The NYT's Tara Parker-Pope has a great fact-checking post on the misinformation about the H1N1 "swine flu" vaccine being promoted by Bill Maher on his HBO show:
The talk show host Bill Maher is best known for his pointed political commentary. But lately he has been dispensing surprisingly unscientific medical advice about flu and the vaccine that prevents it.
Mr. Maher recently told his Twitter followers that people who get flu shots are “idiots.” On his Friday HBO show “Real Time With Bill Maher,” he explained his opposition to the flu vaccine during an interview with Bill Frist, a heart surgeon who was a Republican senator from Tennessee.
Mr. Maher questioned letting someone stick “a disease into your arm,” wrongly implying that the flu shot contains a live virus. The flu shot is a killed vaccine.
He said he did not believe that healthy people were vulnerable to dying from the new H1N1 virus. This contradicts statements from the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that young, healthy people from ages 5 to 24 appear particularly vulnerable to this flu. About a third of the 76 children who have died of H1N1 since April have had no underlying health problems.
Mr. Maher also discouraged pregnant women from getting vaccinated. Studies show pregnant women are among the most vulnerable to serious complications from H1N1.
To his credit, former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a surgeon, tries to stand up to Maher and explain why he is wrong (though far less forcefully than he should have) -- here's video of the exchange:
It's important to again emphasize how awful this is. Political misinformation has no direct consequences for members of the public, but many people are likely to die unncessarily as a result of misinformation about the H1N1 vaccine.