Vaccines and Autism
The work of Bob McChesney (2001) entitled: “Policing the Unthinkable” states that over the past twenty years due to “…neoliberal deregulation and new communication technologies, the media systems across the world have undergone a startling transformation.” (McChesney, 2001) This is due to fewer companies that are larger in size and exert more control from a “vast empires that cover numerous media industries.” (McChesney, 2001) There is little and possibly no competition in today’s media industries and McChesney states that economic competitiveness is barely in existence as well. Entry into these industries for new players is practically impossible. McChesney states that in the majority of liberal democracy theory “such a concentration of media power into so few hands is disastrous for the free marketplace of ideas,” (McChesney, 2001) This work has undertaken review, over a period of three-weeks time, four articles published in the ‘news’ media in order to analyze the news media and how information concerning vaccines and autism has been presented in the news media and how this subject has been portrayed.
STATEMENT of THESIS
The news that is provided by today’s news industry is a plethora of skewed facts, filtered reporting, and agenda-setting by a few controlling media empires leaving U.S. citizens grasping for the real story which is rarely the one related in today’s news reporting.
I. PAUL OFFIT on AUTISM and VACCINES
The first new report reviewed was a report published in the Dallas News on Monday, April 7, 2008, entitled: “Paul Offit: Autism and Vaccines – a Careless Ruling” which states that the Poling’s and their daughter, nine years of age “stood outside a federal courthouse in Atlanta…and announced that the federal government had admitted that vaccines had contributed to her autism.” (Offit, 2008) While this report states that the news is “shocking” the fact is that across the country, teachers and parents are well aware of the results of vaccinations for all too many children and the impacts upon their lives and the lives of their family. The Dallas News report states that the federal government, while Health Officials at both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics “have steadfastly assured the public that vaccines do not cause autism…” appears to “have said exactly the opposite.” (Offit, 2008) This report relates that fact that due to heavy filing of lawsuits in 1985 against the makers of vaccine “Congress created the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, financed by a tax on every dose of vaccine.” (Offit, 2008)
Included in this program was a list compiled by doctors, lawyers and scientists of the various health complications linked to vaccinations. Offit states in this opinion editorial news report that he is both: “coinventor and co-patent holder of a newer rotavirus vaccine” which makes it understandable why this particular opinion editorial report takes the freedom to be quite truthful about the state of affairs surrounding complications due to vaccines. This individual does not blame the scientists, doctors or lawyers, but instead places the blame on the judicial system itself stating: “The system worked fine until a few years ago, when vaccine court judges turned their backs on science by dropping preponderance of evidence as a standard. Now, petitioners need merely propose a biologically plausible mechanism by which a vaccine might cause harm – even if their explanation contradicts published studies.” (Offit, 2008)
II. BERNADINE HEALY M.D. SPEAKS on AUTISM and VACCINES
The second news report analyzed in this study is one written by Bernadine Healy M.D. And published in the Brain & Behavior section of the U.S. News & World Report on April 10, 2008 entitled: “Fighting the Autism-Vaccine War” which relates that one of the most “vitriolic debates in medical history is just beginning to have its day in court- vaccine court, that is.” (Healy, 2008) Healy states that while no blame was laid the independent Office of Special Masters of the Court of Federal Claims – with a 20-year record of handling vaccine matters – recently conceded that the brain damage and autistic behavior of Hannah Poling stemmed from her exposure as a toddler to five vaccinations in one day in July, 2000.” (Healy, 2008)
Healy relates the concern held by physicians due to mercury in vaccines and states that the real concern of physicians was not “autism but the lunacy of injecting mercury into little kids through mandated vaccines that together exceeded mercury safety guidelines designed for adults.” (2008) This report is candid however, falls short of placing responsibility squarely upon the shoulders that it should fall upon – and that being the shoulders of the physicians who have thus far failed to ask the right questions and tragically for many children failed many times to ask any questions whatsoever concerning the safety of vaccinations for small children.
III. NEW YORK TIMES REPORT
The third report analyzed in this study is one entitled: “Public Forum to Address Safety Issues on Vaccines” published in the April 11, 2008, edition of the New York Times. This work states that the first public meeting of the federal government on establishment of research agendas for exploration of vaccine safety will be held with the intention of defusing “years of criticism from vaccine skeptics that the government is hiding what it knows about vaccine safety or failing to investigate the issue diligently.” (Harris, 2008)
IV. HEALTH OFFICIALS OFFER ENCOURAGEMENT for VACCINES
The fourth news report reviewed in this work is one published online at www.chron.comentitled:”Health Officials Encourage Immunizations” published on April 14, 2008, and states that “National Infant Immunization Week is April 19-26” and is supportive of vaccinations for children. Nancy Drake, R.N. states: “We want to keep people healthy and prevent the spread of diseases. We have a transient population here than can come in contact with several diseases.” (Morgan, 2008) Dr. Alexander Gonzalez, Chief of pediatrics at Memorial Hermann-Katy states: “…simply because these are childhood illnesses that we are trying to prevent. This is the population that is most at risk for these diseases and they are the ones who would likely to have the worst outcomes.” (Morgan, 2008)
It is related in this report that in Texas “the schedule of required vaccinations…can be a little complicated and overwhelming for parents with different shots needed for different diseases at different ages and different intervals.” (Morgan, 2008) Gonzalez goes on to relate in this report that because the body many times “requires repeated exposure to that disease…in most cases, one vaccine or exposure is not enough to ensure a high percentage of immunity.” (Morgan, 2008) This report is highly supportive of and positive when speaking of vaccinations and states that the Centers for Disease Control Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report estimates that the average “vaccination coverage across the United States for children enrolled in kindergarten for the 2006-07 school year was 96.3% for polio; 96% for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTaP); 95.6% for measles, mumps, rubella (MMR); 96.8% for hepatitis B; and 96.5% for varicella (chicken pox). In Texas, those numbers are 98.2% for polio; 97.7% for DTaP; 97.9% for MMR; 98.2% for hepatitis B, and 98.6% for varicella.” (Morgan, 2008)
This report asks the question of: “Why are some children not being vaccinated?” (Morgan, 2008) One reason stated is medical exemptions of youth due to having had an allergic reaction previously to the vaccination or a component of the vaccine. A second stated reason is youth with a “severe immunodeficiency that prevents them being able to receive a live virus vaccine such as MMR or varicella…” (Morgan, 2008) Stated as a third reason is an exemption titled “Reasons of Conscience” stated to be the reason “under which religious beliefs would fall.” (Morgan, 2008) in the case of the “Reasons of Conscience” the requirement is for the parent to gain approval and complete an affidavit from the Texas Department of State Health Services.” (Morgan, 2008)
This report, despite reports within the same month stating federal government findings that vaccines are linked to autism states that “One thing that does not warrant exemption, though, is the fear of the unfounded link between vaccinations and autism.” (Morgan, 2008) This report goes as far as to state that 23 studies published actually “debunk such an association” and cites the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Immunization Action Coalition having all “issued statements testifying to the lack of any proven relationships between autism and MMR vaccination.” (Morgan, 2008)
Finally, this work urges parents to continue the schedule of immunization for their child. This report has chosen to completely and totally ignore the erroneous findings of earlier research prior to the federal government’s findings on the Poling child who is stated to have autism due to having received vaccinations and specifically a combination of five vaccinations in one vaccine. This report states that “many parents have to hold their screaming, kicking and crying children down while the nurse administers one, two, three, sometimes four shots…” And strongly recommends that parents specifically ask their child’s physician concerning what has been proven to be a dangerous cocktail of vaccines in order to avoid multiple jabs.
The work of Maxwell McCombs entitled: “The Agenda-Setting Function of the Press” relates the fact that the press plays a primary role in the life of the public and influences the focus of attention of individuals and makes provision of the “facts and opinions that shape perspectives on topics of the day.” (2005) McCombs explains that ‘agenda-setting’ of the press works to influence the issues in the news and provides that news to the public proactively. Variation is noted by McCombs to exist “among individuals and across issues” and states that “issue salience on the press agenda may transfer very quickly to the public agenda.” (2005) the variations in the way that individuals respond to the news provided by the press and the agenda of the press “are explained by the need for orientation, the idea that individuals have an innate curiosity about the world around them. For a wide variety of public affairs topics, the news media provide this orientation.” (McCombs, 2005)
This view is clearly evidenced in the four news reports reviewed for analysis in this research study. The first and second of the four reports reviewed were in the nature of fact-reporting and the third report was for the most part aligned with the same type of report provision however, the fourth report reviewed for analysis in this study works very hard to set its own agenda. The picture heading the four article reviewed shows a friendly pediatrician preparing to give a very cute infant a vaccine. This article highly encourages vaccinations for children and brushes completely aside even the thought of any possible link between vaccines and autism or other complications from these vaccines. This report is one that would leave any normal parent who was considered exemption from vaccines for their children like a negligent, inane and uncaring parent who is not doing what ‘all the other’ or approaching 97% of all other parents are doing for their children — that being, refusing to and failing to question the safety of the vaccination and immunization schedule set out for small children before the age of four years old.
SUMMARY and CONCLUSION
The news media industry has become a paradise for the neoliberal school of thought who desires to control the opinions, thoughts, and actions of the public at large through mass media conglomerations which works against freedom of receiving and providing real information and facts and instead colors those facts with a spectrum of colors to provide the news that the ‘agenda setters’ desire to be reported with little regard for the facts or for the health and safety of children receiving vaccines which are now known to cause autism in children.
Morgan, Kim (2008) Health Officials Encourage Immunizations. Chron.com 14 Apr 2008. Online available at http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/nb/katy/news/5698780.html
Harris, Gardner (2008) Public Forum to Address Safety Issues on Vaccines. 11 Apr 2008. The New York Times. Online available at http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/11/health/policy/11vaccine.html?_r=1&oref=slogin
Healy, Bernadine (2008) Fighting the Autism-Vaccine War. 10 April 2008. Brain & Behavior. U.S. News and World Report. Online available at http://health.usnews.com/articles/health/brain-and-behavior/2008/04/10/fighting-the-autism-vaccine-war.html
Paul Offit: Autism and Vaccines – a Careless Ruling. Dallas News Opinion Editorial. 78 Apr 2008. Online available at http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/opinion/viewpoints/stories/DN-offit_07edi.ART.State.Edition1.4664920.html
Overholser, Geneva and Jamieson, Kathleen Hall (2005) the Press. Institutions of American Democracy. Oxford University Press.
McChesney, Bob (2001) Policing the Unthinkable. Open Democracy
McCombs, Maxwell (2005) Agenda Setting of the Press in Overholser, Geneva and Jamieson, Kathleen Hall (2005) the Press. Institutions of American Democracy. Oxford University Press
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