Talking To Stubbornly Angle-Pushing Journalist About Vaccine

As part of my duties as chairman of the Swedish Skeptics, earlier tonight I took part in a studio discussion on Swedish TV4 about Gardasil, the vaccine against human papilloma virus that is offered to all 12-y-o Swedish girls. It was a pretty silly affair. The TV people had decided on the angle that the information given about the vaccine to young girls isn't detailed enough. For instance, the school hallway fliers don't tell the kids that the protection rate against HPV isn't 100% (duh) or that very rarely the vaccine can provoke some serious side effects (duh again). These are traits, I should probably explain, that Gardasil shares with all other vaccines. And they had invited a young lady who suffers from a rare side effect. Not, as I pointed out on air, the 10,000 contemporaries of hers who have not experienced any side effects.

In my opinion, the crew had taken on a feeble story from a feeble angle and run way too far with it. Wouldn't surprise me if they get their fingers slapped by the Swedish Broadcasting Commission. But still fun to practice my TV skillz.

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for some reason I can't see the whole thing, I'll try again soon

but yeh, waiting for the kalla fakta episode where they discuss the controversial practice of eating. It prevents most health issues, but it's not 100% safe.

(btw, I remember you mentioned bipacksedel, I dont think the patients are given those before the shots, but it should be available here: http://www.fass.se/LIF/produktfakta/artikel_produkt.jsp?NplID=200512160…)

The holy grail of TV is to get many viewers, not to provide accurate information. Good of you to stand up for the good cause.
(Next issue: Water can kill you! A substance available in any household can be lethal if you immerse yourself in it.)

By Birger Johansson (not verified) on 22 Apr 2013 #permalink

PS. Congrats for getting the # bug fixed. "A feeble story from a feeble angle" Stealing a concept from Fox News!

By Birger Johansson (not verified) on 22 Apr 2013 #permalink

And they had invited a young lady who suffers from a rare side effect. Not, as I pointed out on air, the 10,000 contemporaries of hers who have not experienced any side effects.

In English, this practice is known as cherry picking.

In the US we have become so accustomed to the howls of opposition from people who call themselves Christian that it's easy to forget about the anti-vax crowd on this issue (they are at least consistent in that they oppose all vaccinations). But they are out there, and they are not much more amenable to logical persuasion than the religious nuts with whom they make common cause.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 22 Apr 2013 #permalink

As a member of the "anti-vax crowd," it troubles me that the issue is so often misphrased. I don't know anyone who is "anti-vax" (as you all seem to call it), who isn't aware that vaccines are often used without adverse side effects, or who isn't aware that the risk of an adverse reaction is quite small, or that the vaccines are (most times, although absolutely not always) effective against some pretty horrific diseases.

What most of the anti-vax people I know abhor is the elimination of personal freedom to make a choice about whether and when to vaccinate. Some also question the numbers of vaccines given, along with whether there is any good evidence that the scedule or regimen is safe - most docs in the US are giving newborns up to 8 shots in a single visit, and the total number of vaccines for kids in the US reaches upwards of 30 (I believe that to be nearly double the number in Sweden, for example). Finally, most anti-vax folks question the safety of the additives in the vaccines (the adjuvants) like mercury, squaline, aluminum, and the rest, and question whether any long-term studies have shown any correlation between exposure to large amounts of the adjuvants (i.e., high numbers of vaccines) and long-term health consequences.

I, for one, am more than willing to remain open-minded on these issues, but don't believe the issues above have been satisfactorily answered. Pardon my skepticism, but I'm not inclined to take the word of the drug companies with regard to the safety of their products. Until the questions that I have are roundly resolved by scientists who are not funded by the drug companies, I will remain unwilling to blindly follow the herd and vaccinate simply because it is just what everyone else does.

P.S. Its easy enough to pooh-pooh the one adverse reaction in 10,000 or even 100,000 until its YOUR kid that has it. Or you. And given that Gardisil seems to have a highre rate than most of adverse reactions including narcolepsy and bunch of other really fun stuff, seems safer to stay out of the "herd." There are plenty of other methods for avoiding HPV, but of course here in the US its generally considered easier to stick a kid in the arm than to talk frankly with them about sex...

Journalist in Sweden seems to never been about statistics and the normal distribution curve. They always find the exceptions or outliners and focus on that part. They forget the main part because that will ruin their stories.

By Thomas Ivarsson (not verified) on 26 Apr 2013 #permalink

Typo: Journalist in Sweden seems to never been teached about statistics and the normal distribution curve. They always find the exceptions or outliners and focus on that part. They forget the main part because that will ruin their stories.

By Thomas Ivarsson (not verified) on 26 Apr 2013 #permalink

and outliners should have been outliers

By Thomas Ivarsson (not verified) on 26 Apr 2013 #permalink