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Criticism of Toronto Star story on HPV vaccine Gardasil’s “dark side”

From Vox.com – “How the Toronto Star massively botched a story about the HPV vaccine.”  It begins:

“On Thursday, the Toronto Star, one of the largest newspapers in North America and the most-read in Canada, published a story that is everything wrong with vaccine reporting in one dangerous package.

The story was, at its core, a collection of unproven anecdotes that suggested, among other things, that dozens of women north of the border had been harmed or worse by the Gardasil HPV vaccine.”

You can visit reporter Julia Belluz’s Twitter page to see more reactions.  Partial screenshot below:

 

Addendum:  On February 11, the next day, the CBC reports on the Toronto Star publisher’s admissions:

“We failed in this case. We let down. And it was in the management of the story at the top,” (Publisher John Cruickshank) says.

Cruickshank says the headline — “A wonder drug’s dark side” — was wrong. That the front page play for the story was a mistake. And he notes that the piece mentions several times that the paper has no evidence that the anecdotes it presented were caused by the HPV vaccine Gardasil.

He says he understands why readers would wrongly take away from the piece that the drug is dangerous.

Among other anecdotes, the piece detailed, with photos, how one young woman died after taking the vaccine and how another has tubes up her nose.

“I do think that kind of dictates how people will read the piece,” he says. “It’s especially troubling that the treatment was in that way during this period that there is an extraordinary debate over inoculations, frankly, between science and nonsense. And we have, at this newspaper, always been on the side of science.”

Cruickshank says that the paper has been publishing a series of pieces over the past few years about oversight of the pharmaceutical industry and that some drugs are no longer available in Canada because of that reporting.

“This was part of that, but this piece didn’t get the thought in the presentation that it should have,” he says.

He also notes that the anecdotes in the HPV article were brought to the paper by doctors.

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