Local ABC Stations Report Gardasil Story Better than ABCNews.com

Local ABC affiliates are providing information on a controversial vaccine for girls that – as yet – is not being reported at the network level.

The vaccine in question, Gardasil, protects against the sexually transmitted disease HPV (human papillomavirus), some strains of which cause cervical cancer.

Local ABC affiliates in Chicago, Las Vegas, and central Michigan have reported that, following assertions that almost 10,000 people have suffered side effects from Gardasil, the CDC is undertaking a comprehensive study to determine whether incidents of death, paralysis and other serious side effects are linked to the vaccine.  The local stations have posted these stories on their Web sites within the last two days.

Meanwhile over at the network's Web site, ABCNews.com, the most recent Gardasil reporting was a Reuters story posted July 22.  The story reads like a press release from Merck, the maker of the controversial vaccine.  The headline reads “FDA, CDC Back Merck's Gardasil Shots as Safe.”

The Reuters story reported that the CDC and FDA have “reviewed more than 9700 reports of health problems following Gardasil injections.” Reuters basically dismisses the “six percent of the cases” which “were deemed serious events.”  Twenty of those “serious events” are deaths.  The story quoted from and FDA/CDC statement that said, “There was not a common pattern to the deaths that would suggest they were caused by the vaccine.”

No mention is made of the CDC's announcement that a comprehensive study on Gardasil is due to be released in October.

Local ABC stations in Chicago, Las Vegas, Ohio and Michigan out-reported their network.  Flint, Michigan affiliate WJRT features a CNN story highlighting the real tears and pain of a girl by the name of Taquaria.

Two months after getting the shot, Taquaria says she got a rash on her face and arms, leaving these scars. She had swelling all over, pain in her joints and poor circulation in her fingertips.  

The story concluded with information that the CDC will release a study of Gardasil's safety in October.

KTNV, the ABC affiliate in Las Vegas, and WHIO in Dayton, edited the CNN story and also mentioned the pending study.  Chicago's WLS reported that there are concerns about the vaccine's safety and reported “an alarming number of serious adverse reactions and even deaths” have been documented since the drug “hit the market 2 ½ years ago.”

As CMI documented in July, the networks have largely ignored or downplayed the brewing Gardasil controversy.  WorldNetDaily first reported a story that Judicial Watch, a watchdog group that investigates government corruption, had uncovered an FDA document listing thousands of cases of serious side effects associated with the vaccine.  That report hit the internet June 30 and it was a full week before the networks paid attention.

Will the CDC's announcement that it's investigating the vaccine's safety spur the media to pay more attention to the story?  On both the WJRT and ABCNews.com Web sites, there are comments following the stories from parents whose daughters received the vaccine and experienced adverse reactions. 

Gardasil is being administered to young girls before they become sexually active, and many states have either passed or are considering passing mandatory Gardasil vaccination laws.  This story should be at the top of every network health reporter's list.  Real girls have died. Real girls are suffering.  The nation deserves real reporting, not a recitation of Merck talking points. 


Kristen Fyfe is senior writer at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center.