Lena Sun, the Washington Post’s Resident Vaccine Propagandist
By Jeremy R. Hammond, Guest Contributor
I routinely document in my articles how the mainstream media serve the state by doing public vaccine policy advocacy rather than journalism.1 The corporate media serve the function of manufacturing consent for government policy by systematically lying to the public about what science tells us about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines.
As an illustrative example of a professional vaccine propagandist, take Washington Post health reporter Lena H. Sun. Following are four examples demonstrating how she deliberately deceives readers in dutiful service to the state and, by extension, dutiful service to the pharmaceutical industry.
Lying about the Safety of the CDC’s Vaccine Schedule
In April 2017, Lena Sun wrote a Washington Post article arguing that it’s “a bad idea” for parents to space out their children’s vaccinations rather than strictly complying with the routine schedule recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The concern many parents have is that too many vaccines or too many at one time may be harmful. To deliver the message to parents that they have no reason to be concerned, Sun wrote:
The effectiveness of the vaccine schedule is tested extensively to ensure that the vaccines in the combination don’t interfere with one another and can be easily handled by the infant and the child’s immune system. No new immunization is added to the schedule until it has been evaluated both alone and when given with the other current immunizations.
But that is a brazen lie. In truth, as Neil Z. Miller pointed out in a paper published in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons in 2016, “The safety of CDC’s childhood vaccination schedule was never affirmed in clinical studies. Vaccines are administered to millions of infants every year, yet health authorities have no scientific data from synergistic toxicity studies on all combinations of vaccines that infants are likely to receive.”
The Institute of Medicine (IOM), which the CDC itself relies on as an authoritative source, acknowledged in a 2013 report that “existing research has not been designed to test the entire immunization schedule”. As the IOM reiterated, “studies designed to examine the long-term effects of the cumulative number of vaccines or other aspects of the immunization schedule have not been conducted.”2
I contacted the Washington Post to point out their error and request a correction. I sent several emails providing them with those sources and then spoke to Lena Sun on the phone. She confirmed that she and the editors had received my request for a correction. She also acknowledged having looked at the IOM report I’d provided. She nevertheless refused to acknowledge her error, instead unthinkingly and absurdly accusing me of having taken the IOM quote “out of context”—as though there was some context that could fundamentally alter the plain meaning of the IOM’s statements so as to accord with Sun’s opposite claim. (The context was simply that the IOM was acknowledging parental concerns about vaccinating according to the CDC’s schedule.)
Both Lena Sun and her editors know better, but to this day, the article on the Post website continues to lie deliberately to parents by telling them that no vaccine is added to the schedule until it’s been studied for safety when given along with all the other vaccines on the schedule.
Lying about a Study Linking Miscarriages to Flu Shots
In September 2017, Lena Sun wrote a Post article reporting about a new study by CDC researchers who’d “found a hint of a possible link” between getting a flu shot during pregnancy and miscarriages. This study was “the first to identify a potential link between miscarriage and the flu vaccine”, she wrote. She emphasized that they’d found “an association, not a causal link” and quoted a CDC official describing it as “a possible link”.
Then she relayed the message from “experts” that getting a flu shot during pregnancy is “the most effective strategy to protect newborns” from influenza. Citing the CDC, she wrote, “Many previous studies have shown that flu vaccines can be given safely during pregnancy, including numerous studies that found no link between flu vaccination and miscarriage.”
In fact, that study was not the only study to have found an association between getting a flu shot during pregnancy and an increased risk of miscarriage. A study by a former CDC researcher published in Human & Experimental Toxicology in 2013 had also found an increased risk. That’s what prompted the CDC to fund the 2017 study, which ended up confirming that earlier finding.
Furthermore, the 2017 study didn’t just find “a hint of a possible link”. It found that women who got a flu shot two years in a row had a statistically significant nearly eight times greater risk of having a miscarriage. While this was a retrospective observational study that couldn’t establish that the vaccine caused miscarriages, the statistical significance means that it was unlikely due to random chance, and the authors offered no other more plausible explanation for the found association.
Additionally, when Lena Sun says that studies have shown that it’s safe for pregnant women and their vulnerable developing fetus to get a flu shot, she was relying on the CDC as her source. The CDC makes the same claim. However, none of the studies cited by the CDC support its claim.
For starters, none are randomized, placebo-controlled trials. This is simply because proper safety studies haven’t been done. All are retrospective observational studies, which are prone to selection bias due to the inability of researchers to control for all the innumerable variables that might affect outcomes. This is why a found association doesn’t necessarily mean causation. Conversely, a failure to find an association doesn’t mean a causal relationship doesn’t exist.
Observational studies also limit researchers to a narrow focus in terms of vaccine-associated adverse events. This type of study design, unlike randomized controlled trials, doesn’t well enable researchers to find what they aren’t specifically looking for. And it’s easy for researchers not to find harms from vaccines by simply not looking.
Substituting properly designed prelicensure clinical trials with postmarketing observational studies is a particularly good way of not looking. (And it’s easy, of course, for “experts” to reassure us that there’s no evidence of harm when proper safety studies haven’t been done.)
Three of the CDC’s cited studies used a public database known as the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). The main finding of two of these was that there is a serious problem of underreporting so the rate of adverse events related to giving flu shots to pregnant women remains unknown. The third VAERS study also acknowledged the problem of underreporting and found a large spike in reports of miscarriages for the 2009 flu season—which along with the 2010 flu season were the consecutive seasons examined in both the 2013 and 2017 studies finding an increased risk of miscarriage.
The rest of the studies relied on a tightly restricted private database called the Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD). One of these found an increased risk of miscarriage for women who got a flu shot, but the result was not statistically significant possibly because their sample size was too small. A second one found no increased risk of selected obstetric events while acknowledging the problem of selection bias, and it didn’t consider fetal outcomes. A third found no increased risk for premature delivery or being small for gestational age, but it also acknowledged the potential for selection bias and also considered no other outcomes such as miscarriage. The fourth found no increased risk of major birth defects, and it also acknowledged possible selection bias and considered no other outcomes.
In sum, far from showing that it’s safe for pregnant women to get a flu shot, taken together, these studies produced alarming results—including with respect to the concern that the vaccine might cause miscarriages—and highlight the problems with relying entirely on observational studies using postmarketing surveillance data to make judgements about the vaccine’s safety. Additionally, these studies highlight the urgent need for proper randomized, placebo-controlled trials.
Further illustrating the deception, if the pharmaceutical companies made the same claim of demonstrated safety as Lena Sun and the CDC, they could be sued for fraud. In fact, it is precisely to avoid criminal charges that influenza vaccine manufacturers state right in their own product package inserts that, contrary to Sun’s lazy regurgitation of the CDC’s false claim, the flu shot’s safety and effectiveness “have not been established in pregnant women or nursing mothers.”
I discuss the studies in much greater detail in my article “The CDC’s Criminal Recommendation for a Flu Shot During Pregnancy”. (See that article for complete documentation.)
It is little wonder that Lena Sun failed to do her job as a journalist to investigate the CDC’s claims, rather than accepting them on faith, and consequently also failed to properly inform Washington Post readers about the lack of proper safety studies. This is because she was specifically selected by the CDC to deliver the CDC’s message about its own researcher’s findings in a way that wouldn’t lead pregnant women to conclude that they shouldn’t get a flu shot.
The study’s lead author has acknowledged to the BMJ that Sun was one of three so-called “journalists” selected for the job because they’d “had good history” with the CDC, which “wanted to make sure” that the initial news reports about the study’s findings “carried the right messages”. The key message the CDC wanted conveyed, of course, was that pregnant women should follow the CDC’s recommendation to get a flu shot.
The goal of sustaining or increasing vaccination rates, of course, is fundamentally at odds with a goal of providing people with the information they need to make their own informed choice.
It is palpable that Lena Sun, when it comes to the subject of vaccines, serves the government and in turn the pharmaceutical industry by taking on the role of a professional propagandist intent on manufacturing consent for public policy through deception rather than serving the public by doing actual journalism.
Lying about Whooping Cough Outbreaks
On October 25, 2017, Lena Sun reported for the Washington Post about how mumps outbreaks are occurring among highly vaccinated populations. In doing so, she wrote:
Unlike outbreaks of measles and whooping cough, which have taken place in populations with significant numbers of unvaccinated people, the mumps outbreaks have occurred in communities with high rates of immunization and people who often have received both recommended doses of the vaccine.
Dr. Joseph Mercola, founder of the leading natural health website Mercola.com, contacted the Post to point out that, as with mumps, outbreaks of pertussis, which is the bacterium that causes whooping cough, had also been occurring in highly vaccinated populations due to vaccine failure.
Instead of acknowledging the error and properly informing Post readers that the pertussis vaccine is known to be highly ineffective, the lie was quietly deleted so that the paragraph instead read:
Unlike outbreaks of measles, which have taken place in populations with significant numbers of unvaccinated people, the mumps outbreaks have occurred in communities with high rates of immunization and people who often have received both recommended doses of the vaccine.
This prompts the question of why Lena Sun and her Post editors don’t want the public to know that whooping cough outbreaks are happening primarily among vaccinated children. But, then, we can easily deduce the answer. In the case of mumps, there’s just no hiding the truth from the public anymore. But they can still try to get away with fooling the public about the pertussis vaccine’s failure for a little while longer by blaming the problem on parents who choose to skip the shot for their children.
This is not to say that propagandists like Sun are always deliberately lying to readers. They just tend to believe their own propaganda. They are themselves faithful adherents to the vaccine religion and susceptible to confirmation bias, which entails choosing what to see and what not to see—much the same way Sun chose not to see what the IOM was telling her about how she was misinforming Washington Post readers, or how she chose to see and repeat the CDC’s claim about the flu shot’s safety but not to see how the CDC’s own sources actually highlight the need for proper safety studies.
Lying about Those Who Tell Inconvenient Truths about Vaccines
Each of those examples happen to have occurred in 2010, but Lena Sun has not since changed her habits. To illustrate, take her most recent article about vaccines in the Washington Post, titled “Majority of anti-vaccine ads on Facebook were funded by two groups”. Her lead paragraph states:
The majority of Facebook advertisements spreading misinformation about vaccines were funded by two anti-vaccine groups, including one led by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., according to a study published this week.
But that is a lie.
It’s true that the study claimed that Kennedy’s organization, Children’s Health Defense (formerly World Mercury Project), had used ads to spread misinformation on Facebook, but Sun is creating the false impression that the study provided evidence to support that accusation when, as Sun must surely know if she’s actually read it, the study did not provide even a single example of even a single Facebook ad from Kennedy’s organization that contained or linked to content containing even a single piece of misinformation.
Just as Sun peddles her misinformation by masquerading as a journalist, this study was authored by state propagandists masquerading as scientists. Their purpose in doing the so-called “study” was scarcely concealed inasmuch as they openly advocated greater censorship by Facebook of any information that doesn’t align with the CDC’s public policy goals. In furtherance of the government’s agenda of censoring any information about vaccines that might lead parents to conclude that strictly complying with the CDC’s schedule might not be in the best interest of their child, the study’s authors brainlessly defined any such information as “anti-vaccine” and in turn treated “anti-vaccine” as synonymous with “misinformation”.
Hence, if an ad simply observed that the parental right to informed consent extends to the practice of vaccination, it was deemed “misinformation”. Likewise, if an ad simply observed the fact that there are risks associated with vaccines, it was deemed “misinformation”.
To illustrate further, had an ad simply reported the same thing Sun has reported, that mumps outbreaks are occurring among highly vaccinated populations, by the adopted criteria, it would have been deemed “anti-vaccine” and hence euphemistically also “misinformation”. An ad informing Facebook users that a CDC study found an increased risk of miscarriage for pregnant women receiving a flu shot to years in a row would be dubbed “misinformation”. Etcetera.
This, of course, is not science. It is in fact the study’s authors who are responsible for spreading misinformation by virtue of their stupidly dishonest criteria, through which they relieved themselves of having to make an effort to try to demonstrate that any of the ads from Children’s Health Defense contained any statements that were untrue or misleading. (I take this stupid ad hominem argumentation a bit personally since I’m a contributing writer for Mr. Kennedy’s organization and would challenge these fakers to try to identify any factual or logical errors in my writings on the subject!)
Consequently, it is also Lena Sun who is hypocritically spreading misinformation by falsely characterizing the study as having shown that ads from Kennedy’s organization contained misinformation when in truth the study presented not even a shred of evidence to support that accusation.
To illustrate further, the closest the study authors came to an attempt at supporting their accusation was to cite the mission of Children’s Health Defense as stated on its homepage, which is “to end the epidemic of children’s chronic health conditions by working aggressively to eliminate harmful exposures, hold those responsible accountable, and establish safeguards so this never happens again.”
They equated this with “misinformation” on the grounds of their criterion, which is that it is “anti-vaccine” to suggest that pharmaceutical products specifically designed to alter the functioning of the immune system and which contain substances like neurotoxic aluminum and neurotoxic mercury could possibly have something to do with the epidemics of chronic health conditions among children.
This is, of course, the logical fallacy of begging the question (or circular reasoning).
Sun, who repeatedly suggests throughout her article that Children’s Health Defense has been shown to spread “false claims” about vaccines, unthinkingly regurgitates the study authors’ absurd and fallacious dismissal of a biologically plausible hypothesis as proof of its falsehood, stating that “The group’s overall message falsely claims that vaccines are contributing to a vast array of childhood illnesses.”
Of course, for Sun to claim to know with absolute certainty that the CDC’s aggressive vaccine schedule has nothing to do with the epidemics of chronic illnesses among children despite the lack of studies examining that question is just a reiteration of her own overall false message that science has demonstrated that vaccinating children according to the CDC’s schedule is “safe”.
Which brings us right back to how she and her Post editors know that their claim that the full schedule has been safety tested is false yet persist in lying to the public rather than issuing the requested correction.
I rest my case.
Jeremy R. Hammond is an independent journalist and political analyst, publisher and editor of Foreign Policy Journal, and an author praised by Barron’s as “a writer of rare skill”. Sign up for his newsletter to stay updated with his work covering how government vaccine policies threaten public health and liberty.
This article was originally published at JeremyRHammond.com on November 16, 2019.
1For examples, see: Jeremy R. Hammond, “Should You Get the Flu Shot Every Year? Don’t Ask the New York Times.”, JeremyRHammond.com, February 7, 2018; Jeremy R. Hammond, “How to Immunize Yourself Against Vaccine Propaganda”, JeremyRHammond.com, February 7, 2019; Jeremy R. Hammond, “Is the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program Evidence of Vaccine Safety?”, JeremyRHammond.com, July 1, 2019; Jeremy R. Hammond, “How the Media Lie about Why Parents Don’t Vaccinate”, JeremyRHammond.com, October 17, 2019.
2 Institute of Medicine, The Childhood Immunization Schedule and Safety (Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 2013), p. 6; https://doi.org/10.17226/13563.