CBS airs anti-vaccine Jumbotron ad

Via Skepchick, CBS will be airing ads from the National Vaccine Information Center and Mercola on the CBS Jumbotron in Time’s Square (NVIC announcement here). This, while there’s a measles outbreak in Minnesota (and another one being investigated in Utah), and we’re on the heels of the worst pertussis outbreak in generations in California. Shameful.


I recently learned that CBS will be playing ads featuring misinformation by the National Center for Vaccine information Vaccine Information Center. These ads are misleading and potentially dangerous. Vaccine-preventable illnesses have had a resurgence in the past decade, and there currently is an ongoing measles epidemic in Minnesota. Pertussis cases (and deaths) hit a record high in California in 2010. Much of this increase in disease is due to unfounded fears about vaccination, pushed by NCVI, Mercola, and even your own Sharyl Attkisson.

Recently AMC theaters did not run similar anti-vaccine ads ( Until a similar solution is reached by CBS, I will boycott CBS TV shows and sponsors, and ask others to do the same. I am an infectious disease epidemiologist and have seen the dangers that can result from vaccine misinformation. Please do not be complicit in spreading these dangerous lies to your consumers.

Thank you,

Tara C. Smith, PhD

(Some other template language can be found here).

You can also sign the petition at, email CBS (, and tweet @CBSoutdoors to let them know your thoughts on this development.

39 Replies to “CBS airs anti-vaccine Jumbotron ad”

  1. You might find this interesting: Pertussis outbreak in Floyd County, Virginia, centered on Blue Mountain School, a small private school. Thirty individuals associated with school diagnosed with whooping cough. School closed for a week. Floyd has a cluster of upscale-back-to-nature residents who I suspect are vaccine refusers (don’t load my baby with toxins, etc.) Link to coverage in Roanoke Times: .

  2. You / we should also directly inform the companies that advertise on CBS that they will be boycotted and explain why.

  3. Eleven people is an epidemic? What do you call autism? Seems no one wants to acknowledge this dilemma. And its sad how people want to give sermons to the public like you are doing. People aren’t anti-vaccine, thats just your way of discrediting anyone who won’t accept lies about vaccine safety. Why are you not criticizing producers and demanding vacs that don’t cause harm. Seems “experts” like yourself would rather pretend there are no issues, and continue the slaughter. Stop insulting people for playing it safe. Vac producers have caused the problems, and have to fix it. Saying vacs and pharma has side effects as if its normal and accepted is an unethical ideology. They shouldn’t have dangerous product on the market any more than any other business.

  4. Seems “experts” like yourself would rather pretend there are no issues, and continue the slaughter.

    Thank goodness, a reasoned voice.

  5. For measles, one case is technically an epidemic, as the disease was practically eradicated in our country. And people (including myself) have written extensively about autism and vaccines, and the fact remains that the link simply isn’t there. Additionally, other research has demonstrated that the rise in autism diagnoses has more to do with recognition of autism coupled with a change from diagnostic criteria than a true dramatic rise in cases.

    Finally, I disagree that putting my kids and others at risk of measles, pertussis, and other vaccine-preventable diseases is “playing it safe.”

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  7. There is absolutely no misinformation on that ad. It is non-threatening and straightforward. The push to censor it however is opening the eyes of those watching who are on the fence…obviously this strikes fear in the hearts of those who stand to lose money on vaccines. We have had pertussis but couldn’t get diagnosis or treatment. We were told we “looked too good” and “Besides you are vaccinated”. In the meantime we were also told to go about our business. Once your eyes are opened you will see vaccination for what it is…a money making proposition. Some in my family also had measles after the vaccination…one contracted it within a few days of the MMR.

  8. I make no money from any kind of drug company. All I want is for my kids to be able to play around other kids without risk of these types of infections–*that* is my only fear. I’ve seen what measles, and mumps, and chickenpox can do. For the latter, my uncle (whom I never knew) died of chickenpox at the age of 1 year, and my grandmother died of pneumonia following an exacerbation of shingles (caused by the same virus–varicella zoster–that causes chicken pox).

    I’m not sure exactly what you’re talking about re: pertussis–your physician misdiagnosed it? A friend of mine had pertussis last year, and said it was one of the worst experiences she’s ever had. Hers was a long-lasting illness which eventually resolved after antibiotic treatment, but for young children, it can be rapidly fatal. Your physician should also know that, like tetanus, vaccine protection wanes and needs to be boosted. As far as the MMR vaccine, all vaccines take roughly 2 weeks to provide any protection (and some need boosters after that for maximum effectiveness), so it’s not surprising that someone could have come down with measles a few days after getting the MMR–the vaccine wouldn’t have had a chance to work yet. We see this every winter with the flu shots–people were already infected with flu prior to getting their vaccination, and as such they still get sick because the vaccine doesn’t have adequate time to work.

  9. Meanwhile, over in Australia, I now see a Pertussis presentation almost every day, and we currently have a number of medical and nursing staff on leave after exposure to measles. Great job, anti-vaxxers.

  10. Tara I think you’re being disingenuous with your assesment of MMR. Merck manual states that 15% of people who get MMR will come down with a “measles-like” virus, so it’s entirely possible the person you’re describing didn’t catch measles from someone else during the 2 week incubation period, but rather caught measles from the vaccine itself.

    “Pertussis cases (and deaths) hit a record high in California in 2010.”

    The majority of which were amongst vaccinated individuals. Of the TEN people that died, three were under the age of vaccination and the rest may have died from parapertussis, which the current vaccination doesn’t protect against. Scientists have been noting for over 10 years tha B.paratertussis has morphed from pertussis thanks to vaccination, and the vaccine hasn’t changed to address this issue. Now, ten people died from pertussus, but there are 42 reported deaths from complications arising from DTaP vaccine in 2009. Vaccination is decreasing, so too are reports of deaths from adverse DTaP reactions.

    This massive outlash against “anti-vaxx” people, most of whom are actually pushing for acknowledgement of the 400+ scientific peer-reviewed studies showing vaccine ingredients to NOT be safe, is really not on. We need open communication, we need accountability from pharma which we currently don’t have, we need doctors to inform patients that there ARE risks from vaccination. Until that happens, expect the clash to continue. There is nothing at all in this advertisement that would cause me to boycott CBS programming. Unvaccinated children are generally healthier than vaccinated children, particularly where asthma and allergies are concerned.

  11. rc @ 13:

    Unvaccinated children are generally healthier than vaccinated children

    What an amazing planet you must live on! Here on Earth it is the other way around.

    400+ scientific peer-reviewed studies showing vaccine ingredients to NOT be safe

    Citations to peer-reviewed literature required in support of this assertion. Otherwise, ST…

    You know the rest.

  12. Richids, where are you getting your information? Merck does mention a low percentage that do get a “measles-like rash” (not virus), I can’t find anywhere that says as high as 15%. (The numbers I’ve found in the various Merck docs are more on the order of 1-3%). That’s not the same as “catching measles from the virus itself.”

    Where are you also getting your information re: parapertussis? Or deaths due to the vaccine? Are these VAERS-reported deaths, or confirmed deaths? I’m guessing the former, since it lines up nicely with this analysis of DPT deaths. I also discussed the issue of rates in vax versus unvaxed individuals previously with the Iowa mumps outbreak here. Long story short: you can’t look at the raw numbers, you have to look at attack rates in vaxed vs. unvaxed–that’s when the differences become clear that vaccines work.

  13. Tara, these people are “trolls” and are just trying to get you angry, or they are republicans. Either way, not worth your time to respond to their ignorant comments!!

  14. Grant. This is not just a republican issue. I have seen that ignorant comment made by both sides of the political arena.

    We are not trolls. We are trying to tell you the truth.

    Truth I will post here if I’m allowed.

    Before I try to send that truth I hope Tara is brave enough to face, I want to say’

    It’s interesting how pharma can advertise on TV even during children’s programming, desensitizing the viewers (Including children) with the facts of “it can cause, death, cancer, this ailment, that etc..) yet a message of informing individuals they can have a choice in regards to their healthcare is such a threat.

  15. I guess truth is going to be censored, my coment hasn’t posted. Too bad. Thank goodness CBS Outdoor isn’t stooping to such lows.

  16. Marsha, what? You have a comment from 10:45 AM posted and then another from 6:47 PM saying your comment hasn’t posted. I don’t see anything caught in my spam filters (as happens automatically sometimes if comments contain links), so I don’t know what you’re referring to.

  17. It probably wasn’t your fault, Tara. I don’t recall my exact comment, now, but will try to remember.

    It’s interesting how pharma can advertise on TV even during children’s programming, desensitizing the viewers (Including children) with the facts of “it can cause, death, cancer, this ailment, that etc..) yet a message of informing individuals they can have a choice in regards to their healthcare is such a threat.

    If there was nothing to hide we wouldn’t be met with such opposition that tries to stifle us. We would be allowed to have fair debate in public domain.

  18. Tara,
    I fully support your argument and the facts that you have provided. That being said, people in America are always going to have differing opinions on important issues such as the safety of the MMR vaccine. Some people are just plain ignorant and do not know the cold hard facts of how Wakefield’s theory has been proven completely false. I believe that CBS has every right to air their opinion on the vaccine. However, this public advertisement could cause detrimental effects like those that Wakefield’s claim caused. Many parents do not know the current facts regarding this theory and how it has been disproved. Vaccines, especially the MMR vaccine, are essential to preventing life threatening diseases and promoting a healthy life.
    I believe that parents should know up to date facts before they immunize their child. They should be knowledgeable about all the benefits of the MMR vaccine if they are unsure whether or not to vaccinate their child. The MMR vaccine protects against potentially fatal diseases and also prevents outbreak of measles, mumps or rubella from spreading.

  19. Chuck, I’m not sure what you’re implying here–that a physician should talk about herd immunity implications 40 years in the future with all their patients, based on a modeling paper from 1983?

  20. Going under the assumption that the model is correct, then there will be epidemics every year and the number of cases will slowly continue to increase to the point where the number of cases exceeds the pre-vaccine era. Science cannot make the vaccine any more effective, so even with herd immunity there will be epidemics and at that point your vaccination status becomes rather irrelevant. How will the medical profession be able to justify this vaccine with these types of results to an individual patient during an office visit?

    Some patients are already distrustful of the medical profession because of the over-prescription of antibiotics that subsequently created treatment resistant bacteria. Why wouldn’t patients look at this vaccine through those same lenses? Why would they still trust this medical treatment?

  21. Only we’re 30 years past the publication of that paper, and that hasn’t happened. The only reason we’re seeing such outbreaks is because vaccine uptake has fallen–that’s why we see larger numbers of cases in places where vax rates are very low (Europe) and pockets here in the US where it’s similarly low, and someone (usually an unvaccinated child traveling abroad) has introduced measles infection. It’s a math model, and thus far its predictions have been incorrect.

    Additionally, overprescription of antibiotics by physicians are just one cause of antibiotic resistance, so I don’t think that’s the best of examples–particularly since many parents in the past demanded antibiotics for illnesses where they weren’t warranted (viral infections). A decade ago, the issue was concern over parents not trusting docs because they *wouldn’t* inappropriately prescribe antibiotics to parents who requested them.

  22. And the doctors prescribe antibiotics even though it wasn’t in the best interest of the patient, or society, to do so. It still happens today.

    Have we seen a 3% increase in the number of yearly measles cases since 1983. That is what the model predicts.

  23. Assuming you’re correct (data?), still almost all measles cases are among unvaccinated. That’s not what the model suggests at all. Note that in 1983 measles vaccination was only a single dose as well, and now that’s been changed. The parameters of the model simply do not stand any longer.

  24. So now how many times does an individual need to be re-vaccinated until the age of 60 in order to maintain immunity and what is the probability that all of those vaccinations will be effective?

  25. Goalpost-move much? Two doses of the vaccine result in about 99% protection. Prior to institution of the second dose, there was some concern about waning immunity into adulthood but I’ve not seen the numbers following the acceptance of that recommendation. This paper (using Australian data, but should be pretty universally applicable) suggests that even with 6% waning immunity over a decade, that high vaccination levels should keep the population protected from outbreaks through at least 2028 (obviously, in places where a lower vaccination rate exist, outbreaks are possible in any case–as we’ve already seen). Glancing at a few other papers in this area, that seems to be the most conservative estimate that I saw. Even if their data are correct regarding the timing of waning immunity, it’s easy to revaccinate–this is already a given with something like tetanus anyway.

  26. Goalposts move all the time when it comes to vaccine effectiveness, counting the number of cases, and the necessity for revaccination. Was it Polio or not non-paralytic poliomyelitis? Was it influenza or ILI? How effective was this year’s seasonal influenza vaccine compared to the prior year’s? Chicken pox at first only needed one dose, now it needs two. Is the shingles vaccine necessary at 60, earlier or later?
    The goalposts are constantly moving.

  27. That’s called evidence-based medicine–evaluating what works and adapting over a period of time as organisms (and technology) evolve. Your goalpost-moving is over the span of a 3-day conversation. Apples and orangutans.

  28. You call it evidence-based medicine, I call it covering your mistakes because you lacked any evidence of your scientific assertions in the past and justify your current actions based on your faulty prior rationalizations. Apples and orangutans

  29. What I am stating is that the medical profession routinely overestimate the benefits and effectiveness of vaccines and vaccine policies, routinely underestimates the cost (adverse reactions, financial, emotional, and physical costs that are uncompensated by NVICP and all manufacturers of vaccines, long term complications not studied or considered) and routinely underestimates an individual’s ability to protect themselves for contagious agents without the need of vaccines.

    If vaccines were safe and there was a just compensation to anyone who suffered due to adverse reactions or ineffectiveness and medical professionals and the government didn’t extort receiving their services unless an individual submits themselves to a medical procedure with unknown results to that individual, we probably would not be having this discussion.

    Doctors really don’t like hearing “Shove it” being yelled at them after extolling all the virtues of vaccination in an ICU unit. I am speaking from multiple experiences.

  30. Chuck @ many places:

    One of the problems with antibiotics was not just their over-prescription, but their misuse by patients. Doctors caution their patients to finish the course of antibiotics, but many people stop once they start feeling better. Sometimes, that means only weaker bacteria are killed off while the stronger survive.

    Another issue is the proliferation of “antibacterial” products, from soaps to kitchen cleaners, which also would tend to favor only the most resistant bacteria is not used properly.

    You say the medical profession “routinely overestimate” the benefits of vaccines, while underestimating “an individual’s ability to protect themselves.” Do you have some data or case studies to support his notion? Or are you using your personal experience, which is necessarily anecdotal, to support your claims?

    As for me, I would not prefer to return to the “old days” before vaccines, when people’s natural immunities were not sufficient to prevent outbreaks of pertussis, polio, measles and other communicable diseases. The case of the school in Virginia, cited above, is just a reminder of how things used to be before 1940, when the pertussis vaccine first became available.

    The big difference is, back then, some of those kids would have died.

  31. From a medical perspective, it is a danger to society when doctors prescribe antibiotics when it is not necessary and when they prescribe antibiotics to patients who do not follow the medical instructions they have been given. Doctor’s should drop these patients because they are a danger to themselves and to society as a whole. Doctors are currently dropping patients for failing to follow their instructions concerning vaccines. The fact that the medical community has not put out a global directive on the prescription and use of antibiotics is proof that the current medical community has a sliding ethical scale of acceptable behavior.

    If the CDC, FDA, and Department of Commerce actually have the US citizens’ best interest at heart, then why do they allow anti-bacterial products to be sold in the first place?

    If science relies on “evidence based” treatments, then why don’t they accurately collect the data on the 10s of thousands of hospitalizations and deaths every year from influenza, not ILIs? Of all these hospitalizations and deaths, how many individuals were diagnosed with a strain not covered by that season’s vaccine? How many were diagnosed with a strain covered by the vaccine and how many were not vaccinated at all? Is the vaccinated population statistically better or worse off for that season? The CDC has never publically reported these objective statistics. Is this another example of the CDC ethical sliding scale of objective information that should be provided?

    You definition of the “old days” must mean every year. There are routine outbreaks of Whooping Cough every three to four years on average. Yearly outbreaks of influenza because herd immunity has never,and probably will never, exist. There is the sliding ethical scale problem of counting cases for polio, influenza, and even the recent outbreak of smallpox here in the US in 2008.

    Since time travel isn’t evidence based as well, your last statement should objectively read some of those kids may have died. It wasn’t a guarantee in the past or the present that they would die.

    CDC release 2005: “Reported pertussis cases have increased from a low of 1,020 cases in 1976 to 25,827 cases in 2004, a 40-year high. Reported pertussis-related deaths among infants increased from about ten per year in the 1990s to about 20 per year during this decade.”

    University of Minnesota study of influenza:
    Writing in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, Joshua G. Petrie and colleagues describe the effects of using different “end points,” or measures for detecting infection, in a 4-year flu vaccine efficacy trial they conducted. They found that using serologic measures—an increase in flu antibodies—in vaccinated individuals as evidence of infection leads to an overestimate of vaccine efficacy.

    They also concluded that virus isolation—growing the flu virus in cell culture—was not very accurate, as the viruses are hard to culture, resulting in missed cases. The most accurate tool, they found, was real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR).

    In their trial, the use of RT-PCR showed that the protective efficacy of the vaccine was about 70%. “That may suggest that we should lower the usual description of vaccine efficacy from 70%-90% in healthy adults to closer to 70%; however, further confirmation by other studies is desirable,” the report says.

  32. Chuck, your issue isn’t with docs but with funders/politicians. Don’t you think physicians and researchers would love to have the funds to positively ID every flu case, rather than extrapolating from the few diagnostic labs that can do that?

  33. Actually, no. I don’t.
    If the physicians and researchers truly wanted to positively ID every flu case, then they would individually and collectively (AAP, AMA, AAAAI, IDSA) lobby for funding to accurately collect data concerning vaccine preventable diseases. Vaccines were created almost a century ago. If the medical community didn’t bother to ask for these resources last century, what makes you think they will ask in the next century?

  34. Chuck @36:
    Not being a medical doctor, I’m still going to take a stab at your first paragraph, because I can’t believe you are simultaneously condemning doctors for poor ethics and also suggesting they drop patients for failure to follow doctor’s orders. The latter is an even more egregious example of unethical behavior, IMO.

    The fact is, doctors have always advised (and medical websites repeat this advice) that patients should complete a full course of antibiotics — take every pill in the bottle. That some patients don’t follow even these most basic of doctor’s orders may be unwise, but certainly not grounds for the doctor turning them away in the future. Besides, how is the doc going to learn if they took all the pills?

    You say doctors are dropping patients who refuse vaccines. You got some numbers? Are we talking dozens, hundreds, thousands, or what? If it’s a widespread behavior of doctors to drop patients willy-nilly, then we would have some ethical issues for sure.

    Another self-contradiction: you want the government to stop requiring vaccinations (I presume), but also want the government to ban the sale of anti-bacterial products. Say what? On one hand, you want government to stay out of what you seem to believe is a personal medical decision, while on the other hand, you suggest government should interfere with the marketing, sale and purchase of non-medical products.

    I am not qualified at all to comment re: the CDC and flu vaccines. I do know that no one guarantees a given flu vaccine will prevent the flu, because the virus mutates so quickly. The vaccine can mitigate the infection, if there is one, however.

    Don’t play word games with me. You know quite well what I mean by the “old days.” Before 1940 would be one milepost, or if you like, we can go back into the 1800s. Outbreaks of whooping cough, polio, measles, etc., were not minor medical issues that a run to the local ER could treat. Kids did die back then. Take a walk through an old cemetery sometime and see how many markers there are for kids who didn’t live past their 8th birthday. Parents back then lived in fear — fear, not worry — of pertussis, polio and the other childhood diseases, because those diseases were fatal in many cases.

    My point, which you apparently did not get, was that a similar outbreak of pertussis in that part of the USA 60 or more years ago would likely have resulted in some kid dying. Rather than risk an outbreak, and spend precious time, energy and money treating kids who have contracted whooping cough, don’t you think it would have been wiser to prevent the outbreak in the first place by getting the kids vaccinated?

    Nice use of CDC data, but it doesn’t address my point. How many children died of pertussis before 1940, when the vaccine first became available?

    Incidentally, you are conflating flu vaccines with childhood infectious disease vaccines. Tara is the expert here, so I will defer to her, but as I understand it, you are comparing apples and oranges. The flu virus mutates easily. The pathogens responsible for pertussis, etc., are not so mutable.

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