May 31, 2019
Ted Kuntz, father of a vaccine-injured child who is now deceased, recently shared his correspondence with the Canadian Broadcast Corporation. It was so good that we thought it deserved a wider audience.
As many of you are aware, I reached out to the Canadian Broadcast Corporation (CBC) in April 2019 with a simple request—“Might the CBC make a commitment to refrain from using the label ‘anti-vaccine’?”
In May 2019 I received a response from Blair Shewchuk, Standards Editor with CBC News, justifying their use of the term “anti-vaccine”. This is my response to Mr. Shewchuk.
You can see all the correspondence between myself and the CBC at: https://vaccinechoicecanada.com/…/parent-of-vaccine-injure…/
Dear Mr. Shewchuk and Ms. McGuire:
Thank you for the courtesy of a response (May 2, 2019) and your consideration of my invitation to the CBC to refrain from using the label “anti-vaccine” when referring to parents of vaccine injured children.
As the parent of a child who was severely injured by a vaccine product and is now deceased, there is great suffering in losing a child in this way. As great as this suffering is, there is even more suffering in having my son’s injury and death ignored, dismissed and denied in the public square.
While this causes great harm to the heart of a grieving parent, there is an even more significant impact as a result of this systemic denial of the potential of these medical products to cause injury and death. Parents and the medical profession are lulled into a false sense of security that all vaccine products are safe for all children. This denial puts every child at risk and creates a false divide in a community where those who have experienced vaccine injury are excluded, even shunned by their own community.
The public discussion about vaccine product safety is essentially non-existent. Concerned parents are asking legitimate questions and they deserve serious answers rather than denial and dismissals. Instead, the message we are told is that there is nothing to discuss. The mainstream media has utterly failed to properly inform the public about the subject of vaccine product safety, and rather than engaging in respectful dialogue, there is a tendency to bully parents into silence and compliance.
Justification for Use of Term ‘Anti-Vaccine’
With regard to your justification for the use of the term “anti-vaccine”, while this term may be technically accurate, as you have explained, there are valid reasons to carefully re-consider the impact of the use of this term.
When referring to individuals with a developmental or intellectual disability, it is technically accurate to use the terms “idiot” or “retarded”. However, as we have evolved in our understanding and compassion as a community, we have adjusted our language to be more sensitive and respectful.
As a compassionate society, we have also learned to take into consideration how these individuals, groups or cultures wish to be represented or described. When European settlers first arrived in the new world, they referred to our First Nations people as “barbaric” and “savages”. Today, no respectable journalist would use such language when referring to our First Nations people.
Individuals and families who have experienced vaccine injury have repeatedly made requests as to how they wish to be acknowledged or described. Various terms have been put forward including—‘parent of a vaccine injured child’; ‘vaccine risk aware’; or ‘victim of vaccine injury’. Unfortunately, the mainstream media refuses to make use of the terms and descriptors desired by this population.
A Single-Minded Pursuit
I understand the rationale for failing to use such terms. For to use these terms would be to acknowledge that vaccine products, like every medical product, can and do cause injury, even death. In our single-minded pursuit to increase vaccine uptake, it is necessary to deny or disavow any acknowledgement that vaccine products are unsafe for some.
My caution to the CBC is that to persist in the use of inappropriate, dishonest and disrespectful labeling creates the marginalization of a growing segment of the population and supports a false and contentious divide in the community. Families, neighbourhoods and communities are being negatively impacted by this false and destructive construction of their experience of a medical product.
The use of the terms “pro-vaccine” and “anti-vaccine” creates a false, narrow and dishonest construction of the topic of vaccine product safety. The use of dualistic, rigid and constricted language fails to capture the complexity of the topic and reduces debate to an overly simplified perception. It is akin to using language as “good parent” and “bad parent”, or “honest journalist” and “dishonest journalist”. Such reductive framing does a disservice to the community’s understanding of the issue and prevents the opportunity for a fuller and richer exploration of its true complexity.
The use of dishonest and disrespectful language also undermines our trust in the integrity of the medical profession and the media.
Recommendations of Dr. Peter Doshi
Dr. Peter Doshi, Associate Editor for the British Medical Journal (BMJ) made the following statements about good journalism as pertains to vaccinations:
Good journalism on this topic will require abandoning current practices of avoiding interviewing, understanding, and presenting critical voices out of fear that expressing any criticism amounts to presenting a ‘false balance’ that will result in health scares. If patients have concerns, doubts, or suspicions—for example, about the safety of vaccines, this does not mean they are anti-vaccine.
Approaches that label anybody and everybody who raises questions about the right headedness of current vaccine policies as ‘anti-vaccine’ fail on several accounts.
Firstly, they fail to accurately characterize the nature of the concern. Many parents of children with developmental disorders who question the role of vaccines had their children vaccinated . . . and people who have their children vaccinated seem unlikely candidates for the title.
Secondly, they lump all vaccines together as if the decision about risks and benefits is the same irrespective of disease—polio, pertussis, smallpox, mumps, diphtheria, hepatitis B, influenza, varicella, HPV, Japanese encephalitis—or vaccine type—live attenuated, inactivated whole cell, split virus, high dose, low dose, adjuvanted, monovalent, polyvalent, etc. This seems about as intelligent as categorizing people into ‘pro-drug’ and ‘anti-drug’ camps depending on whether they have ever voiced concern over the potential side effects of any drug.
Thirdly, labeling people concerned about the safety of vaccines as ‘anti-vaccine’ risks entrenching positions. The label (or its derogatory derivative ‘anti-vaxxer’) is a form of attack. It stigmatizes the mere act of even asking an open question about what is known and unknown about the safety of vaccines.
Fourthly, the label too quickly assumes that there are ‘two sides’ to every question, and that the ‘two sides’ are polar opposites. This “you’re either with us or against us” thinking is unfit for medicine.
Contrary to the suggestion—generally implicit—that vaccines are risk free (and therefore why would anyone ever resist official recommendations), the reality is that officially sanctioned written medical information on vaccines is—just like drugs—filled with information about common, uncommon, and unconfirmed but possible harms.
Medical journalists have an obligation to the truth. It’s time to listen—seriously and respectfully—to patients’ concerns, not demonize them.”
All Truth Passes Through Three Stages
German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer stated—“All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”
It would appear that the CBC, at this moment, is firmly entrenched in the first two stages of Schopenhauer’s three stage paradigm. There is no doubt that at some point society will accept vaccine product injury as self-evident and get on with the important task of creating safer vaccine products. However, this important task will only be delayed by the persistent use of ridicule and violent opposition to the reality of vaccine injury.
My hope, as expressed in my original letter to the CBC Ombudsperson, is that the CBC would be an organization that would help accelerate this progression in the community’s recognition, understanding, compassion and responsibly addressing the reality of vaccine injury and help heal the false divide that has been created with regard to the differing experiences of the safety of our current vaccine products.
And so, I repeat my original request:
Will the CBC make a commitment to refrain from using the labels “anti-vaccine” and “anti-vaxx” when referring to individuals who have experienced vaccine injury, and parents of vaccine injured children?
This simple act would help to create a climate that makes constructive dialogue more possible and help advance medical knowledge.
I can’t imagine a more worthwhile goal than this.
Ted Kuntz, parent of a vaccine injured child, now deceased