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Katie Couric Apologizes for HPV Segment Criticized as ‘Anti-Vaccine’

“Katie” host says treatments like Gardasil are in fact effective, and that some of the media criticism “was valid”

Katie Couric said she regrets devoting too much of a recent “Katie” segment to the adverse effects of HPV vaccinations — and not enough time to their relative safety and effectiveness.

The talk show host has received blistering criticism in the media, with detractors claiming she gave too much credence to vaccine critics and did not emphasize scientific studies suggesting HPV vaccines such as Gardasil are highly effective.

“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,” Couric said in an opinion piece Tuesday on the Huffington Post. “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’s program reported that there was an “HPV-vaccine controversy” and featured interviews with a mother who claimed her daughter’s death was caused by the vaccination; and another mother-daughter who linked a nausea- and fatigue-related illness to the treatment. Only one guest, Dr. Mallika Marshall, was interviewed from the pro-vaccination camp.

Media critics pounced.

Also read: Katie Couric Leaving ABC News, Taking on New Yahoo Role (Update)

Time’s Alexandra Sifferlin, for instance, likened Couric to Jenny McCarthy, the former Playboy model and “View” co-host who has been criticized for her anti-vaccine views.

Politico’s Tara Haelle implied that Couric was resorting to pseudo-science in an effort to stop her program’s ratings decline, writing that the host had opted “… to trade a history of responsible reporting for irresponsible scaremongering.”

And the Los Angeles Times’ Michael Hiltzik said Couric put the anti-vaccination movement in the mainstream, writing, “Daytime talk shows like Couric’s thrive on conflict and controversy, but injecting doubt and emotionalism into important medical discussions and removing science from the arena is playing with fire.”

Couric, who lost her husband to colon cancer and has been an advocate for research related to the illness, said the show’s goal was to help parents make informed decisions.

“I know there is a segment of the population that has expressed intense concern over vaccines in general and that this is an emotional issue for some,” Couric wrote. “But based on the science, my personal view is that the benefits of the HPV vaccine far outweigh its risks. That is why, as I said on my show, I had my own two daughters vaccinated against HPV. I hope that other parents will look at the research and the facts, and make a reasoned decision on the HPV vaccine and what is best for their children.”