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Mandatory childhood vaccination could cause “irreparable damage,” says expert panel

BMJ 2019; 367 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.l5995 (Published 11 October 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;367:l5995

Re: Mandatory childhood vaccination could cause “irreparable damage,” says expert panel

Little more than a year ago David Oliver wrote in reply to me in these columns asking what the government should do regarding vaccination [1,2]. He may or may not have found my answer constructive but my "bottom line" at the time was this [3]:

"If I was Secretary of State for Health and Social Care I would certainly be backing off mandates (which would be socially divisive) or compulsion, and I would want greater distance between myself (including all the offices of government and state), and the lobby. Also we can see how the swine flu episode in 2009 (and it’s pre-curser the avian flu episode) distorted public policy: we do not need a repetition."

And yet since the beginning of the year we have had nothing but confrontation [4] and horror stories [5] with major clamp downs on social media, and ever more strident rhetoric about the recalcitrant public from government sources, the WHO etc. Today, in the the Daily Mail Simon Stevens, CEO of NHS England is calling for a clamp down on parents speaking to each other at school gates [6]. My own guess is that he is shooting himself in the foot, and that this will be as welcome as the outgoing Chief Medical Officer's suggestion that the consumption of food and drink be banned on public transport [7]. When public health declares war on the public we have a problem. If we cannot have conversations at the school gates the battle for hearts and minds has well and truly been lost. How did we get to this folly?

Finally, if government refuses to trust the public over informed consent it has lost the moral argument [8].

[1] David Oliver, 'Re: Measles: Europe sees record number of cases and 37 deaths so far this year', 28 August 2018, www.bmj.com/content/362/bmj.k3596/rr-13

[2] David Oliver, 'Re: Measles: Europe sees record number of cases and 37 deaths so far this year', 1 September 2018,
https://www.bmj.com/content/362/bmj.k3596/rr-17

[3] John Stone, 'Re: Measles: Europe sees record number of cases and 37 deaths so far this year', 2 September 2018,
https://www.bmj.com/content/362/bmj.k3596/rr-18

[4] Abi Rimmer, 'NHS chief attacks anti-vax “fake news” for falling uptake', BMJ 2019; 364 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.l1000 (Published 04 March 2019)

[5] John Stone, 'Information and Misinformation: the Global Health Security Agenda', 5 March 2019, https://www.bmj.com/content/364/bmj.l981/rr

[6] Simon Stevens, 'We MUST stop school gates being a breeding ground for MMR myths', Daily Mail 12 October 2019, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7564673/We-stop-school-gates-br...

[7] John Stone, 'Banning food on public transport: a Stalinist approach to health?', 10 October 2019, https://www.bmj.com/content/367/bmj.l5945/rr

[8] Responses to Iacobucci, 'Child vaccination rates in England fall across the board, figures show', https://www.bmj.com/content/366/bmj.l5773/rapid-responses

Competing interests: No competing interests

12 October 2019
John Stone
UK Editor
AgeofAutism.com
London N22