Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:


Vaccine hesitancy: an interview with Stanley Plotkin, rubella vaccine developer

BMJ 2019; 367 doi: (Published 23 December 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;367:l6926

Rapid Response:

There should be open public discussion about vaccine safety

Dear Editor

What is “misinformation” [1]? Stanley Plotkin, himself, expressed considerable uncertainty about the effectiveness of measles vaccination in his recent article ‘Is There a Correlate of Protection for Measles Vaccine?’ [2], and many of the issues about long term effectiveness and mutated strains are matters that I have already raised in BMJ Rapid Responses in recent months [3].

Equally, if measles vaccine offers a lesser immunity than the naturally occurring virus - which until 50 years ago nearly everyone caught in early childhood - there may be a question of the long term benefit to the population.

Indeed, a new and troubling possibility has by implication been raised in a just published article on the BBC website by Prof. Jonathan Ball of University of Nottingham. Ball writes [4]:

“So, what's stopping animal morbilliviruses cropping up in humans?

“"A major factor is likely to be pre-existing immunity, where natural infection or vaccination against measles provides a pool of antibodies, some of which cross-react and prevent infection by non-human morbilliviruses", explained Dr Bailey.

“But, as vaccination rates fall, we will continue to see major outbreaks of measles, and this will give other morbilliviruses, like CDV, the chance to explore a new human host.”

If vaccine immunity is not as good as natural immunity - and likely weakening - the potential threat to the species from the measles vaccine project, commenced sixty years ago [5], may be greater than any interim benefits. Perhaps, we would have done better focusing on supporting children as safely as possible through the natural infection rather than trying to preempt it?

These are I believe vital questions from which the general public has a right not to be excluded. If the public discussion of the safety of products has to be suppressed - dare one say it - should they ever have been marketed, let alone be made compulsory?

[1] Elisabeth Mahase, ‘Vaccine hesitancy: an interview with Stanley Plotkin, rubella vaccine developer’, BMJ 2019; 367 doi: (Published 23 December 2019)

[2] Stanley A Plotkin, 'Is There a Correlate of Protection for Measles Vaccine?’, The Journal of Infectious Disease 1 November 2019,

[3] John Stone, 'Propaganda should not be allowed to overwhelm policy', 23 October 2019,

[4] Jonathan Ball, 'Could relatives of measles virus jump from animals to us?', BBC News: Science and Environment 1 January 2019,

[5] Langmuir et al, 'THE IMPORTANCE OF MEASLES AS A HEALTH PROBLEM', American Journal of Public Health February 1962,

Competing interests:, an on-line daily journal, concerns itself with the potential environmental sources for the proliferation of autism, neurological impairment, immune dysfunction and chronic disease. I receive no payment as UK Editor

02 January 2020
John Stone
UK Editor
London N22