What’s the difference between spreading gossip and circulating misinformation?
If you’re raising children, there is no difference. I was sitting at the dinner table when one of the kids said there was a doctor at the CDC who ‘covered up’ vaccine research data and then ‘blew the whistle’ on his published study. “It was on the Internet in current events at school today …”
Uhhhhhm, OK… “But you can’t believe everything you read on the Internet. Right, Mom?”
In that moment, I felt a real sense of pride in my children. But I was concerned and skeptical about whatever it was they had read at school, and I needed to know more.
Setting aside time to self-educate, to write and then to edit, I started with a Google Search. And I learned a lot. But I sifted through a great deal of hype, too. The players, the problem and the place they find themselves today is beyond the scope of this blog, but if you want to trust me to do your homework, you can read more (by clicking the embedded links) here, here and here. It’s not what you think.
It’s not exactly what I thought either. But it is an important lesson and an example of how truth and part of the truth become outright misinformation and both seem to spread like wildfire on the Internet. When did we lose sight of the ‘Grandma Wisdom’ that told us not to believe everything we hear? (or read on the Internet?)
That brought me to my next question: Whose job is it to prevent the spread of misinformation in our world? It’s everybody’s responsibility. As part of a larger physician community, I write often about vaccines, and I have long subscribed to the idea that transparency has great value. If something is happening at the CDC raising concerns for some regarding vaccine research data, I want to understand the issues so that I can understand what’s true.
I am increasingly concerned about the viral spread of vaccine misinformation, and my self-education about the CDC scientist was proof-positive that there are many who could care less about what is really true. Telling part of the truth is too much like telling a lie, and both are so prevalent on the Internet that parent concern over vaccines is an understandable response.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Good information IS available. I’m looking forward to watching the PBS Nova special, Vaccines: Calling The Shots.
He’s not a Whistleblower. He’s a PhD who published scholarly research in a peer-reviewed journal that was analyzed for accuracy and correct adherence to the scientific method. Data that passed rigorous statistical analysis was published. Other data that was incomplete was not published for stated reasons. Nothing was covered up as I read the studies. Admonishment may be appropriate for those who failed to further examine unpublished data with additional study. A follow up research study to clarify that data could have prevented the appearance of misdoing. Transparency and honest reporting are as important as the scientific method. Ongoing efforts to understand vaccine risk and benefit is absolutely indicated.
The CDC doctor-researcher would want people to better understand vaccine immunology in light of all this recent vaccine misinformation, you included. If I’m calling the shots, may I suggest we both set the DVR to learn more? Plan to tune in on Wednesday, September 10 at 9pm to watch the Nova PBS program, Vaccines: Calling the Shots. We are all responsible for learning and telling the truth about vaccines.