WSJ contributor: Vaccine-skeptical scientists deserve appreciation & fair press

The Miami Examiner reports on Lawrence Solomon’s new series about vaccines.

By Jeannie Stokowski-Bisanti for the Miami Healthy Living Examiner, published on January 8, 2014

According to best-selling author Lawrence Solomon who is also a Wall Street Journal contributor, National Post columnist, and publisher of the award-winning The Next City magazine, the demeaning of vaccine skeptics in the media defies explanation. In a Huffington Post article dated January 6th, he writes, “No journalist would have had any difficulty finding dozens of distinguished skeptical scientists for the very few “rogue” scientists that the press has vilified.”

Soloman gives the example of how easy it should have been for the media to notice the views of Dr. Bernadine Healy who was the former head of the National Institute of Health, the former head of the American Red Cross, and the former Chair of the White House Cabinet Group on Biotechnology, one of several White House positions she held in service to three American presidents.

In one of the rare times the mainstream media fairly presented a skeptic’s perspective on the vaccine issue, Sharyl Attkisson of CBS News, one of America’s leading journalists, aired Dr. Healy’s criticicism of the public health establishment for being “too quick to dismiss [vaccine concerns] as irrational…The more you delve into it, if you look at the basic science, if you look at the research that’s been done in animals, if you also look at some of these individual cases, and if you look at the evidence… what you come away with is that the question [of vaccine safety] has not been answered.”

Solomon also writes that it should have been easy for the media to have found Dr. Diane Harper, a lead developer of the controversial Gardasil vaccine and another interviewee of Attkisson’s who believes the vaccine, which is being recommended for teens and pre-teens to combat cervical cancer, is less effective than the common Pap smear, and that it may harm more children than it helps. She argued that parents need to know that they could be subjecting their children to needless risks and said, “Parents and women must know that deaths occurred.”

Solomon wrote that journalists should have sought out the views of skeptics among academics like researchers Chris Shaw and Lucija Tomljenovic in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of British Columbia who state that the cervical cancer vaccine may lead to death among susceptible members of the population.

In the 2002 testimony to a United States Congressional committee hearing into the safety of various childhood vaccines, Professor Walter Spitzer of McGill University, considered Canada’s “dean” of epidemiology stated that, based on the evidence to date involving one of the vaccine combinations under scrutiny, “I cannot recommend it … for my own grandchildren.”

Solomon notes that journalists who place gave special credibility to government scientists might have noticed the views of someone like Dr. Peter Fletcher, former Chief Scientific Officer at the UK’s Department of Health. Since Dr. Fletcher was also the Medical Assessor to the Committee on Safety of Medicines, he was THE very person who determined for the UK government whether vaccines were safe. Dr. Fletcher has gone public several times with his concerns about vaccines, and with his frustration that “no one in authority will even admit [a vaccine-related problem could be] happening, let alone try to investigate the causes.”

Solomon writes: “Those who are labelled as anti-vaccination rogue scientists are hardly rogues — they are found at the pinnacle of the medical establishment. And they are hardly anti-vaccination. All of the scientists that I mention in this article value vaccines for the great good that they can do. Their opposition is to mass vaccination of the population, which discounts the risk that people with certain predispositions can react badly to various vaccines, just as people with certain predispositions can react badly to various prescription drugs.

Identify the vulnerable populations, the skeptics say, so that all can be confident when vaccines are administered. For this, they deserve our appreciation, not our ridicule.”

Read Why the press shouldn’t dismiss vaccine skeptics.


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