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:

Vaccine hesitancy and Stanley Plotkin - conflicts of interest must be properly disclosed

Dear Editor,

Stanley Plotkin has been hugely influential on global vaccination practice and policy during his long vaccine industry-funded career.

As this article notes, Plotkin "...consults for many pharmaceutical and biotech companies, as well as non-profits...".[1]

There must be more transparency for the conflicts of interest of vaccine industry-associated people such as Stanley Plotkin. More detailed information should have been included in this BMJ feature authored by Elisabeth Mahase, which provides Plotkin with a platform to espouse his views on 'vaccine hesitancy', and his endorsement of mandatory vaccination to counter scepticism about safety, i.e. "I have to say that it works - even though there's a lot of opposition - because the US maintains high coverage".

Stanley Plotkin's conflicts of interest were discussed when he was questioned by US lawyer Aaron Siri during a deposition for a vaccine court case in January 2018.[2] Details of the extent of his industry conflicts of interest were elicited from him by Mr Siri, e.g. Plotkin's consultancy work for Sanofi, Merck, Glaxo and Pfizer, and his association with Dynavax Technologies, MyMetics, Inovio, CureVac AG, SynVaccine, GeoVax Labs, GlycoVaxyn AG, Adjuvance Technologies, BioNet-Asia, Abcombi Biosciences, and Hookipa Biotech. (See pp. 84-93 of the deposition transcript, details in reference 2 below.)

Subsequently, Plotkin himself briefly summarised his conflicts of interest in an article he had published describing his experience during this deposition, i.e. 'How to Prepare for Expert Testimony on the Safety of Vaccination', published in the Pediatrics journal in April 2019.[3]

In the interests of providing some transparency for Stanley Plotkin's conflicts of interest, here is Financial Disclosure and Potential Conflict of Interest information provided in his Pediatrics article, i.e. "Dr Plotkin is a paid consultant to Sanofi Pasteur, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Pfizer, Inovio Pharmaceuticals, Variations Bio, Takeda Pharmaceutical Company, Dynavax Technologies, Serum Institute of India, CureVac, Valneva SE, Hookipa Pharma, and NTxBio. Vaxconsult gives advice to vaccine developers." I suggest this brief information still does not do justice to Stanley Plotkin's lengthy history of conflicts of interest.

There is growing awareness that conflicts of interest are undermining trust in healthcare professionals. This was discussed in a previous BMJ news article by Elisabeth Mahase, when she reported that the Royal College of General Practitioners' council "will call on the General Medical Council to ensure that all doctors registered in the UK have declared their conflicts of interest, as part of a mandatory scheme". This move comes after the college 'overwhelmingly' passed a motion on 23 November 2019 which said that "declaring interests must be a condition of registering with the GMC, that declarations must be reviewed "at least annually", and must be held on a publicly available register".[4]

According to Mahase, "The council said that it believes that all healthcare professionals should make similar declarations of interest, and any associated costs for implementing this should be met by the government".

This is not just a UK matter. We urgently need an international system and ethos which ensures that people involved in healthcare, and influencing health policy, properly disclose their conflicts of interest, including a history of their conflicts of interest.

For further information on Stanley Plotkin's conflicts of interest and other vaccine related matters, interested readers should seek out the transcript of Stanley Plotkin's deposition.[2]. Video of the deposition is accessible via this YouTube link:

1. Elisabeth Mahase. Vaccine hesitancy: an interview with Stanley Plotkin, rubella vaccine developer. BMJ 2019;367I6926 doi: 10.1136/bmj.I6926 (Published 23 December 2019).

2. Transcript of videotaped deposition of Stanley A. Plotkin, M.D. New Hope, Pennsylvania. January 11, 2018. State of Michigan in the Circuit Court for the County of Oakland Family Division. Lori Matheson f/k/a Lori Ann Schmitt, Plaintiff vs. Michael Schmitt, Defendant. Case No. 2015-831539-DM. Available here:

3. Stanley A. Plotkin. How to prepare for expert testimony on the safety of vaccination. Pediatrics Volume 143, number 4, April 2019:e20183578.

4. Elisabeth Mahase. RCGP calls on GMC to introduce mandatory and public declaration of interests register. BMJ 2019;367:I6695 doi: 10.1136/bmj.I6695 (Published 26 November 2019).

Competing interests: No competing interests

12 January 2020
Elizabeth M Hart
Independent citizen investigating conflicts of interest in vaccination policy and the over-use of vaccine products
Adelaide, Australia