Katie Couric has responded to critics of her Katie segment on the HPV vaccine Gardasil, admitting her Dec. 4 show may have been too skewed towards the anti-vaccine sentiment.

Katie Couric Interviews Woman Who Claims HPV Vaccine Killed Her Daughter

On the show, Couric interviewed women who felt that the HPV vaccine, Gardasil, had caused negative side effects. One mother, Emily Tarsell, said she believes Gardasil caused the death of her daughter, Christina in 2008 – she was 21 at the time and had completeted the three round of shots needed for the vaccine.

Tarsill is currently pursuing legal action against Gardasil, a vaccine approved by the FDA. Another mother, Rosemary Mathis, appeared on the show with her daughter, Lauren, and claimed that the Gardasil vaccine had strong negative side effects in her daughter, causing her to be ill for over a year. Lauren says she suffered from constant headaches and nausea after receiving each injection, and Rosemary felt ignored when she brought up these side effects to Lauren’s doctor.

Other guests on the show included Katie medical correspondent, Dr. Mallika Marshall, a proponent of the vaccine, and another doctor who works as an HPV researcher, but the show did not include any testimonials from those who had no problems following the administration of the vaccine.

The show aired and immediately ignited a firestorm online, with some viewers terrified by the broadcast and others upset and many critics accused the program of showing a biased view on the issue of vaccination. The controversy inspired Katie to release a statement on their official website explaining the intention of the report. The statement defended their decision to show the broadcast as is, and emphasized that the decision to get vaccinated is one to be made with one’s doctor.

“This is an important personal decision to be made in consultation with your doctor and other family advisors. The CDC says the HPV vaccine has been used in the U.S. and around the world and has been very safe, however, any medicine could possibly cause a serious problem. They also state the risk of any vaccine causing a serious injury or death is extremely small,” reads the statement.

“We do not want to leave our viewers with an irrational fear of the vaccine,” the statement continues, promising to continue the debate on the website so that viewers can be better informed.

Katie Couric Admits Mistake With HPV Segment

On Tuesday, Dec. 10, Couric posted an op-ed on the Huffington Post, laying out her thoughts on the show and the merit of exploring the possible ramifications of receiving the HPV vaccine. In her article, Couric acknowledges that she may have made a mistake regarding how she built her segment and admitted there should have been more objective information given about the vaccine.

“Learning about this relatively recent preventive measure is tremendously important, and I felt it was a subject well worth exploring. 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 writes.

In her essay, Couric also makes sure to say that, while she values the stories of the women who lost their lives after receiving the HPV vaccine, there is no definitive proof that the vaccine itself caused health problems leading to death. Couric explains that she felt these two stories deserved to be told, and her regret lies not in including them, but in not devoting equal air time to the positive consequences of the HPV vaccine.

Couric clarifies that her intention with the show was not to condemn HPV vaccinations, but to help parents make informed decisions when presented with the option of giving the vaccine to their children. To conclude her article, Couric re-states that her personal opinion is that “the benefits of the HPV vaccine far outweigh its risks.”

Olivia Truffaut-Wong

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