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The Irresponsible Media Coverage of the Institute of Medicine Meeting on Autism and Vaccines

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02/17/04 (originally published 02/10/04 at

by Sandy Gottstein 

Yesterday, the Institute of Medicine held its controversial Immunization Safety Review meeting re: autism and vaccines.  I say controversial because there was a good deal of protest over the arguably premature timing of it. 

Noteworthy among those questioning the advisability of holding the meeting was Congressman Dave Weldon, MD.  In a letter to Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the CDC, Weldon wrote: "I am writing to ask that you post-pone the February 9, 2004, Institute of Medicine (IOM) Immunization Safety Review Committee meeting. Pressing forward with this meeting at this time, I believe, will further undermine the credibility of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on matters of vaccine safety and do damage to the reputation of the IOM. I believe the proposed date of this meeting, which you have the ability to change, is in the best interests of no one who is seeking the truth about a possible association between vaccines and neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism...Recent actions and statements by officials within the CDC’s National Immunization Program (NIP) office, the timing of the IOM meeting, and the agenda for the IOM meeting raise serious questions about the purpose, value and objectives of this meeting...Presently, the NIP is engaged in what amounts to an investigation of their own actions, which does not create an air of confidence."

Not surprisingly, there was no delay of the meeting, which was held yesterday, as originally planned.

While some in the media were reasonably fair-minded, others were not.  (Click here for articles on the meeting.)  One article, however, in particular stands out.  The Cox News Service article, Researchers dispute risk of autism from vaccines, as reported in the Contra Costa Times, is a shocking display of disrespect for both the participants in the meeting and its readers.

Although there were almost the same number of researchers who supported the claim that vaccines cause autism as opposed it, there was not even a hint of that fact in this article.  Mark Geier, a geneticist with both an MD and a PhD, who with his son presented compelling evidence against the vaccines (and who has been thwarted in his efforts by the CDC), was not only NOT called a researcher, but was referred to right after this sentence: "Some people who attended the meeting refused to accept those findings."  "Some people"?  "Refused to accept those findings", when their own published research contradicted it? 

Perhaps Cox News Service does not care about those unlucky many or few who are being harmed by vaccines.  Perhaps they think by ignoring and disrespecting hard-working scientists, they will go away.  Perhaps they do not care to report all sides of a story, believing it in the public's best interests to molly-coddle and shield them from what may be a terrible truth.  But do they really think hiding from the truth will protect their own children from harm?  Do they really buy into Public Health's apparent Ostrich Policy - that what you don't know can't hurt you?

A foolish media is an enemy of both the people and themselves.  In a free society, readers are dependent on hearing all sides of a story, not just the one a given writer hopes and believes is the truth.

A foolish media will lose its readers, as they have already begun doing, to the pioneering Internet writers.  They will probably live to regret it.

Sandy Gottstein


"Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty." - Wendell Phillips (1811-1884), paraphrasing John Philpot Curran (1808)