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Measles: low uptake blamed on “incredulity and hostility” towards doctors

BMJ 2019; 365 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.l1932 (Published 26 April 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;365:l1932

Linked opinion

Rebuilding trust in immunisation is key to tackling vaccine hesitancy

Rapid Response:

Science, Facts and Jonathan Kennedy's Sociology of Medical Dissent

I fear all Jonathan Kennedy seems to be able to do is invoke familiar mantras like “the jury is in”, “the benefits.... far outweigh the risks”, “post-truth”[1] which are not scientific and preempt investigation or scrutiny of the subject.

For example, in my preceding letter I had challenged - based on previous cited correspondence - the integrity of WHO measles data [2], but for all the put downs Dr Kennedy has absolutely nothing to say about this, and no one has to date. He does not seem to understand that WHO can project any figures it likes and they remain only projections. But even on WHO data the risk of dying of measles in Europe last year was less than 1 in 10 million [3].

One might have thought this was very far down the list of health challenges of our time, such as, for instance, autism [4,5,6]. Just published autism data from Northern Ireland reveals that 3.3% of the school population has an autism spectrum diagnosis [7] (up from 2.9% last year [8]), and it cannot be explained by greater awareness etc. since 58% of them are at education Stage 5 and thus severely disabled (1 in 54 children): this is real, shocking data which our health officials never want to address, while scaring everyone over measles. It is possible that Northern Ireland's autism data is more complete than elsewhere in the United Kingdom but rates are sky-rocketing everywhere [9], without any coherent official explanation.

And if we are concerned about mortality, there is no question that the autistic die young [10]. If everyone caught measles in the United Kingdom it would probably be hard to detect any effect on overall mortality but autistic people have 17 years less life expectancy than the rest of us .Two decades after the Wakefield incident [11] it is unclear that the medicines licensing agency has the means or willingness to detect neurological harm from vaccines [12, 13].

In times past it was quite possible to challenge the authority of the WHO or even British health officials. Now, apparently anyone who criticises them is 'anti-science'. But this is not really about science, it is about institutions which are conflicted, industry dominated and humanly fallible [14]. If you resist you become the subject of labeling and sociological analysis [1], and even the most solidly researched facts will likely become categorised as "misinformation" or "disinformation" [15]. Jonathan Kennedy may consider that I am the wrong sort of person, but I consider that I am an old fashioned liberal contesting with bedrock facts the ever more unreasonable demands of a global industrial bureaucracy.

[1] Jonathan J Kennedy, 'Re: Measles: low uptake blamed on “incredulity and hostility” towards doctors' 17 May 2019, https://www.bmj.com/content/365/bmj.l1932/rr-8

[2] John Stone, 'Re: Measles: low uptake blamed on “incredulity and hostility” towards doctors', 9 May 2019, https://www.bmj.com/content/365/bmj.l1932/rr-5

[3] John Stone, 'The WHO and the Little Boy Who Cried Wolf', 9 February 2019, https://www.bmj.com/content/364/bmj.l634/rr-0

[4]] John Stone, 'What about autism?', 21 August 2018, https://www.bmj.com/content/362/bmj.k3596/rr-0

[5] John Stone, 'Response to David Oliver I (The Indisputable Rise in Autism), 28 August 2018, https://www.bmj.com/content/362/bmj.k3596/rr-12

[6] John Stone, 'Response to David Oliver II (Risks of Vaccines)', 28 August 2018, https://www.bmj.com/content/362/bmj.k3596/rr-11

[7] Ian Waugh, The Prevalence of Autism (including Asperger Syndrome) in School Age Children in Northern Ireland 2019', Information Analysis, Directorate May 2019, https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/sites/default/files/publications/health/asd...

[8] John Stone, 'Re: NHS must prioritise health of children and young people - 1 in 21 children in Belfast now have an autism diagnosis', 13 May 2019, https://www.bmj.com/content/360/bmj.k1116/rr-6

[9] John Stone/CMO Correspondence, https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/536265/response/1323604/attach/2/...

[10] 'People with autism are 'dying younger,' warns study', NHS webpage, https://www.nhs.uk/news/neurology/people-with-autism-are-dying-younger-w...

[11] John Stone, 'Re: A tale of two vaccines and the "spectre of Andrew Wakefield", 22 October 2018, https://www.bmj.com/content/363/bmj.k4152/rr-22

[12] John Stone, 'Fear of the disease is not a reason for confidence in the product...', 21 March 2019, https://www.bmj.com/content/364/bmj.l1259/rr

[13] John Stone, 'Re: Overcoming vaccine hesitancy: five minutes with . . . Heidi Larson: How would we detect neurological complications?', 3 April 2019, https://www.bmj.com/content/364/bmj.l1259/rr-9

[14] John Stone, 'An appeal to authority is not the same as an appeal to knowledge, 15 May 2019, https://www.bmj.com/content/365/bmj.l2144/rr-0

[15] John Stone, 'Brave New World', 17 May 2019, https://www.bmj.com/content/365/bmj.l2144/rr-5

Competing interests: No competing interests

20 May 2019
John Stone
UK Editor
AgeofAutism.com
London N22