Anti-Vaccine Propaganda: A Cloudy Smudge in the Baltimore Sun

A recent Baltimore Sun op-ed headline popped with an eye-catching and concerning title. It read,

“We don’t know enough about childhood vaccines.”

After reading the headline, I immediately raised my eyebrows and took a deep breath. As a pediatrician who recommends and administers vaccines during my clinic time with children,

I thought, “We don’t?”

I continued to read Ms. Dunkle’s commentary with the goal of learning something new, something relevant. Keeping up-to-date with medical science is an important part of my job. I need to be confident and certain, to the best of my ability, in the recommendations I give my families. As a advocate for the health of children, I owe my patients and their families that dedication. So, if there is peer-reviewed, evidence-based data that challenges or disputes current medical practice, I need to know.

In that framework, the opinion piece by Ms. Dunkle was sorely disappointing. She attempts to report on “new” findings revealed in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health claiming to associate increased vaccination rates with increased rates of autism and speech/language impairments. She attempts to poke and prod at the reader, trying to pick a fight about semantic details; events, doses, shots. Then she quickly turns the corner, bringing up intentionally alarming half-truths about vaccine components, preservatives, and stabilizers.

Ms. Dunkle, however, failed to mention a very important point. The author of the reported study, Gayle Delong, is not a scientist, a medical doctor, or doctorate researcher. Ms. Delong is a economics professor with expertise in “international finance” and “money and banking” (as listed on her public CV.) More importantly, she is also on the executive board of a large, anti-vaccine group. The results obtained by Ms. Delong’s research have been shown to be biased and statistically flawed by additional reviewers. Therefore, the interpretations made from her analysis need, at minimum, recalculation.

With a small amount of fact-checking and investigation into these stories, the intention of the authors quickly become clear. Ms. Dunkle and her analysis is a great example of how anti-vaccine groups create junk studies to promote fear. And how media outposts, eager for a hot headline, will regurgitate this information with complete disregard of the potential effect this propaganda could have on our children. Anti-vaccine stories sell papers, your child suffers.

In the face of the resurgence of measles and other vaccine preventable illness, it is unfortunate that the editors of the Baltimore Sun allowed this manipulation of its readers.

For an additional response to Ms. Dunkle’s commentary, click here.