Delta Air Lines goes anti-vaccine

I have many, many patients and their families who are very active travelers. Business flights, vacation trips … some of you really rack up the miles.

It is with shock and disappointment that I must report; Delta Air Lines has made a very poor choice.

An ad, produced by the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), is currently being shown to passengers on Delta flights through the month of November. The ad encourages viewers to get “information” about influenza, and the flu vaccine, from the NVIC website.

This is a deceiving double-cross. The NVIC is a well-known anti-vaccine organization. The NVIC website is not a reliable source of information about any vaccine, nor vaccine-preventable disease. This organization openly opposes the recommended vaccine schedule for American children, and encourages the dangerous choice to decline all immunizations.

By airing this advertisement, the NVIC is clearly attempting to spread lies about vaccines by riding under the wing of a large American corporation. And it is appalling that Delta seems happy to oblige.

A letter was sent to the CEO of Delta Air Lines, from the President of the AAP, expressing disapproval. Tragically, even after the letter alerted Delta to the issue, they decided that being a flying billboard for a notorious anti-vaccination organization really wasn’t so bad. They are still airing the ad through the month of November.

Influenza kills healthy people and children. These deaths number in the thousands internationally. We are a global community. And the very vector facilitating our ability to travel to the ends of the earth, is promoting the spread of disease.

The best protection against influenza is hand-washing, and the influenza vaccine. The flu vaccine is safe, effective, and life-saving for some individuals. And the decision to vaccinate should be a discussion with a trusted health care provider.

Physician and vaccine advocate, Dr. Val Jones, writes, “Vaccines are probably the safest, most effective and affordable public health measure ever discovered by medical science.”

I agree. This is a threat to public health. This is a threat to something I stand for, and something I defend. I will not allow this act to go unnoticed.

As for me, I will not fly Delta.

In addition, I have signed this petition. If you also believe that playing anti-vaccine messages during in-flight entertainment is unconscionable; sign the petition, too.

During this holiday travel season, stand up against this terrible decision by “shopping with your feet.” Go elsewhere. Don’t give your money to a company who would facilitate the spread of a dangerous message.

For those of you on Twitter, share your displeasure with the hashtag #DontFlyDelta.

Our voices need to be heard. Join me.

Natasha Burgert is a pediatrician who blogs at KC Kids Doc.

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  • David Hanson

    As for me, my wife and I (age 60) will not get flu shots.  We don’t trust the government and we don’t trust doctors to put our best interests first.

    • Brian Curry

      That sounds like an entirely reasonable, well-thought-out-and-not-crazy-at-all approach. /s

    • Anonymous

      C’mon! Give us a second chance!

  • jenmarie

    What does Bill Gates mean when he mentions vaccines around 2:00 in this video?:

  • Terence Ivfmd Lee

    Every adult has the right to study for himself/herself competing messages on vaccines and make the personal choice whether to take them or not. Personally, there are some vaccines that I choose to take and others that I choose not to take. It would be arrogant for a bureaucrat to claim the divine power to force others to do to their own bodies what the bureaucrats decree. Even if you are not a physician or government employee, you deserve the respect to acknowledge that your mind is capable of processing your own decisions regarding your body. Alternatively, you also have the right to say, “I don’t wish to study the pros/cons for myself and I’ll just willing do whatever I’m told by the experts”. That’s fine also, as long as it’s your choice.

  • Anonymous

    Dr. Burgert … I agree with the value of vacination … but when you state:

    “By airing this advertisement, the NVIC is clearly attempting to spread lies about vaccines by riding under the wing of a large American corporation. And it is appalling that Delta seems happy to oblige.”

    … you fail to debate the opposing position with validated facts… choosing to name call and posture about not flying Delta like that will have an impact. 

    You don’t identify who the AAP is … but it might have been more valuable for the audience here to simply post the content of that letter … assuming it was fact and evidenced based … instead of of the same limited value as your letter here.  

    While as I said I favor sane flu vacination programs … the USG is known for flawed anti-flu programs. When I was in the USAF in the early 1970s … we were one of the first groups to be vacinated for the flu. After the first year when we all came down with the flu after 5 days … grounding our entire squadron for 10 days … in subsequent years we still got the vacination but shots were spread out over 2 months and limited to no more than 20% of the pilots at one time … so we didn’t end up shutting down operations. Getting the flu vacination simply hard scheduled when we got the flu. We couldn’t get out of the shot unless we provided a doctor’s letter excusing us. That is a dumb program.

    It would also be valuable for you to post the content of the Delta flight announcement so we could all weigh what they said versus what you say they cited.   You do your posiiton no help by charging without substantiation.

    • John McNamara

      AAP letter (scroll down to the end of the page) -

      The NVIC video is also posted on that page (the “Delta flight announcement”).

    • Natasha Burgert

      Thank you for your constructive comments. This post was written in response to Dr. Val Jones’ request for medical bloggers to speak out against the NVIC PSA. At the time it was originally published, I did not feel the need to duplicate information that Dr. Jones clearly provided on her website. I apologize for confusion, and will use this as an opportunity to improve my writing style for completeness. 

      • Anonymous

        Dr. Burgert … suggest in the future if you are acting on the request of another to pass on information … that you honor your audience who views you as the first authority by adding background and validate the perspectives you are being asked to take by somebody your audience may never have read. 

        Otherwise … just post a link to whoever else you want to adopt as your viewpoint … and your audience will soon learn to read those views first hand instead of depending on you to bring credible reason to the conversation above the original work. 

        • Margalit Gur-Arie

          The first hyperlink in the original post (“A letter”) points to a Forbes article which should have answered all your questions. Both the AAP letter (the AAP term is also defined there) and the NVIC website and video are accessible from this link. But you do have to click the link first…..

  • Anonymous

    Vaccines are like any drug.  Most will benefit, some will have annoying side effects, and a few will experience severe or fatal complications.

    Just like driving your car.

    • mikailov

      Terrible analogy.  There is no car or drug that has prevented the number of deaths that vaccines have.  There will never be anything else in our lifetime that decreases mortality as much as vaccines.

      • Anonymous

        Wasn’t meant to be an exact analogy.  The point is that there are risks and benefits to everything.  Some people just don’t realize that they are always taking risks no matter their choice—in this case, whether to take a vaccine or not.  I believe that taking a vaccine is the wiser choice when faced with the potential complications of disease.

        I would disagree with your statement that vaccines have decreased mortality more than anything else.  Good sanitation has proven much more efficient than that.

  • Dawn Baggett

    Informed consent is not available without the information — con as well as pro.

  • Anonymous

    To each his own.
    You do not win an argument by trying to silence the opposition. By writing this article you just created wonderful press for NVIC.

  • PamC

    “is clearly attempting to spread lies”…

    That’s a little harsh dontcha think? Doctor’s once said cigarettes were good for us too…

    • Natasha Burgert

      Based on the history, leadership, and content of the NVIC? No. 

  • JenniferL

    I don’t fly Delta because of the dreadful service.

    Showing anti-vaccine nutjob propaganda only puts icing on the cake of my disgust of Delta.

  • DrJoe Kosterich

    There is something called freedom of speech. Democracy is not about my right to an opinion but the right of the person who I disagree with to speak theirs. Vaccines are a good public health measure but are not side effect free. Flu vaccine in particular has a questionable cost/benefit ratio. And by cost I mean human and economic.Anyone recall how swine flu was going to kill millions?

  • Adam McLane

    I dunno, the more doctors purport the necessity of the flu vaccine the more the public becomes suspicious. Among my friends the flu shot is a punch line to a joke. I don’t know anyone who gets it annually because we’ve each had the same experience. We either get the flu within a week of getting the shot or we get the flu anyway. 

  • Traci Dantoni

    While I do agree that such a controversial issue probably shouldn’t be shown on a “neutral” party such as an airline, it seems silly for Delta to turn the offer down. I’m sure you would not be so angered by a PRO vaccine commercial being shown on that same airline. Bottom line is, people have different opinions on vaccines. They should be allowed to express them and so should commercials. There are plenty of well-executed, reputable studies on PubMed that show vaccines have very limited or minimal effects at this time. Moreover, they DO contain trace amounts of very toxic chemicals. People DO have a right – and valid research behind – why they choose to take or not take vaccines.

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