News Headlines Article

How A Claim That A Childhood Vaccine Prevents Leukemia Went Too Far
National Public Radio

Sometimes a story takes odd turns as you report it. Every once in while it goes off the rails. That’s what happened as I reported on a new study purporting to explain how a childhood vaccine helps prevent leukemia. The experience reaffirmed the lessons I’ve learned in my years of reporting on vaccines and other scientific research: be wary of grand claims, get outside perspectives on new research and never, ever rely only on the press release.

Of course, the press release headline was captivating: “Study Explains How Early Childhood Vaccination Reduces Leukemia Risk.” Multiple news stories were already sharing how the Hib vaccine, which prevents a horrific, often fatal disease known as Haemophilus influenza Type b, could help prevent childhood cancer. It’s always thrilling to come across a new way that existing vaccines can benefit people, such as using the tetanus vaccine to enhance immunotherapy for brain tumors. So I eagerly dove into reporting on this development.