Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:

Feature Communicable Disease

UK doctors re-examine case for mandatory vaccination

BMJ 2017; 358 doi: (Published 18 July 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;358:j3414

Rapid Response:

The great Ad Hominem: why can't vaccine lobbyists address deficiencies in vaccine science instead of attacking critics

Even at times of national emergency the reasons for going to war are debated, but here there is no national emergency - or the only one cited is the existence of vaccine critics, collectively labelled "anti-vaxxers", who are clearly very bad people. It may very well be because of the sheer intolerance and totalitarianism of the vaccine lobby that popular movements against them are emerging in places like California and Italy (where thousands are taking to the street now week after week).

Previously the British Medical Association has taken the sensible view that to make vaccination compulsory would alienate trust, and while people like myself might dispute the real grounds for trust existed the strategy seemed to work - obviously it ceases to work at all once compulsion comes into play. Equally if the safety of products is removed from public discussion and scrutiny, as has now been the case for ordinary purposes for many years, the claims for safety will only become empty: no more than a successful exercise in social control.

What we see in this correspondence and one or two others recently [1,2,3] are people, admittedly including conspicuously myself, engaging in rational debate, about the failure of evidence. The problems arise from (a) ruthlessly disregarding reports of adverse events and harms, (b) ignoring and burying troubling data, and (c) over-confidence and insufficient distance from government towards an industry which has historically put profits above people.

Present moves are designed to obliterate criticism rather than answer it. Thus it is not enough for Farah Jameel to declare her faith in public health orthodoxy - and assert the right of those who do not doubt over those who do - she needs to address the gaping gaps in vaccine science that these correspondences highlight. Otherwise, I fear she is living in a land of make-believe.

[1] Rapid Responses for Moberly, 'UK doctors re-examine case for mandatory vaccination',
[2] Rapid Responses for Doshi, 'US government website for collecting adverse events after vaccination is inaccessible to most users',
[3] Rapid Responses for Arie,'Compulsory vaccination and growing measles threat',

Competing interests: No competing interests

26 July 2017
John Stone
UK Editor
London N22