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Rapid response to:

Practice Practice Pointer

Covid-19 vaccination hesitancy

BMJ 2021; 373 doi: (Published 20 May 2021) Cite this as: BMJ 2021;373:n1138

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Rapid Response:

Re: Covid-19 vaccination hesitancy

Dear Editor

A justification for Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy, not mentioned in the article, is knowledge of the experience of the GSK vaccine Pandemrix, which was directed against a swine flu pandemic that did not emerge. The unfortunate story of Pandemrix has been described in the BMJ.

Pandemrix was given an emergency use authorisation in Europe (but not in the USA), meaning that it was released and used by several million recipients starting in 2009, governments taking responsibility for untoward effects as it had not been fully tested. In 2020 a minor epidemic of narcolepsy occurred in Europe, and it was causally linked to Pandemrix by the UK Patient safety Agency (now PHE). Pandemrix was withdrawn in 2014.

And so in 2021 some people, perhaps readers of the BMJ, might remember the Pandemrix experience and are wary of a vaccine introduced without full testing, especially when given to the young and the pregnant.

If doctors are to advise their patients who might be hesitant, should they just keep quiet about Pandemrix? PHE appears to do this.


Competing interests: No competing interests

26 May 2021
David S Grimes
Consultant Physician, retired