[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”