A Complaint to the PCC

[BPSDB]I have finally got around to submitting a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission regarding the Daily Mail’s appalling scare story about the HPV vaccine. Text follows.

I wish to complain about the article now found online at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1160516/Paralysis-epilepsy-blurred-vision-1-300-girls-reaction-cervical-cancer-vaccine.html which is headlined “Concerns over safety of cervical cancer vaccine after 1,300 girls experience side effects” which is misleading on the issue of side effects of the HPV vaccine. The article headlines the fact that 1300 had reported adverse reactions but buries the fact that 700,000 had received the vaccine within the text of the article. The article is an example of “confirmation bias” in that it assumes because a tiny minority of those vaccinated felt ill, that the vaccine was the cause. There is in fact no evidence linking the vaccine with the reported ill-effects and the assumption that there is a link is pure conjecture. Furthermore, the vast majority of the 1300 reported only minor effects but the article concentrates on those who report more serious symptoms, giving the entirely false impression that the vaccine causes serious side effects. The article is thus in breach of Clause 1 ( i) of the PCC Code of Practice which states that:-

“The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information…”

The article also states that some have dubbed the vaccine the ‘promiscuity jab’ because it protects against a sexually transmitted disease. However, there is no evidence to suggest that those who have received the vaccine indulge in riskier behaviour than those who have not. The link with ‘promiscuity’ is thus pure conjecture but is not presented as such. Because of this and the unsupported conjecture linked to above, the article thus breaches Clause 1 (iii) which states that:-

“The Press, whilst free to be partisan, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact”

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10 Responses to “A Complaint to the PCC”

  1. Zeno Says:


  2. Andy Lewis Says:

    Watch out editor Paul Dacre and the Daily Mail! As soon as this lands on the lap of the chairman of the PCC editors’ code committee, Paul Dacre, you are going to be in trouble. Err…

  3. Teek Says:

    @ Andy Lewis: well spotted, there is a problem here. However, with the FSA proving just how well the financial sector self-regulates with it’s own members or their pals regulating themselves, shouldn’t we expect the PCC to uphold standards…? eh…? what…? oh…

  4. Teek Says:

    excellent complaint jqh, good luck with it!!

  5. jdc325 Says:

    Re the self-regulation of the press: if the PCC is there to provide a fig-leaf of respectability (like, say, the SoH or BANT code of ethics – or OfQuack), then who do we complain to? Should we lobby our MPs perhaps?

  6. The Promotion of Counterknowledge « jdc325’s Weblog Says:

    […] blog post, a complaint to the PCC, has a comment from Andy Lewis pointing out the Dacre/PCC […]

  7. jaycueaitch Says:


    Have received an email – obviously a standard reply – saying what happens next and what I should do if I don’t like the outcome.

  8. The PCC Is Ineffective « jdc325’s Weblog Says:

    […] PCC Is Ineffective Having read the recent post by JQH – in which he reports on his complaint to the PCC regarding the Daily Fail’s […]

  9. 3-in-1 PCC Complaint « jdc325’s Weblog Says:

    […] is here and my post on the God spot story is here. JQH recently wrote to the Daily Mail and the PCC regarding the Fail’s abysmal coverage of the HPV vaccine. Also: I have added a new blogroll […]

  10. A Second Year of Steam « Letting Off Steam Says:

    […] their daughters – or possibly turn them into sluts. Fisked here. This story prompted me to make a complaint to the PCC but it was […]

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