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Vaccinating the UK against covid-19

BMJ 2020; 371 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m4654 (Published 30 November 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;371:m4654

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Rapid Response:

An obligation on the powers that be not to repeat the errors of 2009

Dear Editor

I am grateful for the acknowledgement of Bhopal et al [1] but distinguishing the coincidental and the causal is by no means simple. In 2018 there was a discussion in these columns about the failure to detect narcolepsy as a side-effect of the Pandemrix vaccine (hurriedly deployed against the swine flu “pandemic” of 2009) following the articles by Peter Doshi and Fiona Godlee [2-5]. Nine years on the MHRA, including the current chief executive, were defensive of their inability to detect a problem [6,7] while Clifford Miller discovered as many as 178 possibly related events in the available data for the first 67 days [8]. Given the nature of passive reporting systems it is quite likely that much of the data was never passed on, perhaps even dismissed as “coincidental”. The damage was also perhaps less than it might have been because uptake was only around 10% [9].

Nor was the government quick to acknowledge the nation’s debt to those who suffered injury [10].

There is at the present time a huge obligation on the powers that be not to repeat the errors of that episode.

[1] Raj Bhopal, Bayanne Olabi, Sunil Bhopal, ‘ Re: Vaccinating the UK against covid-19: Monitoring and separating causal and non-causal adverse events’’, 3 December 2020, https://www.bmj.com/content/371/bmj.m4654/rr-2

[2] Peter Doshi, 'Pandemrix vaccine: why was the public not told of early warning signs?',
BMJ 2018; 362 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.k3948 (Published 20 September 2018)

[3] Responses to Peter Doshi, 'Pandemrix vaccine: why was the public not told of early warning signs?', https://www.bmj.com/content/362/bmj.k3948/rapid-responses

[4] Fiona Godlee, 'A tale of two vaccines', BMJ 2018; 363 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.k4152 (Published 04 October 2018)

[5] Responses to Fiona Godlee, 'A Tale of Two Vaccines, https://www.bmj.com/content/363/bmj.k4152/rapid-responses

[6] Philip Bryan, June Raine, Ian Hudson, 'MHRA response to BMJ Editor’s Choice – ‘A tale of two vaccines’', 10 October 2018, https://www.bmj.com/content/363/bmj.k4152/rr-11

[7] John Stone, ‘ Re: A tale of two vaccines’, 17 August 2020, https://www.bmj.com/content/363/bmj.k4152/rr-29

[8] Clifford G Miller, 'Re: A tale of two vaccines - MHRA Had 178 Pandemrix Altered Consciousness Adverse Event Reports in 67 Days', 23 October, https://www.bmj.com/content/363/bmj.k4152/rr-23

[9] John Stone, ‘ e: A tale of two vaccines - how the British people averted disaster?’, 13 October 2018, https://www.bmj.com/content/363/bmj.k4152/rr-17

[10] Ian Sample, ‘ Ministers lose fight to stop payouts over swine flu jab narcolepsy cases’, The Guardian 9 February 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/feb/09/ministers-lose-fight-to-...

Competing interests: AgeofAutism.com, 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. I also moderate comments for the on-line journal ‘The Defender’ for which I am paid. I am also a member of the UK Medical Freedom Alliance

03 December 2020
John Stone
UK Editor
AgeofAutism.com
London N22