Katie Couric is leading her talk show today with a segment that could have been written by Michele Bachmann. On Katie, Couric will interview a mother who claims her daughter died as a result of taking Gardasil, the HPV vaccine. A serious journalist, Couric hopes to look at "all sides" of the HPV vaccine debate. All sides includes the unscientific fear-mongering side, it seems.
Here's the promo for the show, set to ominous music, of course:
The HPV vaccine is considered a life-saving cancer preventer … but is it a potentially deadly dose for girls? Meet a mom who claims her daughter died after getting the HPV vaccine, and hear all sides of the HPV vaccine controversy.
We guess ABC will do anything to bring Katie out of its ratings hole, because the HPV vaccine has been proven to be absolutely safe for girls. As science writer Seth Mnookin points out, a recent study in the British Medical Journal found "no link to short- or long-term health problems." The study looked at almost 1 million girls, 296,000 of whom had gotten at least one does of the vaccine.
Most importantly, the HPV vaccine prevents cancer in women and men. It saves lives, which vaccines are meant to do. Campaigns to discredit the HPV vaccine only put more women at risk for developing cervical cancer, and more men at risk for developing oropharyngeal cancers (which are very real, ask Michael Douglas).
Warnings about the "dangers" of the HPV vaccine are not based in scientific fact, but in the fear that somehow a cancer-preventing drug will cause young girls to become promiscuous. When Michele Bachmann was running for president, she told the story of a mother whose daughter had developed "mental retardation" because of the vaccine. This was a (dumb) political move — she used the story to try to discredit Gov. Rick Perry, who mandated in 2007 that all Texas girls get the vaccine. The "HPV vaccine killed my daughter" story sells to Christian conservatives who don't want their daughters to have sex.
What's unfortunate is that it appears Couric and producers originally wanted to discredit anti-vaccine types with today's segment. Producers approached Mnookin, who wrote The Panic Virus about vaccine-autism paranoia, to be a guest on the show. They later changed their minds. But Mnookin writes,
The producer seemed to have a true grasp of the dangers of declining vaccination rates and she stressed repeatedly that her co-workers, including Couric herself, did not view this as an 'on the one hand, on the other hand' issue but one in which facts and evidence clearly lined up on one side — the side that overwhelmingly supports the importance and efficacy of vaccines.
Well, then the producers found one woman who thinks the HPV vaccine killed her daughter. Tune in, and you'll also hear Rosie Perez talking about her accent and Lisa Whelchel "dishing" about what George Clooney was like "back in the day."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.