Is Katie Couric the new, more polished Jenny McCarthy? On Wednesday, Katie Couric’s daytime television show, Katie, aired what she described as the vaccine “controversy” concerning the HPV vaccine. Unfortunately the show was filled with misinformation and scare tactics which left proven scientific data completely out on the doorstep.
Couric’s show was little more than a ratings booster aimed to tug at viewer’s heart strings by featuring stories and interviews with people who claimed they had been harmed by the vaccine. Little was said in defense of the potentially life-saving vaccine. In fact, the overall message I gathered from the show was don’t vaccinate. If there is such a “controversy” where is the other side of this story? Why wasn’t the CDC analysis that was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2009 that found absolutely no link between serious side effects and HPV vaccines discussed?
The show even attempted to minimize the need for this vitally important vaccine by having a “medical expert” (a term I use loosely considering her gross misinterpretation of scientific research) dismiss the impact of other forms of cancer (not cervical cancer) caused by HPV stating that they are extremely rare. Apparently this “expert” didn’t do her homework because from 2004-2008 the CDC estimates that 11, 967 cases of cervical cancer and 11,726 cases of head and neck cancers were caused by HPV. That does not seem like an inconsequential number to me. The CDC estimates that 26,000 cancers each year are a result of HPV. In terms of cervical cancer, it is also worth noting that HPV infections associated with the disease fell by more than half in U.S. teen girls after the HPV vaccine was introduced in 2006? Based on this data it is evident that the vaccine saves lives by preventing cancer.
Couric’s show inevitably convinced thousands of at risk men and women from getting the protection they need. I have no doubt there were mothers watching this show who will now refuse to vaccinate their children based on the unsubstantiated claims and one-sided remarks which aired this week. It’s sad. It’s tragic. It’s unnecessary. I wish Katie would have invited someone with cervical cancer to come on her show. Someone who could look back and say “I wish I had been vaccinated.” That would be an eye opening revelation for many, but controversy sells. Controversy provides ratings…but vaccines save lives. What’s more important?