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Has Dan Rather Once Again Failed To Responsibly Investigate An Important Issue?

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Note:  This column and all future columns will be dedicated in loving memory to Nicholas Regush, my mentor, my adviser, my inspiration, but most of all, my friend. 


Maybe Dan Rather thought the 60 Minutes segment, "Saying 'No' To Immunization"  was a no-brainer.  Report on an easy subject, i.e., the importance of vaccinations, and the seeming carelessness that lead to his recently tarnished reputation would be shown to be a mere fluke. 

Blame recent pertussis outbreaks on the unvaccinated.  Never mind that the DPT (diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus) vaccine is not considered particularly effective.  Never mind that outbreaks have occurred in highly vaccinated populations.  Never mind that no one actually knows where the alleged "source" of an outbreak got the disease, and whether it was from an unvaccinated - or vaccinated - person.

Make those misguided (albeit educated, high income) so-called anti-vaccinationists look ignorant and foolish. 

Don't concern yourself with parents whose children died or were injured within hours or days of being vaccinated.  Don't mention the overwhelming number of case reports that, while they may not be proof, provide considerable evidence that vaccines cause more harm than is generally being  acknowledged. 

Accept at face value industry claims that the proper studies have been done.  Use the sheer number of so-called vaccine safety studies published, as opposed to evaluating the quality and significance of the research, as "proof" that vaccines are safe.

Ignore the role that conflict of interest plays in what gets studied and how it gets studied.  Disregard the role that conflict of interest plays in what actually gets published. Overlook the role that conflict of interest plays in which vaccines are added to the pediatric vaccination schedule. (e.g., 1, 2)

Use a developer of a vaccine and paid vaccine industry promoter, Dr. Paul Offit,  as your "unbiased" expert on the side of vaccine safety and efficacy.

Bad-mouth a maverick researcher, Dr. Andrew Wakefield,  without giving him the opportunity to defend himself.  Act as if no other study confirming or supporting his findings has ever been published.  (Click here for some that have been published.)

Dismiss and/or ridicule all anecdotal and scientific evidence that does not support the status quo.  (Click here for some of the scientific evidence.¹)

Now I can't begin to know what motivates Mr. Rather.  That's between him and God, his shrink and his accountant.

A recent "World Conference of Science Journalists", however, in which it was noted that "Science journalists (have) accused drug companies of issuing misleading information to inflate perceptions of disease threats and maximise profits from drug sales" and at which they "called for greater journalistic scrutiny of the companies' activities" may offer some clues to his reasoning.

Regardless of his motivation, all the apparent shortcomings in this most recent broadcast make me wonder whether or not the CBS News "memo-gate" fiasco was the exception or the rule.  Even more, I wonder what it will take to get mainstream media to fairly and responsibly report on this subject.

¹Note that in a literature search where the word "adverse" is used, the authors of the article may or may not conclude that the vaccine was responsible. One must read the abstract or the article to determine exactly what their findings were.

Sandy Gottstein

Date: 10-22-2004

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