The buzz about Wednesday's episode of Katie devoted to the HPV vaccine far surpassed any the show's gotten in the one-and-a-half seasons it's been on, but for anyone looking for real drama, the actual substance was as boringly frustrating as the debate that's existed online about the vaccine.
Before the episode aired, Seth Mnookin, author of The Panic Virus: The True Story Behind the Vaccine-Autism Controversy, wrote a post on his site claiming that he'd been approached by a producer on the show about appearing during this episode. This producer had told him originally that, "The goal of the hour will be to better inform the public that still questions links between vaccination and autism and need to better understand the scientific truth." Mnookin says he spoke to the producer "for a period of several hours" over a month, but the show decided not to have him on air. Still, before seeing a promo for the show, he was confident that the producers of the show and Couric herself "did not view this as an 'on the one hand, on the other hand' issue but one in which facts and evidence clearly lined up on one side — the side that overwhelmingly supports the importance and efficacy of vaccines."
But after seeing a promo for the show, Mnookin felt that Katie had clearly gone away from that educational angle. The promo language he cites and links to reads as follows:
The HPV vaccine is considered a life-saving cancer preventer … but is it a potentially deadly dose for girls? Meet a mom who claims her daughter died after getting the HPV vaccine, and hear all sides of the HPV vaccine controversy.
Perhaps the clip has been changed since Mnookin wrote his post, because now it reads:
Next Katie: the HPV vaccine controversy. It's considered a cancer preventer. But is it potentially dangerous for some girls? One mom who says her daughter died after being vaccinated.
It's unsurprising that the show was being promoted in a sensational way, given the nature of daytime talk show promotional materials and the recent news that Couric's show was attempting to up the drama factor for ratings. Following Mnookin's post, Couric tweeted a link to a post on the Katie website called "Let's Talk!" that read: