Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:


Vaccination: “fake news” on social media may be harming UK uptake, report warns

BMJ 2019; 364 doi: (Published 23 January 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;364:l365

Rapid Response:

Vaccination and 'misinformation' - who decides?

According to Gareth Iacobucci, the Royal Society for Public Health warns "The spread of misinformation and "fake news" on social media may be fuelling public concern about potential side effects of vaccination and could restrict uptake".

Who defines what is 'misinformation' about vaccination?

Apparently we're supposed to trust the Moving the Needle report[1], a report which is all about "promoting vaccination uptake across the life course", sponsored by MSD, aka Merck Sharp & Dohme, a vaccine manufacturer.

This report has been produced by the very official sounding 'Royal Society for Public Health'. Who funds this organisation which claims to be "an independent health education charity"?[2]

The Moving the Needle report notes: "This activity has been sponsored by MSD. MSD did not have editorial input and is not responsible for the content or opinions expressed as part of this activity."

MSD/Merck Sharp & Dohme is a corporate member of the Royal Society for Public Health[3], and pays for this organisation to produce a report which aims to stifle critical analysis of vaccination...but apparently we're expected to take its contents at face value, as though there was no conflict of interest.

The Moving the Needle report includes calls to action to tackle "negative misconceptions of vaccines", stating "efforts to limit health misinformation online and via social media should be increased, especially by social media platforms themselves".

Again, who gets to define what is 'misinformation' about vaccination in our society?

Are citizens to be forbidden to question the burgeoning number of taxpayer-funded vaccine products and revaccinations?

1. Royal Society for Public Health. Moving the needle: promoting vaccination uptake across the life course. Dec 2018:
2. RSPH About us:
3. RSPH Corporate Members:

Competing interests: No competing interests

31 January 2019
Elizabeth M Hart
Adelaide, Australia