By Barbara Loe Fisher
The public flogging of veteran broadcast journalist Katie Couric began on December 4, 2013, immediately after a 17-minute report on HPV and Gardasil vaccine was broadcast on her TV talk show "Katie."1 It was kick-started by a west coast business writer, who administered the first lash with a bizarre take-down of freedom of the press:
"The real punch of the show was its portrayal of HPV vaccination as 'controversial,'" he charged. "Merely to ask questions is to validate them."
He ended with a sucker punch:
"Katie Couric established her credibility as a spokeswoman for preventive medicine more than a decade ago... now she'll be known for promoting junk medicine instead."2
'Is Katie Couric the Next Jenny McCarthy?'
Then, like piranhas in a fish tank full of fresh chum, an online clique of mean girls and bully boys let Katie have it right between the eyes.
"Is Katie Couric the next Jenny McCarthy?" sneered a headline for an article in which a cub reporter sharpened her claws on Couric's credibility by hissing, "The damage a former Playboy Bunny has been able to do is bad enough. But Couric's misdeeds are all the worse given that she's taken much more seriously than Jenny McCarthy."3
Continuing with that lame theme, an entertainment writer stuck it to Katie when she suggested that:
"To some, Couric's behavior is even more problematic than McCarthy's, given her stature as a respected journalist and former network news anchor, as well as her previous efforts to educate the public about the fight against cancer."4
One headline screamed "Katie Couric Hands Over Her Show to Anti-Vaccine Alarmists"5 and another one gasped "Why Is Katie Couric Promoting Vaccine Skeptics?" followed by an article written by a photojournalist sniping that "Couric needs to review her priorities."6
Katie Couric: Presenting HPV Information and Perspective
Katie's unforgiveable transgression? On her afternoon talk show, she gave two mothers, who had witnessed their daughters' health suddenly deteriorate after Gardasil shots, an opportunity to speak about what happened.7, 8
She gave an international HPV infection expert,9 who participated in Gardasil vaccine clinical trial research, an opportunity to comment about the effectiveness of Gardasil vaccine and the need for all girls – whether they get vaccinated or not – to get regular pap screening.10
She gave a pediatrician an opportunity to encourage parents to vaccinate their 11-year-old boys and girls because "HPV vaccine does not seem to be any risker than any of the other vaccines we routinely use;"11, 12 and Katie gave a mother and her daughter an opportunity to enthusiastically endorse the vaccine.13
Katie Couric presented information and a range of perspectives about a current topic being discussed by millions of parents and young women in homes and doctors' offices across the country. She did it because she is an intellectually honest journalist, a compassionate mother, and a cancer prevention pioneer.
Fourteen years ago, Katie Couric almost singlehandedly put a human face on the importance of colonoscopy screening, especially for those at high risk when she publicly witnessed about the tragedy of losing her husband and the father of her children to colon cancer.14 After a long and successful career in broadcast journalism, in 2006 she became the first woman to anchor the evening news on a major US TV network.15
An Orchestrated Campaign of Intimidation
The shaming of Katie Couric for caring and daring to ask questions about Gardasil vaccine was a well-orchestrated campaign of intimidation. It was a warning delivered to all journalists that – no matter who you are – your character will be assassinated if you step out of line and question the safety or effectiveness of a government recommended vaccine.
The cyber lynch mob16-22 presenting opinion as unassailable fact delighted in quoting each other and did not reserve their vitriol for Katie. Two mothers on the show were ridiculed for describing their daughters' Gardasil vaccine reaction symptoms, which are similar to those reported by many, many others in the US and around the world.23-43
The credentialed Gardasil vaccine researcher44 on the show was attacked for stating that regular pap tests are the most reliable way of detecting and preventing cervical cancer regardless of vaccination, a position held by cancer prevention experts.45-47
Katie Couric Encourages Informed Vaccine Decision Making
Two days after the public flogging began, Katie interviewed the Assistant Surgeon General48 before authoring an article for The Huffington Post responding to the firestorm with unapologetic professionalism.49 She acknowledged her report could have spent more time putting the statistical risk of suffering a vaccine reaction into greater perspective but she defended the inclusion of mothers reporting Gardasil reactions:
"Some people say their children have suffered from a variety of medical problems after the HPV vaccination, and there have even been a few reports of death," she said. "As a journalist, I felt that we couldn't simply ignore these reports."
Katie reinforced a call for regular pap screening:
"There's been troubling research out of Australia that indicates some women are skipping their Pap tests because they have been vaccinated. That's a terrible idea.
While the vaccine protects against some of the HPV strains that cause cervical cancers, it doesn't protect against all of them and regular Pap smears are essential for life-saving diagnoses," she said.
Katie concluded her statement by encouraging critical thinking and informed vaccine decision-making:
"I had my own two daughters vaccinated against HPV. I hope that other parents will look at the research and the facts, and make a reasoned decision on the HPV vaccine and what is best for their children," she said.
'Not Enough,' He Says
However, Katie's clarification prompted one bully to bring out the whip one more time. Under a headline complaining that "Katie Couric Backs Off from Her Anti-Vaccine Show But Not Enough," he snarled:
"The video depictions of mothers and daughters in tears will stay with thousands of Couric's loyal viewers. Her written mea culpa, not so much."50
Perhaps he wanted her to walk across cut glass on her knees and whimper a little on camera so he could be convinced that she would be a good girl from now on and never, ever step out of line again.
Mothers Will Not Stop Witnessing
One thing is as clear today as it was 32 years ago when mothers publicly witnessed how they watched their children suffer brain inflammation or die after being injected with the old, crude, and toxic DPT vaccine.51-64 Clearly, when mothers stand up in the public square today and describe how Gardasil vaccine risks for their daughters turned out to be 100 percent, deniers of vaccine risks get really, really emotional. They get angry and defensive. They gather together in a pack, take out the rope, and start cyber-lynching.
Mothers around the world, who give birth to babies they are responsible for nurturing through infancy and childhood, are not going to stop talking about what happened to their children after vaccination. Mothers are not going to shut up and sit down like good little girls after they witness the bodies and brains of the children they love be destroyed when Gardasil shots go wrong.
Mothers Will Not Stop Thinking Critically
They are not going to stop reading the medical literature and thinking critically about the science65-71 used to justify giving every child the most expensive federally recommended pediatric vaccine on the US market72 to prevent an infection that is cleared by more than 90 percent of people without a problem:73,74
- A vaccine developed by NIH researchers75 using GMO technology that was sold by NIH to Merck76 and fast-tracked to licensure using questionable surrogate markers for efficacy77, 78
- A vaccine for a sexually transmitted disease that was tested in fewer than 1,200 children under the age of 1679 using a bioactive aluminum "placebo" as a bogus control in clinical trials80-84
- A vaccine that was only tested in 1,000 adolescent girls and boys in combination with the federally recommended Tdap and meningococcal vaccines85
- A vaccine given by pediatricians shielded from legal accountability for vaccine injuries and deaths, just like vaccine manufacturers are shielded from civil liability in US courts86
- A vaccine that by December 13, 2013 had generated nearly 30,000 adverse reaction reports to the US government, including 140 deaths87 - which is only a fraction of the numbers of Gardasil reactions, injuries, and deaths that have actually occurred because most doctors either do not report to the government or make reports directly to Merck.88-90
Federal Awards, Lawsuits, Gardasil Recommendation Withdrawal
Yes, it is illogical to assume that every single one of the reported Gardasil reaction reports and deaths are caused by the vaccine, but it is just as illogical to assume that none of them are caused by the vaccine. But logic has nothing to do with one-size-fits-all vaccine policies that sacrifice individuals, who are biologically or environmentally at high risk for suffering vaccine harm,91 while no research is being done to identify who they are to spare their lives.
Informed mothers know that among the $3 billion in federal compensation that has been awarded to vaccine victims in the US are awards for Gardasil vaccine injuries.92 They know Gardasil vaccine injured girls are suing vaccine manufacturers in France, where citizens can still file product liability lawsuits.93 They know that public health officials in Japan no longer recommend Gardasil vaccine because Japan's government is not writing off every death and case of brain inflammation and autoimmunity following Gardasil shots as just a "coincidence."94
HPV Vaccination Made a Top Public Health Priority in US
In what may or may not be a coincidence, at the end of December, the Centers for Disease Control made HPV vaccination one of the top five "public health priorities" for 2014. In one media article,95 the HPV vaccination rate of 30 percent in the US was compared to the 85 percent vaccination rate in Rwanda, an impoverished, war-torn country where women have been dying in great numbers from cervical cancer because there has been no routine pap screening available to them. In 2011, Merck created a school-based vaccination program for all sixth graders in Rwanda to be injected with three doses of Gardasil vaccine.96
But the United States is not Rwanda. In America, cervical cancer has declined more than 70 percent after pap screening became a routine part of women's health care in the 1960s and, by 2006, pap tests had driven down the numbers of new cases of cervical cancer to 9,700 per year with about 3,700 deaths97 in a US population of more than 300 million people. In the US, the 14,000 annual deaths from six cancers associated with HPV98-104 represent less than three percent of the more than 550,000 cancer deaths that occur every year.
Many Other Public Health Emergencies in US Deserve Priority Status
There are many public health emergencies in our country that cause far more deaths and disabilities but do not receive a fair share of the hundreds of billions of dollars appropriated by Congress to health agencies every year.105 For example:
- Between 210,000 and 440,000 hospitalized patients each year suffer some type of preventable harm that contributes to their death106
- The US has the worst infant mortality107 and maternal mortality108,109 rates of all developed nations, with 28,000 babies dying before their first birthday110
- Millions of children are becoming disabled or dying in the unexplained chronic illness epidemic111 that costs trillions of dollars to treat: one child in six in America is learning disabled;112 one in nine suffers from asthma;113 one in 10 has ADHD;114 1 in 50 develops autism115 and 1 in 450 becomes diabetic.116
- Millions more are suffering from mental health problems. One adolescent in five in the US experiences significant symptoms of emotional distress, and one in 10 is emotionally impaired.117
Bigger Market for Merck and HPV Vaccine Mandates?
Perhaps the CDC is simply boosting the congressionally approved, lucrative public-private partnership with Big Pharma118-124 by securing a bigger market for Merck's new 9-strain version of Gardasil scheduled to be licensed in the fall of 2014.125 Or perhaps the Merck-Government-Medical Trade lobby is planning another multi-state roll-out of HPV vaccine mandates for all sixth grade children in the US just like they did in 2007.126-128
Roll Up Your Sleeve - No Questions Asked
Whatever the reasons that government officials made HPV vaccination a top public health priority in the US, the cyber-lynching of Katie Couric and mothers reporting Gardasil vaccine reactions is a warning to parents everywhere. Do not forget that the cruel, dogmatic position of vaccine risk denialism is: roll up your sleeve - no questions asked - and "may the odds be ever in your favor."129, 130