Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Article Comments (12)

Don’t Fly Delta: Airline Runs Anti-Vaccine Videos Against Medical Advice

I’ve been following the recent Delta airlines flu vaccine kerfuffle with interest and now amazement. After running in-flight infomercials by a notorious anti-vaccine group (NVIC), the American Academy of Pediatrics alerted Delta to the faux pas with a letter from president Robert W. Block, M.D. I had assumed that Delta would be grateful for the head’s up, and would immediately remove the infomercials. Instead, they chose to ignore the letter, denying that they saw any harm in associating themselves with anti-vaccine activists. Despite the warning, they will continue to run the ads through the month of November.

Every year the influenza virus kills as many as 49,000 Americans and 500,000 individuals world-wide. According to the CDC, the best defense against these often preventable deaths is the influenza vaccine. Since viral spread is especially likely in closed quarters where air from infected individuals is recirculated (such as in an airplane) it is critical for extra precautions to be taken before and during air travel. In addition to yearly flu vaccination, the use of alcohol-based hand wipes, regular hand washing, covering one’s mouth during coughing, are recommended. Since the flu virus can live in droplets outside the body for up to 48 hours, door knobs, seat covers and tray tables can spread the virus from passengers on previous flights.

I don’t understand why Delta, having been duly informed of their mistake, would continue to run ads from a group that misinforms Americans about vaccine-preventable illness. I wanted to believe that they would do the right thing, but apparently they “signed out AMA” on this one.

Which means that I will NOT be flying Delta in the foreseeable future and I hope you won’t either. When US physician organizations are flat out ignored by corporate executives, it leaves us with only one choice – to speak with our feet. Sadly, the bottom line may matter more to them than the health and safety of their passengers.


You may sign a petition against Delta’s actions here. Or use the #DontFlyDelta hashtag on Twitter.


Copy of the letter from Dr. Block to Delta CEO, Robert Anderson:

November 4, 2011

Richard Anderson

Chief Executive Officer

Delta Air Lines

Dear Mr. Anderson,

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) objects to the paid advertisement/public service message from the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) being shown throughout the month of November on Delta’s in-flight programming. The ad urges viewers to become informed about influenza and how to stay well during the flu season without resorting to the influenza vaccine.

While hand washing and covering sneezes are parts of a larger strategy to prevent the spread of influenza, influenza vaccine continues to be the best way to protect against the disease. It is especially important in enclosed settings where disease droplets can easily spread to passengers sitting in close quarters, especially infants and children and those with special health care needs.

The AAP and many other child health organizations have worked hard to protect children and their families from unfounded and unscientific misinformation regarding vaccine safety. The influenza vaccine is safe and effective.

By providing advertising space to an organization like the NVIC, which opposes the nation’s recommended childhood immunization schedule and promotes the unscientific practice of delaying or skipping vaccines altogether, you are putting the lives of children at risk, leaving them unprotected from vaccine-preventable diseases. Diseases like influenza can have serious consequences. From September 2010 to August 2011, 115 children died from influenza disease, most of whom were unvaccinated.

The AAP’s 60,000 member pediatricians urge you to remove these harmful messages, which fail to inform the public about the safety and efficacy of influenza vaccine. Please do your part to help reassure parents that vaccinating their children is the best way to protect them from influenza disease, particularly during this busy travel season.


Robert W. Block, MD, FAAP

President, American Academy of Pediatrics

You may also like these posts

    None Found

Read comments »

12 Responses to “Don’t Fly Delta: Airline Runs Anti-Vaccine Videos Against Medical Advice”

  1. Ausburned says:

    Delta Airlines – They love to lie and it shows.

  2. Dr. CPL says:

    Hurray for Delta! I am tired of the AMA (a medical union, designed to protect its members) perpetuating ignorance in the name of science. Have they not read the numerous studies that show that young children and the elderly do NOT benefit from taking the flu vaccine, while many people gets adverse reactions to them? What to say that some multi-dose vials still contain Thimerisol (mercury) that many brains do not react well to. Which strain of the thousands available are designed for the following year’s vaccine are anyone’s GUESS. It is a crap-shoot. That’s why they often quietly (very quietly) mention after the flu season is over that yet again, that particular strain of vaccine did not protect as well as expected. I have seen too many patients get flu-like symptoms after getting the vaccine. I no longer use it. I am convinced that the proponents are backed by pharmaceutical companies selling the vaccines. I personally do not recommend the flu shot. There is more evidence for vitamin D in preventing the flu, without side effects! BTW– I think I’ll choose to fly with Delta in the future for standing up for what they see as a balanced approach to health care.

  3. Ben says:

    @Dr. CPL: No doubt that the AMA is a protectionist union which sometimes acts against the interests of patients (at the very least by keeping the cost of healthcare high, and sometimes by ignoring science that debunks useless but profitable procedures), but I’d like to know what research you’ve found that debunks the overall effectiveness of flu vaccines. Certainly in some years the wrong strain was vaccinated against, but among the MANY studies of effectiveness, it appears that -on average- the vaccine is quite effective (from 50%-80% depending on year and age group). Granted, some research for the elderly is difficult as researchers are not ethically allowed to run true double-blind studies now that there is an official recommendation that the elderly be vaccinated, but comparative population studies seem to bear out a similar trend. I personally don’t care what ads Delta wants to run, but let’s not pretend that a tiny number of hand-selected studies outweighs the enormous body of evidence that flu vaccines are a boon for public health.

    Also, from a conflict of interest standpoint, the AMA has little interest in the vaccine, which is shockingly cheap to patients and which the CBO has concluded is one of the only preventative measures which actually results in lower healthcare spending overall (i.e. Docs will make less money on vaccinated patients)

  4. Michael Kirsch, MD says:

    Vaccinations are one of medicine’s towering achievements that saves millions of lives every year. Of course, they are not 100% effective and there are risks, as with any medical treatment. But their safety and efficacy are well established and endorsed by every responsible medical organization here and abroad. Delta’s decision sounds so wacky, that I wonder what part of the story we don’t know. Perhaps, scientists will start developing a vaccine against ignorance.

  5. Karl Krantz says:

    Congratulations Delta! Its about time that more information gets out to the public. The flu vaccine is a money making hoax. We will gladly fly Delta. I know I am safe with the prevention that I do, without the vaccine.

  6. ZDoggMD says:

    In the likely event of an airborne pertussis outbreak, naturopathic remedies and hippie dust will drop from the ceiling. Please ignore your child (as you have been doing by not vaccinating) and tend to yourself first. In the event of polio, your seat cushion conveniently converts into an iron lung. We know you have a choice of irresponsible celebrities and companies when not vaccinating, so thank you for choosing us — Your Delta Stewardess

  7. LindaRosaRN says:

    The Institute for Science in Medicine got a response similar to the AAP from Delta and shot back a message that there is no middle ground for Delta to take on the issue of vaccination:

  8. Margaret Swartx, MA, CHES says:

    It’s way past time to educate the public about sickness and disease BEFORE they occur. The medical profession in this counrtry (US) have done a lousy job in educating their patients, and I’ve NEVER seen any Health Promotion or Prevention information in ANY drs offices I’ve ever visited.
    Prevention is the way to go, and the only way to get out of our “diseasecare” boondoggle. I’ve seen numerous studies of how ineffective flu vaccines are (are they still using a form of mercury as a preservative?). Even the past president of the FDA said that “most drugs don’t work for most people most of the time”. I applaud Delta for attempting to educate their flyers.

  9. Tom Hennessy says:

    “Against medical advice”

    The vaccination is being investigated for INCREASING the flu as opposed to LOWERING the flu.
    A doctor trying to FORCE flu vaccination by boycotting WHEN the vaccination is under review ?
    One might wonder what may happen to a doctors credibility when they are proven wrong ?

    “In 2010 Skowronski and colleagues reported that seasonal influenza vaccine appeared to increase the risk of pandemic influenza H1N1 2009 (pH1N1) infection during the first pandemic wave in Canada”

  10. Carolyn says:

    The video is NOT anti-vaccine! You might try telling the truth about that before you launch into your propaganda for the medical machine which you obviously represent. You may fool some people with your lies about how vaccines are effective & how they eradicated the diseases for which they are named, but some of us actually have brains and have read the statistics and know the truth. You are a disgrace to the Hippocratic Oath “first do no harm.”

  11. Sneakybooger says:

    I would be interested in seeing the literature showing the flu vaccine decreases the mortality of children. I have searched through New England Journal of Medicine online and cannot find any studies supporting that possibility. In fact, it appears that since the majority of the population began undergoing mass vaccination that the number of deaths during flu season has INCREASED rather than decreased. Therefore, not only could one argue that the flu vaccine is ineffective at reducing mortality but that it may actually cause more harm! I was motivated to research deeper into the flu vaccine question after reading through the CDC site and being disappointed to find nothing but vague statements and no hard data. Do your own research before taking (or recommending for others) the flu vaccine.

  12. Sneakybooger says:

    Seeing as the majority of responses here are from health care professionals, I would be interested in seeing references to statements being made here rather than “everybody says so”. Or, we can just be a bunch of lemmings!

Return to article »

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

Read more »

How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

Read more »

The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

Read more »

Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

Read more »

See all book reviews »