American Airlines to air anti-vaccination programming in-flight (UPDATE)

Vaccines are important. Very important.

Update: American Airlines has announced that the Meryl Dorey audio interview has been cancelled and will not air. This reportedly applies to the printed material, as well. Good on American Airlines for making the right call on this one.

So we were surprised to hear that American Airlines is planning to feature an interview with Meryl Dorey — a notorious anti-vaccination booster known for dishing out demonstrably false claims about vaccines and the diseases they help prevent — in the airline's inflight magazine and inflight television program.

But we were flat-out astonished to learn that the brief interview features precisely ZERO input or information from someone who could speak to the veracity of Dorey's statements — someone like, say, an actual doctor. In fact, the short, three-minute conversation doesn't offer any counter-information whatsoever. And that's a problem, especially when all signs indicate that antivaccination advocates like Dorey are wrong.

To put it bluntly: American Airlines has provided Dorey with an opportunity to spout lies, unchallenged and unchecked, about vaccination.

As Bad Astronomy's Phil Plait points out: "the ability to show Meryl Dorey's claims to be completely wrong is a Google search away," but those looking for a good overview of the dangerous claims typically delivered by Dorey would do well to check out this post, also by Plait, which provides loads of relevant links; or this post — by Liz Ditz at I Speak of Dreams — who handily debunks Dorey's interview point-by-point.

A petition has already sprung up, asking that American Airlines not run the interview. The petition begins:

American Airlines is planning to run disproved and dangerous anti-vaccination propaganda from The Australian Vaccination Network (AVN), via it's in-flight "Executive Report" media and "American Way" magazine, from July to August.

Citing fraudulent research, the material contains claims that vaccines cause autism, a false claim that whooping cough vaccination "is not working" having caused "a much more deadly disease", and wrongly suggests this is already happening with measles, mumps and potentially other diseases. Passengers are then directed to the AVN website.

That American Airlines would provide someone like Dorey an opportunity to pay lip service to an anti-vaccination agenda may not be reprehensible in and of itself — but that they would do so without presenting even a shred of well-documented counter-evidence is beyond irresponsible.

[Bad Astronomy | I Speak of Dreams | Lucky Losing]

Top image via American Airlines