The (NVIC) is angry with the American Academy of Pediatrics. It is very hard not to follow up a sentence like that with “so, what else is new?” The AAP promotes vaccines and vaccine safety. NVIC, not so much. What caused the present altercation? Both organizations were invited to place advertisements/information segments on Delta Airlines in flight entertainment for this month. After finding out that Delta would also host ads by NVIC, the AAP sent a letter to Delta .
In response, NVIC has issued a press release: “National Vaccine Information Center Calls Out AAP for Using Public Intimidation to Censor NVIC Flu Prevention Video Offered to Delta Travelers”
“Public Intimidation”? AAP sent a letter to Delta. That’s public intimidation? I (and others) obtained a copy of the letter and made it public. I guess that’s the “public” part. A weak argument. “Intimidation”? Sorry, just no evidence to support that word.
“Censor”? Strong words from Barbara Loe Fisher, who attempted to quash public discussion with her lawsuit against Paul Offit, Amy Wallace and Conde Nast. (a lawsuit she lost, just to remind you that free speech is still protected in the U.S.).
So, on the one hand we have NVIC and Barbara Loe Fisher who use lawsuits to try to change the public discourse, and the AAP who send letters on the other hand. And we are to believe it is the AAP who are promoting censorship?
Before we get to the NVIC press release, here is the letter that In Flight Media sent to organizations asking them to buy space for their “Lifestlye365-Cold, Flu, and Fall Allergy Season” series. Part of the offer by In Flight Media was the chance to advertise the organization.
Subject: IMA/Delta Air Lines Present “Lifestlye365-Cold, Flu, and Fall Allergy Season” Featuring [REDACTED]
Let me draw your attention to two statements in the above:
“Why not take this opportunity to showcase your organization or product in front of millions of captive airline passengers!”
Delta and Virgin America’s fleets are equipped with WIFI, passengers watching the program can log into your website right from their seat using their laptops or smart phones and instantly make a donation and learn more about your cause
Clearly, a big piece of the motivation for organizations (NVIC included) to purchase time was to advertise themselves. NVIC acts as though the complaints (including mine) were not about this at all. How can I tell? Well, the NVIC has responded with a press release . A press release quite full of straw-man arguments:
WASHINGTON, Nov 15, 2011 (BUSINESS WIRE)—The non-profit National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) is calling public pressure placed on Delta Air Lines by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to censor an NVIC video about flu prevention an “act of intimidation” to block public access to full and accurate health information about influenza.
I will say I found this statement amusing: “Without cause, the AAP has used their considerable financial resources and political influence to intimidate Delta …”
Yes, the AAP used “considerable financial resources and political influence”. No ordinary organization could send a letter! Why, they used the United States Government in the form of the Postal Service to deliver their message. Would that I could tap into that sort of “political influence”.
Without cause? Perhaps NVIC could review the AAP letter, or the many complaints others have made about Delta’s decision to host the NVIC video.
Let me put it simply: Delta should consider seriously whether they wish to promote an organization like the NVIC. Playing these advertisements was clearly a promotion of the organization, as spelled out in the letter In Flight Media sent.
“Censorship and attacks on consumer advocacy groups working to institute informed consent protections in public health policies should not be tolerated in this or any society that cherishes free speech and the right to self determination”
I find it hard to give Ms. Fisher the moral high ground on free speech issues after she sued Paul Offit (and lost), Wired Magazine and Conde Nast .
That said, why do I think that Delta should reconsider supporting NVIC? How about the NVIC press release?
The AAP letter stated that “influenza vaccine continues to be the best way to protect against the disease,” without acknowledging that a recently published scientific study found that the flu vaccine is less than 70 percent effective in preventing influenza, which confirms previous studies questioning influenza vaccine efficacy and effectiveness. A top flu expert at the CDC has said that about 80 percent of flu-like illness reported in the U.S. every year is not influenza but is caused by other viruses and bacteria.
First off, notice how NVIC glossed over the statement by the AAP that “influenza vaccine continues to be the best way to protect against the disease”? They don’t come out and say AAP is right or wrong. What they do is follow it with nonsequiturs which downplay the need for the vaccine.
It’s pretty slick. They get to give the impression that the AAP is incorrect about the statement, and retain deniability.
NVIC: how about a simple statement. Is the flu vaccine the best way to protect against the disease or not?
On with the paragraph. NVIC pose that the 70% efficacy of the flu vaccine as a bad thing that is being kept hidden. Hey, I’d like a flu vaccine that was more than 70% effective, but, 70% is well worth it. 70% less chance of being sick with the flu? 70% less chance of passing the flu on to someone who is vulnerable to injury or death from the illness? I’d say “sign me up” except that I already got my shot this year.
That said, can NVIC offer an alternative which is proven better than 70%? Can they provide a method which is better than the combination of taking care of one’s self, attention to hygiene, plus the vaccine?
The second sentence in that paragraph is also troubling. “A top flu expert at the CDC has said that about 80 percent of flu-like illness reported in the U.S. every year is not influenza but is caused by other viruses and bacteria.” So? The statement was “influenza vaccine continues to be the best way to protect against the disease”, not “influenza vaccine continues to be the best way to protect against the disease and every other disease which is similar.”
This is exactly the sort of message I disagree with NVIC about. Downplaying the need for vaccines. Does NVIC say, “80% of flu-like illnesses might be caused by other disease—so, we should be looking for vaccines to protect against those viruses and bacteria as well”? Or, “Influenza vaccines might be only 70% effective, so we want research into a more effective vaccine”? Hardly.
NVIC claims that the AAP is “accusing Delta of “putting children’s lives at risk” by showing travelers the NVIC sponsored video because it contains “harmful messages.”
See how they want to ignore anything outside of their video? Let’s take a look at the paragraph with the “putting children’s lives at risk” phrase:
By providing advertising space to an organization like the NVIC, which opposes the nation’s recommended childhood immunization schedule and promotes the unscientific practice of delaying or skipping vaccines altogether, you are putting the lives of children at risk, leaving them unprotected from vaccine-preventable diseases.
AAP are objecting to promotion of the NVIC in general, not just the video. I guess NVIC didn’t want to address the question of whether they promote delaying or skipping vaccines, and whether this is unscientific.
NVIC tries to frame itself as a “vaccine safety” organization, asking only for “safer vaccines”. As I pointed out in an earlier post, they never define “safe”. They don’t seem to have called any vaccine “safe”.
Frankly, this looks like an effort for NVIC to try to get more publicity. In doing so, they are probably guaranteeing that Delta will not accept their advertisements in the future (or they have given up on any future spots) .This is a public relations nightmare for Delta. Last thing they want is a public debate about how they are contributing to a group who is putting children’s lives at risk. And, let’s face it, the American Academy of Pediatrics is well respected.
I’ll close by responding to a statement in the press release: “NVIC is a non-profit charity led by educated health care consumers’
Left Brain/Right Brain is also a group of educated health care consumers. Educated enough to reject the NVIC’s message. The real message, not the one they hide behind. The message of a group that thinks that vaccines are a “ holocaust of poison “.