Science writer is refused permission to appeal against libel ruling over comments on chiropractorsBMJ 2009; 339 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.b3166 (Published 05 August 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b3166
All rapid responses
Simon Singh, Ben Goldacre and their ragged army of ‘bad-science’
bloggers may think they are holding back the tide of “often not
compelling” evidence swept in by chiropractitioners from around the world.
Meanwhile, as pandemic pandemonium sweeps the globe, top epidemiologist
Tom Jefferson appears under-whelmed by the scientific evidence for swine
flu treatments. Dr Jefferson, coordinator with the Cochrane Vaccines Field
- and first author of a Cochrane review on antivirals for influenza in
healthy adults – has recently spoken about “dangerous fear-mongering and
misguided, money-driven research”. An excerpt from a recent interview with
the German magazine, Der Spiegel, is as follows ,
“SPIEGEL: For a number of years, as part of the Cochrane
Collaboration, you have been systematically evaluating all the studies on
immunization against seasonal influenza. How good does it work?
Jefferson: Not particularly good. An influenza vaccine is not working
for the majority of influenza-like illnesses because it is only designed
to combat influenza viruses. For that reason, the vaccine changes nothing
when it comes to the heightened mortality rate during the winter months.
And, even in the best of cases, the vaccine only works against influenza
viruses to a limited degree. Among other things, there is always the
danger that the flu virus in circulation will have changed by the time
that the vaccine product is finished with the result that, in the worst
case, the vaccine will be totally ineffectual. In the best of cases, the
few decent studies that exist show that the vaccine mainly works with
healthy young adults. With children and the elderly, it only helps a
little, if at all.
SPIEGEL: But aren't those the exact groups that influenza
immunization is recommended for?
Jefferson: Indeed. That's one of the contradictions between
scientific findings and practice, between evidence and policy.
SPIEGEL: So, what's behind this contradiction?
Jefferson: Of course, that has something to do with the influence of
the pharmaceutical industry. But it also has to do with the fact that the
importance of influenza is completely overestimated. It has to do with
research funds, power, influence and scientific reputations!
SPIEGEL: So, at the moment is it reasonable to keep vaccinating
against seasonal influenza?
Jefferson: I can't see any reason for it, but I'm not a decision
This is obviously a good time to subject the vaccine and influenza
industry to some meaningful, public scientific scrutiny. Can his words
promote that open debate about science and medicine in general - can Tom
Jefferson turn the tide?
 A Whole Industry Is Waiting For A Pandemic. Interview with
epidemiologist Tom Jefferson. 21 July 2009. Spiegel Online.
Competing interests: No competing interests