Media in the UK is often so beyond the limits it adheres to when it comes to reporting about controversial issues.
Think about the Alfie Patten case, the craziness about which I’ve commented on several occasions.
But there was another case where the media showed its extremely irresponsible side.
And that case surrounded the death of a teenage girl back in 2009 after she was given a cervical cancer vaccine.
The media’s reaction was frantic and hastened.
Several reports immediately claimed that authorities in the health sector were shutting down vaccination programmes in the face of the unfortunate event.
But the Department of Health and other officials soon rebuffed those claims and stated a temporary delay in some parts of the country for new variants of the required drugs to reach.
By then, the producer of that drug (named Cervarix) manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline was also under licensing scrutiny by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulatory body of the United States.
And even though GSK denied that the incident in the UK and the questioning of the drug in the United States were altogether separate matters, there is no doubt that a considerable controversy had been sparked by media coverage.
As it turned out, the media scaremongering was unjustified.
Postmortem results showed that the girl who had died had a tumour in her chest.
But the damage had already been done.
Many schools in the UK declined to participate in the vaccination programme.
All this time, experts in the medical field had continued to reassure people that the drug was completely safe and had been tested across the world on massive samples of patients.
But with the panic surrounding the case created entirely by the media’s desire to latch onto anything controversial must have fallen on deaf ears for quite a while.
Not only that, sometimes people fail to follow up on the news and make their minds up based on some poor media reporting.
And since teenagers are more likely to be susceptible to the panic the media creates, the whole wave of fear possibly caused far more damage than can be estimated.
That’s because apart from schools having the ability to say no to the program, individual students could also do the same.
Perhaps some of them, although they realised that the vaccine did not cause the death based on the subsequent news release, could have begun taking the symptoms of the medicine more seriously.
This may have happened even though tonnes of other drugs have similar symptoms (such as headaches, soreness in the arms, dizziness and nausea).
And this kind of knee-jerk reaction may have had lethal implications because even back in 2009, around 3000 women in the UK had cervical cancer each year, with a third of them passing away from it.
And with research progressing a lot since then, here’s hoping an event like the sad death back then doesn’t occur again, or if it does, the media can react to it more thoughtfully.