Bryan Vartabedian, M.D. (@Doctor_V)


(ED: This issue is Central as to what the Internet is both good and bad.  Some uninformed false, bad opinions are out there, and thanks for DocV for stepping up to the plate.   Twitter is powerful!)

(Bryan Vartabedian, MD. Pediatric gastroenterologist at Texas Children’s Hospital/Baylor College of Medicine who writes on his popular blog, 33Charts,  and thinks about the convergence of social media and medicine.)

Pediatricians are fighting back against misinformation fanned by reporting that appears to be driven by ratings rather than service to the community they serve. Dr. Bryan Vartabedian responded to a story done by Diane Tuazon at a CBS CBS +0.28% affiliate in Las Vegas by posting a comment. For some reason, 8NewsNow suppressed his comment despite his obvious qualifications.

Dr. V, as he is known, decided to demonstrate what Jay Rosen has described as the audience becoming the publisher by posting a piece on his blog and linking to it on Twitter (he has nearly 15,000 followers). Dr. V has also used it as a teachable moment for his peers on why they should engage with social media to benefit their communities and profession. Read Dr. V’s full post including the comment that was suppressed by 8NewsNow Las Vegas.

Here is what Dr. V had to say in his well-read blog.

This week 8NewsNow Las Vegas aired a segment on childhood immunizations.  The segment is worth a look only as a means of showcasing how biased, poorly researched reporting can potentially influence the thinking of anxious parents.  The piece opens by spontaneously entertaining the question about whether children even need immunizations and goes on to offer the irresponsible suggestion that deadly childhood infections might be preventable with diet.

Feeling some responsibility to join the conversation, I posted the following comment on 8NewsNow’s site which they refused to publish.  Beyond suppression of the facts, it would seem that suppression of dialog is another way to shape how a story unfolds.  What those at 8NewsNow who elected to disallow my participation don’t understand is that (in the words of Jay Rosen) the audience has now become the publisher.  Despite their best efforts, they can’t stop the conversation about what parents need and want to understand.

While this story offers equal time between a chiropractor (represented as a ‘holistic doctor’) and a pediatrician, altered immunization schedules concocted by non-physicians aren’t worthy of equal time. While your story has viewers believing that every parent has the knowledge to implement an individualized approach to childhood immunization, this simply isn’t the case. The development and safe scheduling of vaccines to reliably prevent devastating childhood disease is based on our understanding of specific infectious diseases, years of accumulated research as well as the consensus of many of the country’s greatest infectious disease minds. The prevention of childhood disease is not a democratic process where we pick and choose what’s popular or fashionable.

It should also be noted there isn’t a single reference demonstrating that an “alternate vaccine schedule” is actually beneficial for children. This slanted bit of ‘reporting’ promulgates the ideology of a vocal, but deluded, minority.

Pediatricians – those best positioned to advocate for children – understand the basis for our current immunization schedule and use it in their practices. These pediatricians understand that the “alternative vaccine schedule” has never been endorsed, approved, or recognized by any body of physicians. And to suggest that your story offers a ‘debate between doctors’ should be seen as an embarrassment for any news organization.

Your piece misrepresents and sets back two generations of work by tireless child health advocates who have worked to eradicate deadly childhood disease. Diane Tuazon, as well as the producers who left her unsupervised, should be ashamed of themselves for fueling the fires of vaccine hesitancy and putting those unable to advocate for themselves at further risk. Channel 8 should take steps to remove this segment. Going forward, 8NewsNow should work harder to create reporting that’s in line with evidence-based medicine.

This situation illustrates why every physician needs to be part of the public dialog.

UDPATE: Dr. V’s comment was added back to the article. Good to see that 8NewsNow is seeing the mistake they made. It’s unfortunate it took a firestorm and a blog comment. Also unfortunate is a blog comment has nowhere near the impact of a broadcast segment. I hope they run a piece outlining some of the points made in the comments including by local MDs such as @ZDoggMD.

Dr. V tweeted the update below…


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