By Erin K. Costello
Call me crazy, but if you are going to come out and accuse a federally funded agency like the CDC (Center for Disease Control) of purposely manipulating the public with lies to do anything, let alone choose to vaccinate, then you need to come at this with your "A" game and bring indisputable facts that support your theory. This is an agency responsible for the overall health and well being of a nation, of our nation. This is an agency funded by tax payers, meaning everything they do is public. Their spending, funding, research, and data, it is all publicly available to see. Which leads me wonder, how is it that Kate Tietje, aka Modern Alternative Mama or MAM for short, can call herself an author when she doesn't know the first thing about research? Or, was her post not so much a creation of laziness, but was a purposeful attempt to mislead her readers? Let's address this the facts first.
In a recent post Kate made on her new Facebook page, Kate Tietje, Author and Activist, Kate writes:
"Propaganda in action. The media's description of the flu season and manipulative stories and ads were not a mistake, nor were they based in facts. They were purposely trying to get people to get a flu shot - EVEN WHEN they know efficacy was incredibly low. How do you feel about that?
Kate then provides a link to a PDF file from Research Gate, along with the image posted to the left here. I'd like to begin with the image.
To start with, on the bottom of the image is a banner which calls this the "flu fear recipe." No where during this image, or the source she links to, is this called the "flu fear recipe." In fact, this links to a publication called "Increasing Awareness and Uptake of Influenza Immunization." The author of this PDF is Glen J Nowak. Dr. Glen Nowak is listed as the Director of Center for Health & Risk Communication, Professor, Advertising for the University of Georgia. Dr. Nowak received his B.S. in 1982 from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, with majors in majors in both economics and communications. He then continued his studies at this same university earning a M.A. degree in journalism in 1987, and a Ph.D. in the field of mass communications in 1990. He is currently a Professor of Advertising and Public Relations and director of the Grady College's Center for Health and Risk Communication. Dr. Nowak authored this publication in 2015.
Before I continue, I'd like to point out many agencies, both private and public, have a public relations team. According to Google, the purpose of a public relations team is to present "the professional maintenance of a favorable public image by a company or other organization or a famous person. The state of the relationship between the public and a company or other organization or a famous person." Kate calls this propaganda. What is propaganda exactly? Again, according to Google, propaganda is: "information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view." Now, let's look at the rest of the image.
It is important to point out that Kate's image is not at all a full picture. To begin with, the title at the top says " "Recipe" for Fostering Public Interest and High Vaccine Demand (2)." The talking points Kate features in the image though are not all from page 2 in this document. I do not know if Kate herself made this image, or simply shared the image from someplace else. Either way, this "author and activist" posted an image that featured highly edited talking points taken out to create the illusion of nefarious intent. In Kate's image the first paragraph reads:
"Medical experts and public health authorities publicly (e.g., via media) state concern and alarm (and predict dire outcomes)- and urge influenza vaccination."
The second paragraph in Kate's image then states:
"Framing of the flu season in terms that motivate behavior (e.g., as "very severe," "more severe than last or past years," "deadly")"
On the original PDF this is not how this "recipe" is listed. Kate's first paragraph is actually listed as step 3, not step 1 of this recipe. Kate's second paragraph is actually found on page 3 of this publication, not on page 2. In other words, the first two steps were purposely left out, along with a section between the two paragraphs found in Kate's image.
On the original version, page one of this "recipe" goes like this:
"1. Influenza's arrival coincides with immunization "season" (i.e., when people can take action)
2. Dominate strain and/or initial cases of disease are:
-Associated with severe illness and/or outcomes
-Occur among people for whom influenza is not generally perceived to cause serious complications (e.g., children, healthy adults, healthy seniors)
-In cities and communities with significant media outlets (e.g., daily newspapers, major TV stations)"
Kate's image conveniently left out this whole section which stated why the vaccine is available during this time, why it is strongly suggested, and how and why the flu is dangerous to some people. In other words, this section first addresses why it is this vaccination is needed for many people. It is simply stating facts. I can see why someone who is against vaccinations as an ideology would choose to leave out these facts.
Page 2 of the original version goes as follows:
"3. Medical experts and public health authorities publicly (e.g., via media) state concern and alarm (and predict dire outcomes)- and urge vaccination.
4. The combination of '2' and '3' result in:
A. Significant media interest and attention.
B. Framing of the flu season in terms that motivate behavior (e.g.,, as "very severe," "more severe than last or past years," "deadly")"
In other words, the facts of the flu should be stated by authorities via media.
The next paragraph of Kate's image is the same as the original PDF, and in order as the original, only this section is found on page 3 of the PDF, Both go on to state:
"Continued reports (e.g., as from health officials and media) that influenza is causing severe illness and/or affecting lots of people, helping foster the perception that many people are susceptible to a bad case of influenza
Visible/tangible examples of the seriousness of the illness (e.g., pictures of children, families of those affected coming forward) and people getting vaccinated (the first to motivate, the latter to reinforce)
References from, and discussions, of pandemic influenza- along with continued reference to the importance of vaccination"
As I mentioned earlier, this article was published in 2015, June 2015 to be exact. Kate's post makes the claim that "they" knew the efficacy was incredibly low. I am assuming by "they" she means the CDC, though I can not be sure to whom she is referring. Regardless, I'd like to address the claim of the vaccine having a low efficacy. Because this was authored in June of 2015, I'm going to use the data for the 2014-2015 flu season from the CDC.
According to the CDC, who sources FluView with their data, the 2014-2015 flu season lasted about 20 weeks, which is much longer than the average 13 weeks from past flu seasons. This season had been the worse season on record (since 2005 when this such record keeping began) for people aged 65 and older. An estimated 313.8 per 100,000 people 65 and older were hospitalized for the flu. People 65 and older accounted for more than 60% of hospitalizations between September 28 through April 18.
Children aged 0-4 years had the second highest rate of hospitalization than in previous years, the highest rate being during the 2012-2013 flu season.
The dominating flu virus for 2014-2015 flu season was Influenza A (H3N2). This virus typically causes higher rates of hospitalization and deaths, particularly in the elderly and children. The total number of pediatric deaths for the 2014-15 flu season was 148. Excluding the year of 2009 when pediatric deaths reported were 358, the range of flu related deaths in children ranged from 1-171 in previous years (such reporting began in 2004).
All of 2014-15 flu season's vaccines were made to protect against, A/California/7/2009 A/Texas/50/2012 H1N1pdm09-like virus, H2N2-like viurs, and a B/Massachusetts/2/2012-like virus. The efficacy rates for influenza A and B viruses for all ages was 23%, and for influenza A (H3N2) for all ages was 13%. Reduced rates were attributed to the fact that more than 80% of circulating influenza A (H3N2) viruses analyzed at the CDC were different or "drifted" from the recommended influenza A (H3N2) vaccine virus.
Yes, the efficacy rate for the 2014-15 flu season was lower than expected, though like I point out, this publication was dated June 2015. Whomever it is Kate is referring to as "they," they couldn't have known the effectiveness of the vaccine until the data was available. This applies to every flu season mind you. No one was going on TV pushing a knowingly ineffective influenza vaccine since efficacy isn't known until the end of the flu season.
This report, should you choose to read it on the link provided, is an outline of how to combat the spread of influenza during the period of time known as the "flu season." This is an outline written by a communications and public relations expert employed by a university. This is not written by the CDC, though it appears to have been written for the CDC. This outline is also clearly needed since the facts and the data do not lie. The flu can cause sickness, higher than normal hospitalizations, medical costs, and even death. The less people who become vaccinated the higher these listed rates become. This affects all Americans in one way or another. People call in sick to work, hospitals lose money, insurance premiums can increase, medical bills pile up, incomes are lost, parents miss work to tend to sick children, children miss school due to illness, and our loved ones or ourselves can die. This is why a public relations plan can be effective and is needed. Reading the whole report shows you how this is rationalized, why this is the case, and what the intended outcomes are of applying such a plan. There is no manipulation attempt by the CDC, the author Dr. Nowak, the media, or "they," whomever "they" are. There is however an manipulation attempt in Kate's image and her post comment. This becomes obvious when she includes the link to the PDF of the publication showcased. The reason this becomes apparent is because any respectable "author" would have read the link before posting/sharing this image. A minute of research would have been conducted just to verify the accuracy of the image. To not perform this research is just plain lazy, and shows one to not truly be an author at all. I do not consider myself an author. I do not consider myself a journalist. I do however still know to verify anything I post on venues such as this blog and our Facebook page. Whether this manipulation happened due to Kate's laziness, or due to her intent, she still chose to post something she either didn't care was propaganda at best, or knew was propaganda at worst. Her plan was to manipulate.
I won't ask how you feel about this. I'd like to know what you THINK about this?