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July 23, 1997

Vaccine Safety, Media Reporting, and Miss America

Author Affiliations

Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary Boston

JAMA. 1997;278(4):290-291. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03550040046032

To the Editor.  —The article by Dr Freed and colleagues1 about vaccination safety and the public concern that resulted from erroneous media reports that routine childhood vaccination was responsible for causing deafness in Heather Whitestone, Miss America of 1994, was a thoughtful and appreciated effort for those who deal with the issue of hearing loss. Curiously, however, the authors fell a touch shy on their investigations. First, in support of their own position they overlooked a publication demonstrating the lack of correlation between DTP (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis) vaccination and hearing loss.2 This publication was generated as part of an inquiry from the Vaccination Injury Compensation Program.Second, they failed to discuss the issue or its ramifications with Ms Whitestone herself. Ms Whitestone provides a touching story: she merely reported information she had been told years before, and the press made more of an issue of her being deaf