The mainstream media is doing their best to minimize a devastating study showing a high correlation (7.7-fold) between flu vaccines and miscarriages. A review of the scientific literature shows a body of evidence that supports the new study’s conclusions. Why can’t we all just deal with the facts?

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Lena Sun, reporter for the Washington Post, had an unenviable task: cover a newly released study implicating the flu vaccine in spontaneous abortions (aka, miscarriages). The study, released today in the highly respected and prestigious journal Vaccine, has a title that will likely increase the stress level of pregnant women trying to figure out how to keep their baby safe:

Association of spontaneous abortion with receipt of inactivated influenza vaccine containing H1N1 pdm09 in 2010–11 and 2011–12

Like all good journalists working in the mainstream media, Ms. Sun’s challenge was to report on a potentially catastrophic new study that might hurt the primary source of advertising revenue for her employer: the pharmaceutical industry. And while I’ve seen a number of different ways for reporters to try and minimize the implications of damaging studies, Ms. Sun’s headline may just take the cake:


For those of you not steeped in the jargon of statistics or epidemiology, you’re going to have to take my word for it that “hint” is not a statistical term nor does “hint” in any way provide a specific assessment of risk. “Hint” is more like a word that you hope might keep people from reading your article.

(Imagine saying McDonald’s hamburgers provide a “hint” of spontaneous death or riding a rollercoaster provides a “hint” of lifelong paralysis…)

Despite Ms. Sun’s choice to minimize the significance of the study, the actual conclusions by the study authors were deeply troubling. In a nutshell, what the authors found is that women who had received an H1N1flu shot in the 2010–11 season and who then received a normal flu vaccine in the 2011–12 season were dramatically more likely to have a spontaneous abortion. How much more likely? Here’s what the study says:

Among women who received pH1N1-containing vaccine in the previous influenza season, the aOR in the 1–28 days was 7.7 (95% CI 2.2–27.3); the aOR was 1.3 (95% CI 0.7–2.7) among women not vaccinated in the previous season.

(Author’s note: soon after my article was published, the headline of Ms. Sun’s article was changed to remove the word “hint” although she is still using the word to describe the 7-fold relationship researchers found within the article itself.)