opinions of these critics – and some contrary evidence. And, as I say, on the whole it is a good article.
Here on Journalisted, you can see all Daily Mail articles by Fiona MacRae (the Mail’s Science Correspondent) and here you can see the Mail’s published articles on MMR. Of the 1,434 articles on the Journalisted page, only one has a headline that includes the term “MMR”. There are rather a lot of Mail articles that include “MMR” in the headline, but it seems that Fiona MacRae was only employed by the Mail in 2007. Before then, journalists seemingly lacking basic scientific knowledge were often assigned to articles on MMR. Journalists like Melanie Phillips, or Beezy Marsh. Sadly, some Mail articles on science and health are still written by such journalists.
Let’s have a look at the MMR article MacRae wrote: MMR fears…
Uptake of the MMR jab, which protects against measles, mumps and rubella (German measles), plunged after controversial research by Dr Andrew Wakefield linked it to autism and bowel problems.
However, dozens of other studies have since failed to find any link and the Government has repeatedly assured parents it is safe to vaccinate their children.
A Daily Mail journalist who actually mentions the studies that show no link. That’s pretty rare. Normally, the second sentence of that quote would read “However, the Government has repeatedly assured parents it is safe to vaccinate their children.” There would be no mention of the evidence showing no link.
And instead of calling the jab controversial, she calls Wakefield’s research controversial. That’s pretty rare too.
It’s a shame more of the Mail’s articles on health and science topics aren’t written by Fiona MacRae. But then, there are so many it would be hard for one science correspondent to cover them all. Perhaps if Paul Dacre has such a deep and abiding love of health and science stories he should hire another science correspondent. Then he wouldn’t have to assign reporters who don’t seem to be able to write such stories without filling their articles with nonsense and speculation.
Update, 20:45, 3rd September 2012
Another sensible vaccination article from Dr Ellie Cannon here: MMR Daily Mail article.