Following a segment of her daily show Katie that called the HPV vaccine “controversial,” Katie Couric, journalist and host, defended — and acknowledged problems with — her coverage.
The segment, which aired on Dec. 4, was titled “The HPV-vaccine controversy” and focused on two mothers who believed the vaccine for human papillomavirus (HPV) harmed their daughters. The women are understandably concerned parents, but critics of Couric (including myself) argued she should know better. There’s no scientific evidence confirming that the HPV vaccine causes deaths, and the risks of the vaccine are the same as other vaccines. Public-health officials say the immunization is the best way to protect against cervical cancer and genital warts.
Prior to the show, Couric was criticized for being alarmist and for creating a debate that didn’t exist by focusing on extremely rare (and unfounded) side effects of the vaccine. In her more than 1,000-word essay that appeared on the Huffington Post site, Couric explains that as a journalist she felt she could not ignore the adverse-event reports, but that she does support the HPV vaccine, and has had both her daughters vaccinated.
Although Couric never apologizes for the segment outright, she acknowledges that the coverage may have been one-sided, writing:
Following the show, and in fact before it even aired, there was criticism that the program was too anti-vaccine and anti-science, and in retrospect, some of that criticism was valid. We simply spent too much time on the serious adverse events that have been reported in very rare cases following the vaccine. More emphasis should have been given to the safety and efficacy of the HPV vaccines.
Couric goes on to say, “There is no definitive proof that these two situations were related to the vaccine … However, the time spent telling these stories was disproportionate to the statistical risk attendant to the vaccines and greater perspective is needed.” Read Couric’s full essay here.