Re: A jab in the dark
22 August 2012
Response to Nigel Hawkes “A jab in the dark”
Mr Hawkes proposes that the evidence on which JCVI bases its decisions should be simultaneously placed on a website. He also suggests that not to do so can only be due to academic vanity. However academics are now judged and rewarded on the basis of their publications in peer reviewed journals with high impact. So this goes beyond vanity. If JCVI were to do as is suggested then we would rapidly have few scientists willing to subject their evidence to the committee pre-publication. The alternatives of waiting for publication before making a decision or not considering unpublished evidence either make for bad decisions or cost lives through delays in implementing cost effective vaccinations.
The crucial pieces of unpublished evidence that influence JCVI decisions are all subject to peer review and response prior to coming to the committee. In addition the committee requires full declarations of conflict of interest from the scientists involved. Processes that are at least as robust as those of scientific journals.
Mr Hawkes also makes assumptions based on the evidence that he has not seen that the JCVI decision was based solely on herd immunity resulting from vaccination of the children and adolescents. This is incorrect. The evidence showed that direct protection was cost effective.
It is notable that inaccurate, irresponsible journalism has been the major cause of under-performing vaccination in the UK over the last 50 years (measles and autism, DPT and encephalopathy) with resultant deaths.
Andrew J Hall
Competing interests: I chair the committee that the comment critics
london school of hygiene and tropical medicine, Keppel St, London WC1E 7HT
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