Delta’s Decision Doesn’t Fly with Us
Airline Continues to Show Anti-Vaccinationists’ Ad

NOVEMBER 17, 2011 – The Institute for Science in Medicine (ISM) has warned Delta Air Lines today that continuing to show an in-flight video promoting the views of a prominent anti-vaccination group, is “indefensible from a public health perspective,” and has called for immediate cessation of the advertisement as an act of “responsible corporate citizenship” by Delta.

The 3-minute paid ad, being shown on Delta west-bound flights in the US during the month of November, was produced by the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), a powerful, non-governmental group that has opposed vaccine campaigns for decades. The NVIC video emphasizes some self-care measures, which are reasonable but insufficient to prevent influenza. It falsely claims that vitamins C and D are "natural preventatives" that play a role in preventing flu. This film downgrades the role of vaccines to "another option" in avoiding influenza – a serious disease that claims thousands of lives every year. Even more alarming, the film leads Delta's passengers to the NVIC website, which spreads misinformation and unfounded fears about vaccine safety and effectiveness.

Vaccinations, and especially childhood vaccinations, are established as the most effective means known to prevent and control the spread of numerous infectious diseases. There is no controversy whatever in scientific medicine about the safety and efficacy of vaccination. The benefit-to-risk ratio of vaccination, for both societies and individuals, is among the best in all of medicine.

When the video first appeared on Delta flights at the beginning of the month, the
American Academy of Pediatrics and ISM wrote Delta advising it to cease enabling NVIC in its attempts to undermine immunization campaigns and vaccine scheduling. “The result of vaccine fear-mongering is that many parents have not vaccinated their children fully or at all, with concomitant disease outbreaks, disability, deaths, and needless financial burdens,” wrote Linda Rosa, RN, ISM’s executive director, in a letter to Richard Anderson, CEO of Delta Air Lines.

Spokespersons for Delta replied to AAP and ISM, stating that Delta has “changed our internal review processes” to ensure that future videos are vetted, but that the NVIC video would continue run through the end of November, as originally scheduled.

Delta’s decision to continue showing the video has alarmed experts at ISM. In a second letter from ISM to Mr Anderson on November 16th, Ms Rosa called on Delta Air Lines to reconsider as an act of responsible corporate citizenship. She added that not pulling the NVIC video “as soon as notified of its nature is indefensible from a public-health perspective.…Delta is either for sensible public health measures or it is not.”

“There is...no middle ground where Delta can comfortably take refuge,” Ms Rosa stated. “Control of communicable disease is a life and death matter.”


______________________________

November 16, 2011

Richard Anderson, CEO
Delta Air Lines, Inc.
1030 Delta Blvd. Dept 940
Atlanta, GA 30320-6001
richard.anderson@delta.com

Dear Mr. Anderson,

Delta Airlines has publicly let it known that while it will be vetting future in-flight advertising, it nonetheless will continue to air the National Vaccine Information Center's (NVIC) infomercial for the rest of November as originally planned. Delta responded to the American Academy of Pediatrics:

“[W]e acknowledge to you that the video doesn't support vaccination as the key preventative measure for influenza.” And “[W]e have changed our internal review processes and procedures to help ensure that submitted content is vetted differently going forward.”

This response is inappropriate because of the seriousness of the situation. “Going forward” should have started with the immediate excision of the NVIC ad from all Delta flights in November.

The NVIC ad is, as one commentator aptly observed, a Trojan Horse. Delta passengers in November are being directed to the website of a prominent anti-vaccination organization, one that has tried to thwart national vaccine campaigns for three decades. Moreover, NVIC has the sort of name that sounds like a federal agency, one that passengers might mistake as a source of reliable information.

Delta may have been duped initially into participating with NVIC to distort the value and risks of vaccination. But esteemed medical professional organizations have fully informed Delta regarding the deceptive nature of the advertisement in question. With the lives and well-being of thousands of children and vulnerable citizens at stake, failing to pull the NVIC ad as soon as notified of its nature is indefensible from a public-health perspective. There is no scientific controversy about vaccination, no middle ground where Delta can comfortably take refuge. Control of communicable disease is a life and death matter. Delta is either for sensible public health measures or it is not.

We hope that you realize that by removing the NVIC ad immediately, Delta could become an exemplar of responsible corporate citizenship. By embracing the cause of universal vaccination, Delta would be making a principled stand for modern public health and the well-being of society.

We look forward to your prompt response.

Sincerely,
Linda Rosa, RN
Executive Director
Institute for Science in Medicine


______________________________

November 8, 2011

Richard Anderson
Chief Executive Officer
Delta Air Lines, Inc.
P.O. Box 20706
Atlanta, Georgia 30320-6001

Dear Mr. Anderson,

The Institute for Science in Medicine has grave concerns about Delta Airlines showing a particular film on many of its flights this month. This three-minute film presumably provides information about influenza prevention and directs viewers to the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC).

NVIC is a public health menace. For decades, NVIC – the most powerful anti-vaccine organization in America - has worked to undermine national vaccination campaigns by proliferating unfounded fears about the safety of vaccines and vaccine schedules. NVIC's president and co-founder Barbara Loe Fisher, featured in the Delta video, has falsely claimed vaccines are responsible for causing SIDS, multiple sclerosis, autism, asthma, diabetes and more. At a 2009 AutismOne conference, it is reported that Fisher likened US vaccine policy to Nazi medical experiments – that vaccines are a means to “de facto selection of the genetically vulnerable for sacrifice.”

The result of vaccine fear-mongering is that many parents have not vaccinated their children fully or at all, with concomitant disease outbreaks, disability, deaths, and needless financial burdens.

The NVIC film emphasizes the role of hand-washing, rest, exercise, and how to sneeze, which are reasonable but insufficient flu prevention methods. It then goes on to falsely claim that vitamins C and D are “natural preventatives” that play a role in avoiding flu. This film reduces the role of vaccines to “another option” in preventing influenza – a disease that claims between 3,000 and 49,000 lives in the USA every year and half a million worldwide. The film refers Delta's “captive audiences” to the NVIC website, which is an unreliable source for information that spreads fear and misinformation about vaccine safety and effectiveness.

Airlines, in providing close-quarter, long-distant transport, are potential vectors of communicable disease. The disadvantages to having passengers who are not optimally protected by vaccination should be apparent to Delta. The NVIC film works against not only society's best interest, but that of Delta. 

We were advised yesterday evening by Judd Hooks, who manages your in-flight media, that Delta intends to continue showing the NVIC film as planned throughout November. We urge you to reconsider. It would not be an exaggeration to say that lives may well depend on your decision.

We look forward to your response.

Thank you for your time and attention.

Sincerely,
Linda Rosa, RN
Executive Director
Institute for Science in Medicine