Daily Mail Science Correspondent on Vaccination

July 19, 2012 at 6:14 pm (Anti-Vaccination, Media) (, , , , , , , )

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 herehere, 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.


  1. josephinejones said,

    Dr Ellie Cannon also writes sensible health articles for the Daily Mail. A sensible article by her on MMR would have been great in light of that shocker Sue Reid wrote recently.

  2. EPD said,

    Perhaps you could email Ms MacRae to let her know, similarly to how you might email and idiot journalist if they’d ballsed up? I imagine she’d be grateful for the praise.

  3. Helen said,

    What @EPD said.

  4. dingo199 said,

    Of course HPV vaccine promotes sexual promiscuity.
    Why only the other week I was set upon by a frenzied mob of semiclad schoolgirls, presumably fresh from the satanic ritual of an HPV vaccination orgy.
    I suppose I could have been dreaming though. It’s just that it seemed so real at the time (about 4.30am).
    (I guess that counts as hard evidence by way of anecdotal testimony, no?)

  5. Evan Harris said,

    I generally agree with your views here.

    But we set our standards pretty low. In the medical literature I hope the statement ” Wakefield’s research is controversial” would be corrected to “Wakefield’s research was fraudulent and unethical.”

  6. Lee Turnpenny said,

    It is interesting also how some religious commenters reacted to this (see “here”:http://leeturnpenny.com/2012/07/22/few-does-not-always-mean-insignificant/).

  7. MikeAndLana said,

    Fiona MacRae is not really the preferred contributor for anything of fact so I did not interpret the article of anything factual. I first stumbled upon her article about why drinking water doesn’t help you lose weight (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1056743/Why-drinking-water-shed-weight-waste-time.html) and immediately found medical doctors and science websites stating otherwise (though if the so-called research study she’s referencing is wrong, it’s a different story). Religiously speaking, is anyone really surprised? This kind of information has been publicly known for hundreds of years.

  8. Pamela Bishop said,

    This year I am 60. I will spend the day looking at the artex ceiling of my bedroom as I have done for the last 20 years. I have ME/CFS/FIBRO. I worked in social services days nurseries/family centres for 20 years. Because of our client group we were advised to have a course of Hep B Vac.Wishing to keep well I followed this medical advice I became ill with weakness and rashes sore throats etc. I have tried all that I can to get better. There is little or mainstream help I have spent hundreds od pounds going privately to people trying to help but only understanding/ having half the story. I have been told by an infectious diseases doctor that my body was already compromised when I had the jabs. Genetics too may play a part. Which would explain why some are affected and others not. Hep B jabs are no longer given if the immune system is compromised in any way.
    I long to lead a normal life with my family and garden. I use a wheelchair now my GP is extremely supportive when I do see her but the pain and fatigue are really untreatable.
    To those of you who do not or cannot believe this exists lie on your bed no TV. or radio just drawn curtains the tick of time going by do; this for an hour or so imagine this is your future. The medical profession can offer little or no explanation nor hope and you are left feeling as though its all your fault.
    Please try this then please remember all these. young girls who just may face the same future if it is not taken seriously.
    It is too late for me but please give these girls a chance.

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