OPINION: Katie Lied?* Biased RI Reporting on a Possible Covid-19 Vaccine Requirement for School Children (*apologies to Steely Dan)


(*apologies to Steely Dan)

Our local Rhode Island WJAR-TV newsreader introduced a report Thursday May 5, 2022, on a possible covid-19 vaccine requirement for school children, as follows: “The I(nvestigative)-Team’s Katie Davis has both sides.”

WJAR “investigative” reporter Katie Davis’ framing of the issue—both the chosen spokespersons, and selective facts presented—gave viewers a one-sided, intractably biased message supporting mandatory covid-19 vaccination in schools.

Consider this crudely prejudiced imagery.

Young father Steven Canter, videotaped in a parking lot, donning a baseball cap, brim reversed like a catcher, presented the anti-vaccine requirement view. Neatly attired, professional appearing Brown academic Emergency Department pediatrician, Dr. Elizabeth Goldberg, videotaped against an Emergency Department backdrop, provided the countervailing pro-vaccine requirement opinion.

Mr. Canter stated, “I’m pro-choice, much like mask wearing and other precautions that you take in general. I am one hundred percent not anti anything. My children are vaccinated in all of the childhood vaccines, except for one [i.e., the covid-19 vaccine].”

Critically, Mr. Kanter and both his sons have been infected with SARSCOV2, and recovered. Although noted in passing by Ms. Davis, the significance of this information—acquisition of natural immunity, well-established to be more robust, broad, and enduring than vaccine-derived [see here; here; here]—was ignored in Davis’ report. But Davis did add, pointedly, “he [Canter] also opted not to get vaccinated himself.” When then asked directly by Davis about potential mandatory vaccination for school attendance, Canter replied, “I think that would be an unfortunate, nonsensical approach, to be honest. We would look into whatever exemption we had to.”

Katie Davis subsequently mentions the “salutary” effect of vaccine mandates in Los Angeles—“90% of students 12 and older are now vaccinated,”—and plans for a statewide requirement in California for all public school students once the current Emergency Use Authorization-only vaccine is fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration. What Davis fails to mention is the carefully referenced Florida Department of Health recommendation against routine covid-19 vaccination of healthy children, because “children with no significant underlying health conditions under 16 years old are at little to no risk of severe illness complications from COVID-19. For adolescents 16 to 17 years of age, the risk of myocarditis due to the COVID-19 vaccines may outweigh the benefits.”

Reinforced by Davis’ selected imagery, Dr. Goldberg opined, as an authority, and “equity” champion for urban school districts, “I was the first in line to get my kids vaccinated when they were eligible. As a physician, a parent, I think a vaccine mandate is a smart move. We know that mandates increase uptake rates. It’s really a health equity issue.”

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Of the following two issues related to Rhode Island’s public schools, which one is a greater concern?

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