Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:


US government website for collecting adverse events after vaccination is inaccessible to most users

BMJ 2017; 357 doi: (Published 19 May 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;357:j2449

Rapid Response:

The Shadow War on Disease: Arbitrary, Oppressive and Unaccountable Medicine

It might not be inappropriate to remark here on the extraordinary historical circumstances of this correspondence [1], and the events of the last days. On Wednesday a report in the Independent newspaper stated [2]:

"The BMA is calling for evidence to be submitted to the UK Government on “the potential advantages and disadvantages of childhood immunisation made mandatory under the law”."

However, I can find no evidence on the BMA's website that it made such a call or that the government is holding such a consultation - presumably no one would know who to write to. This was followed on Friday by a call in the Guardian to make vaccination compulsory [3]. Rather than suggesting we have an informed, reasoned public debate the editorial consisted of a rant against "anti-vaxxers", and there was a photograph protestors in Italy (of which I am told there are huge numbers) demonstrating against country's new laws, where the government has mandated 12 vaccines for infants and young children. In a somewhat similar vein last week that great bastion of liberty, The Spectator, published an article by Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, calling for vaccine industry critics, again labelled "anti-vaxxers" to be excluded from social media [4].

What we are not seeing is a reasoned, tolerant debate but an industry with ever more products to market [5] exerting its muscle through government against a reluctant and justifiably increasingly sceptical public.

The VAERS database is one of the great black holes in the middle of vaccine science. Since it was instituted in 1990 it has registered approximately 600,000 reports (in fact the number of reports has gone up by 3,575 since I wrote here on 26 May [6,7]. None of the reports gets accreditation as a genuine injury - in fact that never even happens if a case gets compensated, but because it is only a passive reporting database with little publicity it is probably only a small fraction of actual cases. The reality of vaccines is that they are messy products and their harms are never systematically followed up, while mainstream hostility and opprobrium is reserved for anyone who speaks up - which is one powerful means of biasing data collection. It should be stressed that at no point do public bodies, or even courts acknowledge vaccine injury as such. Moreover, in the United Kingdom the Department of Works and Pensions were recently found in the High Court to have been denying compensation claims employing flawed and logically absurd assessment criteria [8] which may go back to the founding of the Vaccine Damage Payment Unit in 1979.

In this regard it is dismaying watching all the strong arm tactics, which have nothing to do with evidence, and what seems to be no better bad faith bullying being used to elevate vaccine science to the status of global infallibility. This is a sinister and unwarranted development.

[1] Peter Doshi, 'US government website for collecting adverse events after vaccination is inaccessible to most users' BMJ 2017; 357 doi:

[2] Katie Foster, 'France to make vaccination mandatory from 2018 as it is 'unacceptable children are still dying of measles', The Independent, 5 July 2017,

[3] Editorial: 'The Guardian view on vaccination: a matter of public health' , The Guardian 7 July 2017,

[4] Seth Berkley, 'Anti-vaxxers have embraced social media; we paying for fake news with real lives' Spectator Health 28 June 2017,

[5] ADITEC Project Description


[7] John Stone, 'Re: US government website for collecting adverse events after vaccination is inaccessible to most users', 26 May 2017,

[8] 'Ministers lose fight to stop payouts over swine flu jab narcolepsy cases', The Guardian 27 February 2017,

Competing interests: No competing interests

09 July 2017
John Stone
UK Editor
London N22 7AF