NVIC claims “intimidation” and “censorship” over Delta videos

16 Nov

The National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) is angry with the American Academy of Pediatrics. It is very hard not to follow up a sentence like that with “so, what else is new?” The AAP promotes vaccines and vaccine safety. NVIC, not so much. What caused the present altercation? Both organizations were invited to place advertisements/information segments on Delta Airlines in flight entertainment for this month. After finding out that Delta would also host ads by NVIC, the AAP sent a letter to Delta.

In response, NVIC has issued a press release: “National Vaccine Information Center Calls Out AAP for Using Public Intimidation to Censor NVIC Flu Prevention Video Offered to Delta Travelers”

“Public Intimidation”? AAP sent a letter to Delta. That’s public intimidation? I (and others) obtained a copy of the letter and made it public. I guess that’s the “public” part. A weak argument. “Intimidation”? Sorry, just no evidence to support that word.

“Censor”? Strong words from Barbara Loe Fisher, who attempted to quash public discussion with her lawsuit against Paul Offit, Amy Wallace and Conde Nast. (a lawsuit she lost, just to remind you that free speech is still protected in the U.S.).

So, on the one hand we have NVIC and Barbara Loe Fisher who use lawsuits to try to change the public discourse, and the AAP who send letters on the other hand. And we are to believe it is the AAP who are promoting censorship?

Before we get to the NVIC press release, here is the letter that In Flight Media sent to organizations asking them to buy space for their “Lifestlye365-Cold, Flu, and Fall Allergy Season” series. Part of the offer by In Flight Media was the chance to advertise the organization.

Subject: IMA/Delta Air Lines Present “Lifestlye365-Cold, Flu, and Fall Allergy Season” Featuring [REDACTED]

Dear [REDACTED]

We would like to invite [REDACTED] to participate in our in-flight video series called Lifestyle 365, now airing on Delta Air Lines and Virgin America. We work with organizations around the globe creating in-flight video features that raise the profile on important topics affecting every ones lives. “Where you Live”…“How you Live”…and “What you Do”…it’s your Lifestyle 365.

For our November 2011 video segment we are producing a special health spotlight just in time for “Cold, Flu and Fall Allergy Season.” At a time of year when the weather is changing, kids are going back to school, and families are traveling for the holidays, it is important to raise awareness on the latest resources available for preventing and treating cold, flu and allergy symptoms. This is also a perfect time to remind our audience of the importance of adult and childhood vaccination by showing them when and where to go to get caught up on regular immunizations as well as this years’ flu vaccine. Why not take this opportunity to showcase your organization or product in front of millions of captive airline passengers!

We are proud to extend this opportunity to your organization and have attached additional details regarding pricing and exposure options for each airline. We are offering an exclusive 5-minute option for a rate of $49,500 (Standard is $75,000) with commitment by May 30, 2011.

Here’s a bit more on what you can expect by joining us in this program:

·Placement and production of content utilizing your raw footage within our Lifestyle365 program

·IMA to provide script, voice over and video production creative services at no additional charge, excluding all on- location shoot services.

·Delta Air Lines: Segment to air for a full calendar month on over 17,375 flights in front of an average of 2.5 million passengers

·Virgin America: Segment to air for 60 consecutive days, in front of 880,000 passengers on 7,500 flights

·Delta and Virgin America’s fleets are equipped with WIFI, passengers watching the program can log into your website right from their seat using their laptops or smart phones and instantly make a donation and learn more about your cause

·Show reference in Sky magazine and http://entertainment.delta.com/television/ (would link directly to your website).

·Your organization will maintain the rights to the completed piece to use in future marketing initiatives.

·Video placement on IMA’s YouTube channel, Facebook, and other social media sites

For more than a decade in the airline industry, In-Flight Media Associates (IMA) continues to bring the utmost level of innovation and creativity to organizations around the globe looking to reach the captive airline audience. With a core philosophy that entertainment attracts attention…advertising may not; they create and deliver messages that resonate with passengers in a non-intrusive way.

Our portfolio can be viewed at http://www.in-flightmedia.com. I will contact you in a few days to add more details, but please feel free to contact me at 760-944-6575, or via email at allison@in-flightmedia.com should you have any questions.

Thanks in advance for your consideration. We look forward to helping build Your Image in the Sky®.

Sincerely,

Let me draw your attention to two statements in the above:

“Why not take this opportunity to showcase your organization or product in front of millions of captive airline passengers!”

and

Delta and Virgin America’s fleets are equipped with WIFI, passengers watching the program can log into your website right from their seat using their laptops or smart phones and instantly make a donation and learn more about your cause

Clearly, a big piece of the motivation for organizations (NVIC included) to purchase time was to advertise themselves. NVIC acts as though the complaints (including mine) were not about this at all. How can I tell? Well, the NVIC has responded with a press release. A press release quite full of straw-man arguments:

WASHINGTON, Nov 15, 2011 (BUSINESS WIRE) — The non-profit National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) is calling public pressure placed on Delta Air Lines by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to censor an NVIC video about flu prevention an “act of intimidation” to block public access to full and accurate health information about influenza.

NVIC was offered the opportunity to be a paid sponsor of a video about staying well during the flu season that would be included in Delta’s in-flight programming during November 2011. On Nov. 7, Forbes magazine published an article with a copy of a letter signed by the AAP President Robert Block, MD, accusing Delta of “putting children’s lives at risk” by showing travelers the NVIC sponsored video because it contains “harmful messages.”

In the AAP letter, the Pharma-funded medical trade association alleged that “The [NVIC] ad urges viewers to become informed about influenza and how to stay well during the flu season without resorting to the influenza vaccine.”

NVIC co-founder and president Barbara Loe Fisher responded, “Without cause, the AAP has used their considerable financial resources and political influence to intimidate Delta for simply showing a video that offers accurate information about ways to stay healthy during the flu season, including talking with doctors about getting a flu shot. Censorship and attacks on consumer advocacy groups working to institute informed consent protections in public health policies should not be tolerated in this or any society that cherishes free speech and the right to self determination.”

The AAP letter stated that “influenza vaccine continues to be the best way to protect against the disease,” without acknowledging that a recently published scientific study found that the flu vaccine is less than 70 percent effective in preventing influenza, which confirms previous studies questioning influenza vaccine efficacy and effectiveness. A top flu expert at the CDC has said that about 80 percent of flu-like illness reported in the U.S. every year is not influenza but is caused by other viruses and bacteria.

“The AAP’s leadership is clearly threatened by educated consumers, who have every right to engage in critical thinking when making choices about how to stay healthy,” said Fisher. “Why is the AAP so afraid to admit that washing our hands, covering our mouths when coughing, eating nutritious foods, getting enough sleep, exercising, and lowering stress are also important ways to stay well during the flu season and all year around?”

In the letter to Delta, the AAP alleged that NVIC “opposes the nation’s recommended childhood immunization schedule and promotes the unscientific practice of delaying or skipping vaccines altogether.” During NVIC’s three-decades of work to secure vaccine safety and informed consent protections in U.S. public health laws, NVIC has criticized one-size-fits-all vaccine mandates and advocated for more and better quality vaccine safety science but has not told individuals to use a particular vaccine schedule or told them not to get vaccinated.

“NVIC is a non-profit charity led by educated health care consumers. We are not doctors and do not tell people how or when to vaccinate or advise people not to vaccinate,” said NVIC’s Fisher. “We have a long public record of promoting well-informed, voluntary health care decision-making.”

This is the second time this year that the AAP has publicly attacked NVIC and taken action to censor information NVIC has made available to the public. In April, the AAP publicized a similar letter sent to CBS in an unsuccessful attempt to strong arm CBS into removing NVIC’s 15-second message shown on the Jumbotron in Times Square through the month of April.

Parent co-founders of NVIC worked with Congress on the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 and were responsible for securing historic informing, recording and reporting safety provisions in that law. The AAP and vaccine manufacturers lobbied Congress to secure a shield from civil liability for vaccine injuries and deaths in the 1986 law.

“Twenty five years ago, the AAP got liability protection for their pediatrician members, who are no longer accountable in a court of law when the liability-free vaccines they give ending up hurting a child,” said Fisher. “Almost immediately following the 1986 law’s passage, the AAP narrowed medical contraindications to vaccination so that, today, almost no child qualifies for a medical exemption to vaccination. Now, the powerful AAP is lobbying in states like California and Washington to strip parents of the legal right to exercise informed consent to medical risk taking for their children or file non-medical vaccine exemptions. This is becoming a civil and human rights issue involving censorship, inequality, discrimination and persecution of citizens by medical doctors wielding too much power.”

The National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC.org) is a 501C3 charity founded in 1982 by parents of vaccine injured children and is dedicated to preventing vaccine injuries and deaths through public education and protecting the informed consent ethic in medicine.

I will say I found this statement amusing: “Without cause, the AAP has used their considerable financial resources and political influence to intimidate Delta …”

Yes, the AAP used “considerable financial resources and political influence”. No ordinary organization could send a letter! Why, they used the United States Government in the form of the Postal Service to deliver their message. Would that I could tap into that sort of “political influence”.

Without cause? Perhaps NVIC could review the AAP letter, or the many complaints others have made about Delta’s decision to host the NVIC video.

Let me put it simply: Delta should consider seriously whether they wish to promote an organization like the NVIC. Playing these advertisements was clearly a promotion of the organization, as spelled out in the letter In Flight Media sent.

“Censorship and attacks on consumer advocacy groups working to institute informed consent protections in public health policies should not be tolerated in this or any society that cherishes free speech and the right to self determination”

I find it hard to give Ms. Fisher the moral high ground on free speech issues after she sued Paul Offit (and lost), Wired Magazine and Conde Nast.

That said, why do I think that Delta should reconsider supporting NVIC? How about the NVIC press release?

The AAP letter stated that “influenza vaccine continues to be the best way to protect against the disease,” without acknowledging that a recently published scientific study found that the flu vaccine is less than 70 percent effective in preventing influenza, which confirms previous studies questioning influenza vaccine efficacy and effectiveness. A top flu expert at the CDC has said that about 80 percent of flu-like illness reported in the U.S. every year is not influenza but is caused by other viruses and bacteria.

First off, notice how NVIC glossed over the statement by the AAP that “influenza vaccine continues to be the best way to protect against the disease”? They don’t come out and say AAP is right or wrong. What they do is follow it with nonsequiturs which downplay the need for the vaccine.

It’s pretty slick. They get to give the impression that the AAP is incorrect about the statement, and retain deniability.

NVIC: how about a simple statement. Is the flu vaccine the best way to protect against the disease or not?

On with the paragraph. NVIC pose that the 70% efficacy of the flu vaccine as a bad thing that is being kept hidden. Hey, I’d like a flu vaccine that was more than 70% effective, but, 70% is well worth it. 70% less chance of being sick with the flu? 70% less chance of passing the flu on to someone who is vulnerable to injury or death from the illness? I’d say “sign me up” except that I already got my shot this year.

That said, can NVIC offer an alternative which is proven better than 70%? Can they provide a method which is better than the combination of taking care of one’s self, attention to hygiene, plus the vaccine?

The second sentence in that paragraph is also troubling. “A top flu expert at the CDC has said that about 80 percent of flu-like illness reported in the U.S. every year is not influenza but is caused by other viruses and bacteria.” So? The statement was “influenza vaccine continues to be the best way to protect against the disease”, not “influenza vaccine continues to be the best way to protect against the disease and every other disease which is similar.”

This is exactly the sort of message I disagree with NVIC about. Downplaying the need for vaccines. Does NVIC say, “80% of flu-like illnesses might be caused by other disease–so, we should be looking for vaccines to protect against those viruses and bacteria as well”? Or, “Influenza vaccines might be only 70% effective, so we want research into a more effective vaccine”? Hardly.

NVIC claims that the AAP is “accusing Delta of “putting children’s lives at risk” by showing travelers the NVIC sponsored video because it contains “harmful messages.”

See how they want to ignore anything outside of their video? Let’s take a look at the paragraph with the “putting children’s lives at risk” phrase:

By providing advertising space to an organization like the NVIC, which opposes the nation’s recommended childhood immunization schedule and promotes the unscientific practice of delaying or skipping vaccines altogether, you are putting the lives of children at risk, leaving them unprotected from vaccine-preventable diseases.

AAP are objecting to promotion of the NVIC in general, not just the video. I guess NVIC didn’t want to address the question of whether they promote delaying or skipping vaccines, and whether this is unscientific.

NVIC tries to frame itself as a “vaccine safety” organization, asking only for “safer vaccines”. As I pointed out in an earlier post, they never define “safe”. They don’t seem to have called any vaccine “safe”.

Frankly, this looks like an effort for NVIC to try to get more publicity. In doing so, they are probably guaranteeing that Delta will not accept their advertisements in the future (or they have given up on any future spots) .This is a public relations nightmare for Delta. Last thing they want is a public debate about how they are contributing to a group who is putting children’s lives at risk. And, let’s face it, the American Academy of Pediatrics is well respected.

I’ll close by responding to a statement in the press release: “NVIC is a non-profit charity led by educated health care consumers’

Left Brain/Right Brain is also a group of educated health care consumers. Educated enough to reject the NVIC’s message. The real message, not the one they hide behind. The message of a group that thinks that vaccines are a “holocaust of poison“.

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9 Responses to “NVIC claims “intimidation” and “censorship” over Delta videos”

  1. Emily Willingham November 16, 2011 at 04:18 #

    “This is also a perfect time to remind our audience of the importance of adult and childhood vaccination by showing them when and where to go to get caught up on regular immunizations as well as this years’ flu vaccine.”
    Someone at In Flight Media didn’t do their homework when they were making up the contact list for this particular campaign.

    NVIC also tries to frame itself as an “informed consent” organization, with the argument that no one can give informed consent regarding vaccines because no one knows to a certainty about every single molecule in them and their effects. Based on that definition of informed consent, there would never be clinical studies of any medical intervention, anywhere. They obviously don’t understand (or pretend not to understand) the real intent and meaning of informed consent and have twisted it to make themselves look sincerely concerned and scientific.

  2. Andrew November 16, 2011 at 04:27 #

    Paying Delta to run deceitful ads is good; complaining about the ads is an attempt to use “considerable financial resources and political influence”.

  3. Andrew November 16, 2011 at 04:28 #

    Correction:

    This is typical sophistry: Paying Delta to run deceitful ads is good; complaining about the ads is an attempt to use “considerable financial resources and political influence”.

  4. Liz Ditz November 16, 2011 at 21:59 #

    Emily, the email pitch letter Sullivan quoted was to a vaccine promoting non-profit, not NVIC.

    My theory is that some low-level person at IMA was told to compile a list of vaccine organizations, and not realizing that NVIC is anti-vaccine, included NVIC in the pitch parade.

  5. Liz Ditz November 16, 2011 at 23:02 #

    And check out the parody at Harpocrates Speaks (formerly known as Silenced by Age of Autism) quoting Barbie Moe Flusher, the head of National Vaccine Misinformation Center:

    http://silencedbyageofautism.blogspot.com/2011/11/national-vaccine-misinformation-center.html

    In a press release, Flusher states, “Just because we bend the truth, the AAP has used their free speech rights to politely reprimand Delta for simply showing a video that offers a polished, glossy cover to entice people to visit our site during flu season, including what any rational physician would recommend, like talking with doctors about getting a flu shot, which I think is totally crap, but that’s beside the point. Exercising free speech and consumer activism to silence dangerous misinformation like ours should not be tolerated in this or any society that cherishes deluded individuals and ne’erdowells preying on the uninformed.”

    Read the whole thing.

  6. Julian Frost November 17, 2011 at 07:36 #

    I just read it. Thanks for the laugh, Liz!

  7. McD November 19, 2011 at 07:16 #

    Thanks Liz, Todd nailed it.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Flus.us » Blog Archive » NVIC claims “intimidation” and “censorship” over Delta videos » Flus.us - November 16, 2011

    [...] NVIC claims “intimidation” and “censorship” over Delta videos [...]

  2. Anti-vaccine grande dame Barbara Loe Fisher cries "intimidation" | | UTILITY DOCUMENTSUTILITY DOCUMENTS - November 16, 2011

    [...] series, with a carrot total being an offer to publicize their organization. Take a gander during a letter sent to several organizations. All during a discount, too: We are unapproachable to extend this event to your classification and [...]

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