Intended for healthcare professionals

Observations Body Politic

A jab in the dark

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: (Published 08 August 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e5313
  1. Nigel Hawkes, freelance journalist, London
  1. nigel.hawkes1{at}

Transparency is worryingly lacking in recent vaccination campaigns

In a world where open access to publicly funded research is increasingly seen as a birthright, it comes as a shock when important decisions are made on the basis of research that is not only inaccessible but actually unpublished. So it was recently when the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation recommended the extension of the flu vaccination campaign to children aged between 2 and 17 years, using the Fluenz nasal spray.1

The decision may be a sensible one, but it certainly isn’t transparent. In its statement recommending the £100m (€126m; $156m) scheme, the committee refers to no fewer than three unpublished studies that it examined during 2011, originating from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the Health Protection Agency (HPA), on the effects and cost effectiveness of the current flu vaccination programme and its possible extension. In addition, the minutes of the committee’s April meeting tell us, it reviewed some research undertaken by Solutions Research into the attitudes of parents, teachers, and nurses to extending the programme to children. This, too, is unpublished.

This isn’t, I regret to say, the first time the committee has based a …

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