Strunk said "Omit Needless Words:" this vaccine-related press release omits important facts

A friend sent me a link to a press release (specifically, this mmepy of it) claiming “Public Health Officials Know: Recently Vaccinated Individuals Spread Disease.” My friend asked my opinion on it.

The meat of this press release says documentation from Johns Hopkins and St. Jude’s Hospital says to be careful around cancer patients. This is not surprising to me, so I do not find this article interesting. There’s also numbers about measles deaths at the top of it, but below I’ll show that’s a small part of the story, and the writer of this press release is omitting important information.

I also see one major problem with this press release: it cites its sources incorrectly.

Inaccurately citing sources is the bedrock for bad journalism and bad science.

It specifically says “Johns Hopkins Patient Guide”. That language implies it’s for all Johns Hopkins patients, but it’s not. The guide is instead for the “Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center,” and is within the context of providing guidance for cancer patients to be careful around loved ones, especially young children.

Seem like a small point? It’s not. Leaving out small but important pieces of information and context is important.

Here’s an example of omitting important information to completely change a graph:

The graph in that link shows deaths by measles. It confirms the two data points from the linked press release: “measles deaths declined from 7575 in 1920 (10,000 per year in many years in the 1910s) to an average of 432 each year from 1958-1962.”

However, that link’s graphs also clearly show it doesn’t give the whole story. Take a look and you’ll see for yourself how deaths and infections of measles dropped like a rock once the vaccine was introduced.

Also, I noticed this other paragraph in this press release:

Scientific evidence demonstrates that individuals vaccinated with live virus vaccines such as MMR (measles, mumps and rubella), rotavirus, chicken pox, shingles and influenza can shed the virus for many weeks or months afterwards and infect the vaccinated and unvaccinated alike.

What effective writing to scare people! I could write a similar sentence and be completely accurate.  Here I go:

Scientific evidence demonstrates that individuals who fly on airplanes, ride motorcycles, or drive in cars die while in transit.

Correct?  Yes.
Sort of implies that if I avoid these types of transportation, I have a better chance of not dying?  Yeah, it kind of does.
Tells the whole story?  Of course not.  There are huge differences between those methods of transportation.

In The Elements of Style, William Strunk encourages us to “Omit needless words” to more effectively communicate. The author of this press releases heeded this; no words were omitted that would go against the clear thesis statement of this press release, which is to downplay the importance of vaccines and frighten people of vaccines, which are proven to be great in countless scientific papers.

The press release’s author omits very important information, though, leaving us with a slanted view of the story.