Katie Couric Sorry Her Show Added to HPV Anti-Vaccine Hysteria

Image: Katie Couric Sorry Her Show Added to HPV Anti-Vaccine Hysteria

Wednesday, 11 Dec 2013 11:17 AM

By Michael Mullins

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Katie Couric says she regrets the focus of a recent segment on her daytime talk show that was roundly criticized for being perceived as anti-vaccination with regards to the HPV vaccine.

In a Huffington Post piece Couric penned that was published on Tuesday, the journalist turned talk show host acknowledged and agreed with some of her critics.

"Following the show, and in fact before it even aired, there was criticism that the program was too anti-vaccine and anti-science, and in retrospect, some of that criticism was valid," Couric wrote.

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"We simply spent too much time on the serious adverse events that have been reported in very rare cases following the vaccine. More emphasis should have been given to the safety and efficacy of the HPV vaccines," Couric continued. "As someone who has spent the last 15 years relaying important medical information with the goal of improving public health, it is critical to me that people know the facts."

The segment, which aired last week, focused on two sympathetic guests. The first was a mother who was convinced that her 20-year-old daughter died after a cycle of Gardasil immunization. The second was that of a family whose 14-year-old daughter fell ill after the shots, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The guests' claims were not substantiated by any medical evidence, the Times noted. There was reportedly only one guest who argued in support of HPV vaccination in the segment.

There were several detractors in the media, including Time's Alexandra Sifferlin, who compared Couric to Jenny McCarthy, the former Playboy centerfold-turned-autism activist and anti-vaccine advocate. McCarthy, who once claimed her son's autism was caused by the vaccines he received, is currently a cohost with ABC's "The View."

The Los Angeles Times' Michael Hiltzik wrote that Couric's segment gave the anti-vaccination movement mainstream credibility.

"Daytime talk shows like Couric's thrive on conflict and controversy, but injecting doubt and emotionalism into important medical discussions and removing science from the arena is playing with fire," Hiltzik wrote.

"Katie Couric established her credibility as a spokeswoman for preventive medicine more than a decade ago, by undergoing a colonoscopy live on the "Today" show. Now she'll be known for promoting junk medicine instead," Hiltzik concluded.

Having lost her husband, Jay Monahan, a lawyer and NBC News legal analyst, who died of colon cancer in 1998 at the age of 42, Couric wrote that she has long been an advocate for research related to the illness, adding that the segment's purpose was to help parents make informed decisions about such vaccinations.

"I know there is a segment of the population that has expressed intense concern over vaccines in general and that this is an emotional issue for some," Couric wrote. "But based on the science, my personal view is that the benefits of the HPV vaccine far outweigh its risks. That is why, as I said on my show, 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."

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