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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:

Re: UK doctors re-examine case for mandatory vaccination

Dr Anand once again raises an important and disturbing question [1]: there was a call for a debate about compulsory vaccination but was there ever any intention of having one? As I documented below virtually simultaneously with Farah Jameel's move at the BMA conference [2], the American CEO of Gavi, Seth Berkley, was calling in The Spectator (a British journal) for the exclusion of anti-vaxxers from social media [3]. In effect, he seems to have been calling for the removal of all dissenting opinion since anyone with a critical opinion of vaccines or the vaccine lobby has almost by definition been labelled an "anti-vaxxer". And this was echoed in the Guardian which had an editorial calling for compulsory vaccination, putting the blame on the influence of "anti-vaxxers" [3]. This also included of photograph of demonstrators in Italy who were plainly not protesting about vaccination but about effective compulsory vaccination: without the prospect of compulsory vaccination there would have been no protests. These stances by the opinion-makers in the British media elide many differences and are more than somewhat totalitarian in character.

In the middle of this the British Medical Journal has perhaps felt obliged to post some dissenting opinion in Rapid Responses but not to this date in the main journal, which is disappointing with such a serious issue. As to the people calling for a debate it all seems a little less than straightforward: they have remorselessly held back from commenting where issues of seriousness and substance have been raised: they have just not debated the very thing they are calling for. Can they really all be so sure of the factual and ethical basis of their opinions if they so pointedly never answer?

What it actually seems to be is an attempt to railroad opinion while denying debate. Is it too late to call for some traditional transparency and openness? This is surely not the way public decisions of any sort should be made.

[1] JK Anand, 'Re: UK doctors re-examine case for mandatory vaccination', 15 September 2017,

[2] Tom Moberly, 'UK doctors re-examine case for mandatory vaccination', BMJ 2017; 358 doi: (Published 18 July 2017)

[3] John Stone, 'Re: UK doctors re-examine case for mandatory vaccination', 22 July 2017,

Competing interests: No competing interests

16 September 2017
John Stone
UK Editor