Double Standards and Scares

Yeah, yeah so I don’t like the Daily Mail. You’ve heard it all before – if not from me, from someone else. But at Uncaged Monkeys on Friday Ben Goldacre presented a new part of the puzzle (actually a several-year-old part of the puzzle) which goes like this…

Remember the MMR woo-hah? Remember how anti-MMR the Daily Mail was?

Did you know that in Ireland at exactly the same time the Daily Mail there was running a massive pro-MMR campaign?

Why? Because our government was in favour of the MMR jab but the Irish government wasn’t. It’s that simple. Fear sells. Even at the expense of the well-being of young children.

This is the sort of thing that causes me to take issue with the Daily Mail.

Quoting the Times…

Data from the Health Protection Agency showed … a 36 per cent rise on the 990 in 2007. The latest figure underlines the surge in confirmed cases tracked during the course of last year, which saw the 2007 total passed as early as October. It is the highest figure since the monitoring scheme was introduced in 1995 … Researchers said last month that hopes of banishing measles from Europe by 2010 may have been dashed by poor vaccination rates in a handful of countries, including Britain. Experts at the Health Protection Agency described the figure as “very worrying”, adding that most of the cases had been in children not fully vaccinated with combined MMR and so could have been prevented.

Vaccination scares are, apparently, an aspect of the human psyche. We look for patterns that might cause us harm and sometimes we overcompensate. Problems only happen when an authority figure lends credibility to the fear – like a newspaper telling us it’s true. There have been countless vaccination scares over the years in countries all around the world.

What’s interesting is that they seldom cross the border from one country to another (unlike a genuine health risk like the bird-flu pandemic). A good example of is that whilst we were panicking about the MMR jab, the French were experiencing their own scare: that Hepatitis B inoculations might cause Multiple Sclerosis. We never reacted to their scare and they never reacted to ours. The cultural boundaries kept the nonsense from spreading.

I have no conclusion for this blog post. I can’t say: “Well, I trust the Daily Mail even less than I did before!” Because trust can’t go negative. But what I can do is draw attention to this excellent song from Dan and Dan. Enjoy…

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