Sigh. Do not abuse Jeni Barnett personally

February 11th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in bad science | 108 Comments »

Hi there, very briefly as I’m busy, I’ve been contacted by the Programme Director of LBC. He says that Jeni is upset by emails she has received. Do not send Jeni abusive emails, it’s not nice or helpful. I shall not post Jonathan’s email on this occasion, although I do feel – like everything I’ve had from him – it was rather intemperate and unkindly written, but I must be clear again: I do not think you should be abusive personally in emails to Jeni. Please address the arguments and the actions, not the person, as the overwhelming majority of you have. I would want nobody to be disproportionately unpleasant, but I also wouldn’t want anybody to use this to cloud the more important issue, which is the media’s gross irresponsibility with regards to MMR, of which the actions by Jeni Barnett – and more importantly LBC/Global Radio – were highly representative illustrations. I am sorry to see that LBC have failed to address everybody’s wider concerns, and I am sorry to hear that Jeni has been upset by emails she has received. But I also do wish these people would address the issues.

Hi Jonathan,

this makes me very sad. As you know I have been entirely straightforward throughout, am clear that people should not be abusive towards Jeni, and that this is about more than one individual or even one station. I think that almost all of the commentary on over 120 blogs has been impressively polite and temperate, people have provided transcripts (at personal risk of litigation from you) to enable people to make informed commentary on these tragic and irresponsible misrepresentations over MMR, and provided links to rebuttals and papers to use in reasoned argument. I would have no part in people abusing Jeni and will post immediately to tell people off.

As I have said to you before when you have accused me of “bullying a a 60 year old woman” I think it is important to be able to discuss ideas and to criticise arguments and stances where people have been irresponsible. As I have written so many times before, I believe that individuals have a very different set of responsibilities to organisations, and it is LBC who are largely at fault here, and more widely the media as a whole for their repeated crimes on MMR, to the extent that they now pose a significant and very serious danger to public health.

Jeni is specifically employed by you at LBC because she is a combative and challenging broadcaster who will frustrate and therefore engage many listeners. I think it is unacceptable that people should be abusive towards her, and will post immediately to say so, but I also think that you and Jeni must accept ownership of your reasons for employing her as a broadcaster, and her broadcasting style.

In this unfortunate episode I am sorry to say that Jeni herself has also been deeply unpleasant to and about individual people with less money and voice than herself, such as the courteous and informative NHS nurse Yasmin who rang into the programme, characterised by Jeni on her website, incomprehensibly, as “vicious”, on no grounds, with access to the relevant clip denied by lawyers, and with the right to reply on Jeni’s site refused and deleted.

I am sorry if people have sent unpleasant emails. I would want no part in that, and I can assure you that I have been subjected to far more unpleasant, intemperate abuse and childish, unfounded defamation than Jeni or anyone else, by the vicious and extremely well co-ordinated anti-MMR movement in the UK.

It is true that Jeni was foolish and wrong on this issue, that the clip was horrific listening, and that she has done the same thing on MMR and other issues many times before, but more importantly than that, you were irresponsible to broadcast it, and I feel very sad that you have demonstrated no insight on this, nor have you done anything significant to make amends.

I also think it is unfortunate and, I’m afraid, slightly unprofessional that the only contact you have made over this was to call “urgently” to shout accusations at me while I was at work on Friday, and equally intemperate emails.

It is for this reason that I no longer consider our further discussions to be off the record, and I encourage you to do the right thing: issue a clear apology for the show, prominently and in the same slot; make some public acknowledgement of the harm that can come from such irresponsible broadcasting; and give a clear undertaking that Jeni will not broadcast on the topic again, or any medical stories, without getting a basic understanding of the issues.

As you know we had a mumps outbreak in 2005, and we are now seeing a rapid and exponential rise in measles cases, resulting, so far mercifully rarely, in death. This is because of the actions of huge numbers of people in the media like Jeni – she was just one instructive and representative example – and those like you who give her a platform, and who have failed to demonstrate insight into the damage they have done, and the simple amends they can make.

I would also encourage you, in all seriousness, to contact your MP through theyworkforyou.com, ask them to sign EDM #754, and encourage your listeners to do the same.

Best wishes,

Ben


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108 Responses



  1. The Biologista said,

    February 11, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    Quite right Ben. If a person is so ignorant that they cannot form an argument based on the real issues at hand then what is the point? They could be on either side for all they know of the facts. Their position is mere chance.

  2. HolfordWatch said,

    February 11, 2009 at 2:50 pm

    I am truly sorry to learn, by implication, that Jeni Barnett has been the recipient of unpleasantness and abuse – too many Bad Science bloggers know how that feels to be insouciant about the impact that it can have.

    However, I strongly agree with your points about Yasmin.

    I do wonder how much of this might have been avoided had they contacted you and discussed the matter rather than sending a legal chill, having some phone calls in which (reading between the lines) emotions seem to have been priorised over judgment and then adding to the silence by deleting comments and posts.

    He meant it light-heartedly, but I was struck by Ciaran’s remark:

    I have to say we ‘bad scientists’ (a collective sobriquet not entirely objectionable) seem to have conduct the most comprehensive, logically and empirically deconstructive blitz of comments on her blog I’ve ever seen. Not to mention overwhelmingly polite, feels like we’ve gone for a picnic on her comments page with a G&T in one hand and a Cochrane review in the other.

    Had they been up to date with their staff welfare issues, it is not implausible that they should have had a contingency plan in place for just such an eventuality.

    True, LBC should have given Jeni some better guidance when agreeing the programme content. Once they realised their error of judgment they should have assigned someone to guide her on an appropriate response rather than be overtaken by her actions (?) in deleting the issue.

    I hope that Jeni Barnett and LBC Global Radio recover their equanimity sufficiently to recognise that there is a need for dialogue rather than huff and the exchange of hurt feelings/raw emotion.

  3. cee said,

    February 11, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    there’s a possibility that Jeni Bartlett is in the kind of defensive mood where all disagreement feels like abuse – so just as Yasmin was being “vicious” in telling her that her comments were ill-informed, anyone who points out that she was wrong, no matter how they word it, is “abusing” her.

  4. penglish said,

    February 11, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    Please see my previous comments about the mumps outbreak – you are on shaky ground using that argument, Ben.

    Peter.

  5. Taijidubh said,

    February 11, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    I think that tactically it is a great idea to make it clear that all subsequent discussions are on the record. It strikes me from reading between the lines that the right to talk to you and not have you comment on what was said has been somewhat abused to date.

    I suspect the discussions may be a bit more temperate if anything said may indeed be taken down and used against them in the court of teh interwebs.

    Well done so far.

  6. penglish said,

    February 11, 2009 at 3:10 pm

    cee has a point. One problem with the modern world is that employers and others in a position of power seem to feel that if somebody (particularly somebody in a position of power) feels offended by something, then what was said was, by definition, offensive, and therefore a disciplinary offence…

  7. pseudomonas said,

    February 11, 2009 at 3:15 pm

    cee: She may be, but many of the things on that page were things that I think any sane person would take offense to. All the more reason to stay on the right side of things.

  8. Garulon said,

    February 11, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    I really don’t like mentioning this, but are we certain that these emails are personally abusive towards Jeni and not simply critising her absurd anti-vax, anti-science approach?

    It’s just that the vast vast majority of comments I’ve read over this issue(which I’ll readily admit is a small percentage of the commentry out there) has been almost excruciatingly polite and well-informed, it’d seem odd that people would be incredibly polite on an anonymous blog post but personally abusive in a trackable email.

    I’m not accusing LBC of telling porkies or expecting a string of distressing emails to be aired or anything, but I’d really like to know what’s considered offensive by LBC/Barnett.

  9. garpal gumnut said,

    February 11, 2009 at 3:21 pm

    That was a very temperate response Ben, well done.

    Allowing Jeni and Jonathan to make an apology is the proper thing to do.

    Perhaps they could do it on LBC, Twitter as well as on your excellent blog.

    gg

  10. cat said,

    February 11, 2009 at 3:22 pm

    “bullying a a 60 year old woman”

    What is this?! Does anyone accuse Jeremy Paxman of “bullying” 60-year-old politicians, male or otherwise? Anyone ever seen the sort of abuse people like Richard Dawkins et al are subjected to? Anyone ever seen anyone claiming that their antagonists are “bullying a 67-year–old man”? What sort of argument is this? She’s allowed to say whatever ignorant crap she likes without being contradicted because (a) she’s a girl(ie), (b), she’s a mother, (c) she’s beyond the first flush of youth, and (d) she’s willing to hide behind society’s conventions regarding little old women when it suits her. Anyone know how old Yasmin is? Obvously, it would be a valid point in the discussion if she’s over 40-bloody-5.

  11. Hifiwigwam said,

    February 11, 2009 at 3:24 pm

    Well done Ben,

    I do agree with Garulon above though. Many times I have posted on forums about bad science in one way or another and been accused of being abusive, just for having an opposing view and pointing out that such nonsense is dangerous.

    I simply cannot believe LBC have not yet issued an apology for the dangerous mis-information they so shamelessly touted. And to continue to threaten legal action is cowardice of the highest order. They clearly know they are in the wrong and are now trying to bully their way out of it (in my personal opinion).

    Oh well. I have added links to this and related posts on my busy web site. Hope it helps.

    James.

  12. gimpyblog said,

    February 11, 2009 at 3:26 pm

    While it may be possible that Jeni is over-reacting to firm criticism, that is no argument not to be polite in dealing with her. Far better to direct her focus to the content of an argument than distract it with surrounding rhetoric.

    Personally I think Jeni should invite Ben onto her show for a phone-in session to clear the air.

  13. michael said,

    February 11, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    Whether or not emails to Jeni are abusive (I’ve no doubt, sadly, that there probably have been a few nasty ones :( ), I think it’s fair to say we’ve kind of had our say. Continuously emailing Jeni is not going to achieve anything more. There were around two hundred comments on her blog – most posts on there don’t even venture into double figures – she’s been drowned in comment and correction, even if it is rightly stated and fairly made, it’s a bit of an overload. Maybe I’m being optimistic in hoping something will come of complaints to Ofcom – but at least if they do, LBC and Jeni will be compelled to comment and will not be allowed to respond in the way Jeni initially did on her personal blog.

  14. xinit said,

    February 11, 2009 at 3:37 pm

    Sadly, this is the way debate with True Believers goes all too often. Any criticism at all is seen as vicious, and any fact that is brought up is obviously part of the conspiracy of scientists / atheists / big pharma / The Man to keep the public in the dark.

    It is apparently so much easier for the anti-vax crowd to delete posts or shout down facts than it is to hold a discussion. Thankfully, the internet makes it hard for things to go away, and much of the deleted picnic of comments is cached.

    It’s really hard to call someone’s position baseless again and again, while presenting facts, diagrams, and statistics only to be greated by “LALALALAL I CAN’T HEAR YOU!” and told about how they know someone who once had a friend who had their feelings hurt by a vaccine.

    Actually, if they’re actively trying to file suit against you still, his contacting you directly to intimidate you and make accusations would be something that their lawyers would not approve of. Perhaps you have legal representation that could field those calls for you?

  15. xinit said,

    February 11, 2009 at 3:41 pm

    Hifiwigwam: the rule of discourse on many True Believer boards is that you must possess an Open Mind.

    However, you must acquire said Open Mind from a Naturopath or other approved vendor. You can’t just use one of those open source open minds that the scientists use as that would be abusive.

  16. spk76 said,

    February 11, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    I have to agree with others that although a handful of publicly available comments may have been personally insulting, the huge majority have been constructive albeit forthright, and it would be surprising if she had received a large volume of nasty email.

    It somehow seems rather more likely that she would be the kind of person to regard any views that are in variance to her own as being abusive bullying, as opposed to robust criticism, which is kind of different in an important way.

    And I am reminded of this:

    www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jan/27/david-attenborough-science

  17. penglish said,

    February 11, 2009 at 3:47 pm

    Sorry to keep banging on about mumps (I’d hate to see Ben use arguments that weren’t sound)… Immunity to mumps is not as persistent as the immunity to measles. Somebody who’s had two doses of mumps-containing vaccine will gradually lose their immunity over time. This is another part of the reason for the mumps outbreak.

    In contrast, this happens far more slowly, if at all, with MMR, so MMR vaccination if successful probably gives life-long immunity to measles. See e.g.:

    1. Cohen C, White JM, Savage EJ, Glynn JR, Choi Y, Andrews N, et al. Vaccine effectiveness estimates, 2004-2005 mumps outbreak, England. Emerging infectious diseases 2007;13(1):12-7 (www.cdc.gov/ncidod/EID/13/1/12.htm).

  18. CarlottaVance said,

    February 11, 2009 at 3:51 pm

    Listening to Jeni’s show this afternoon (much safer ground – broccoli vs cabbage – but she does not use a microwave because someone once told her it affects the molecules….) I could not but be struck that one of her sponsors is confused.com……

    Hate the sin, love the sinner.

  19. j0annepsi said,

    February 11, 2009 at 3:56 pm

    If anyone is being bullied it’s you, Ben.

    How on earth can LBC hold you responsible for people sending angry emails to this woman? Haven’t they noticed the torrent of media coverage that show has received?

    Why are they using her age as some sort of defence? As you yourself said, she is a combative broadcaster and as such, she should be able to deal with a negative reaction to her ill-informed, dangerous views.

    If anything, she and her producer should be investigated by LBC for not doing ANY research on the subject of MMR before spouting complete nonsense about it for forty minutes, finishing by accusing the department of health of being out to ‘scare’ people.

  20. Dr_John_Crippen said,

    February 11, 2009 at 4:06 pm

    Back again, sorry to keep going on about this, but I do despair that reputable organisations like LBC can allow broadcasts like this to go out uncorrected. OK, so Jeni got carried away, but the controller of programmes should have realised the damage that could have been done, the children’s lives that could have been put at risk, and invited an immunisation expert on to put the other side of the story.

    I’m old enough to remember having a smallpox immunisation and, although I was very young, I can still remember the fear in my grandmother’s eyes when the word smallpox was mentioned. And she was old enough to have seen diphtheria, and her daughter (my aunt) was crippled from childhood by polio. So my family has always been at the front of the queue when immunisations are on offer.

    Memories are so short. Do people not remember that only a few years ago, Smallpox was eradicated by immunisations?

    nhsblogdoc.blogspot.com/2009/02/what-happened-to-smallpox-and-apology.html

    The eradication of smallpox was possibly the greatest achievement of medical science to date And we have forgotten it already. Measles remains one of the 10 most important causes of death due to infectious diseases and one of the most common causes of vaccine-preventable death in children. And we have it within our grasp to eradicate it.

    When did anyone in this country last see a case of polio, or diphtheria or tetanus?

    I know as a doctor on the front line that “herd immunity” is a hard argument to sell to a worried parent looking at someone standing over their child with a needle. I also believe that the government has not handled the issues as well as they might. More carrot and less stick would have been better. Incentive payments to GPs to get children immunised may have been reasonably effective, but are a PR disaster.

    The fact remains though that, much as the well educated middle class may reject the herd immunity arguments, when Jeni Barnett and Carol Vorderman and others decline to have their child immunised, and decide instead to “take the risk” they are in fact only prepared to take that risk because herd immunity has made the risk relatively low. It’s a bootstrings argument that will soon fall to the ground.

    John

  21. Maria said,

    February 11, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    I would have thought that receiving unpleasant emails – including abusive or even threatening ones – was an occupational hazard for people who voice provocative opinions in the media. I’m not condoning personal abuse but nor would I agree with the expectation that she should be free to say what she likes without any unpleasant comeback. Ben Goldacre is not some guru that can control what people think, feel and do. Each one of us is responsible for our own actions and complaining to him about other people’s intemperate responses to Barnett’s deeply offensive remarks is pathetic, frankly.

    A saying about heat and kitchens springs to mind.

  22. michael said,

    February 11, 2009 at 4:39 pm

    maria – fair enough, but I’d imagine that by now there’s very little being sent to her that is ‘new’. We’ve made our case – for now, lets focus on what Ofcom do (if anything) and continuing to get the story prominence. The Times comment yesterday was fantastic, but lets get the the story out there even more, and on to the wider issue of MMR misrepresentation in the media and not just one example of it.

  23. scotslawstudent said,

    February 11, 2009 at 4:50 pm

    I’m reminded of a US chat show where they hauled a blogger infront of a studio audience and demanded he account for some statements they quoted off his blog from that “that very morning”.

    He put his hands up and say, “I didn’t write that, that’s an anonymous comment written by some other Internet user but if you like I’ll talk about the bit at the top of the paget that I did actually write.” and the production staff pretty much shared a nervous look at each other and were caught completely flatfooted.

    Blaming Goldacre for emails which he didn’t type, or at least didn’t put needles under the fingernails of the peope who did is ludicrous. I assume the people who actually did make the usual unmitigated online nastiness were tracked down at work themselves? I think Goldacre should look into some kind of harrassment protection – a doctor needs his sleep and relaxation off the clock and not to be distracted from his patients during work hours.

  24. MissPrism said,

    February 11, 2009 at 4:56 pm

    I wouldn’t dismiss Jeni’s report of abusive emails so lightly, Garulon. The comments threads from Jeni’s blog saved at quackometer are indeed extremely polite – but I’d lay money they’ve already been moderated and the abusive and/or sweary ones were never displayed in the first place.

    This is the internet, after all, and spite-addled morons abound. Even, sadly, on ‘our’ side.

  25. The Biologista said,

    February 11, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    I suspect in the case of the “spite-addled morons”, the side is less important to them than is the opportunity to elevate themselves by venting bile upon someone. That sort of nonsense only allows the those of us defending the evidence to be painted as vindictive aggressors.

  26. Garulon said,

    February 11, 2009 at 5:07 pm

    “Blaming Goldacre for emails which he didn’t type, or at least didn’t put needles under the fingernails of the peope who did is ludicrous. ”

    Oh absolutely, it’s a shame Ben’s probably to close to the centre of this to appreciate the wonderful irony of Mr LBC hauling him over the coals for Not Being Responsible (in whatever unique logic he’s using for that) when the amount of people affected by him Not Being Responsible has a maximum value of 1.

    I suspect this is more LBC “reframing” things – that appears to be what modern broadcasters are good at, we used to get narrative which had continuity, now we get “framing” which is invariably protrayed as a good old fasioned fight between two equal parties. This was LBC happily letting a middle class “Useful Idiot” broadcast dangerous nonsense, now it can be those nasty Big Farmers bullying a poor dotty old woman.

  27. Michael Grayer said,

    February 11, 2009 at 5:09 pm

    Ben is quite right – abusive ad hominem attacks, regardless of whether they came from one side or the other, are not helpful and to be condemned.

    It may well be true that the anti-MMR lobby make way more remarks that are offensive on a personal level. It may well be true that the vast proportion of comments pointing out the scientific evidence are polite, and that many of these are mistakenly labelled as “vicious”. But that doesn’t make it right for us to sink to the same depths – even just the once.

    The temptation to stick the boot in may well be great, but one we should refrain from, lest the polite, scientific evidence-based comments be undermined. Remember that Jeni is not personally at fault for the entire measles epidemic – her show last month and LBC’s reaction to it is a microcosm of the wider issue. I get the distinct impression that Jeni actually believes what she is saying, in which case she is just as much a victim of the awful campaign of MMR misinformation as she is guilty of spreading that misinformation herself.

    To be clear, I still vehemently disagree with her on the subject of MMR, but have no desire to make any further personal jibes regarding the rest of her life. I urge everyone to keep this debate about MMR and the media, and not about Jeni herself (apart from her views on MMR). There is nothing the anti-MMR lobby would like more than to portray us as grumpy, nasty thugs. “Do unto others…” and all that.

  28. James G said,

    February 11, 2009 at 5:12 pm

    I’ve seen enough of the internet to realise that there were indeed likely to be a number of less savoury comments received. Don’t forget, this story has stretched far beyond the confines of Bad Science. On twitter alone, just about every one of the people I follow has at some point mentioned it, including @stephenfry who has a hugely substantial audience. The story even managed to get a mention in a PC gaming podcast I listen to. In short, there will have been plenty of idiots who got hold of this story, and the internet is something to truly bring them out of the woodwork.

  29. Maria said,

    February 11, 2009 at 5:18 pm

    I don’t disagree, Michael, but as long as this controversy is live and this programme can be downloaded on youtube or elsewhere (or the transcripts read), new people will hear it for the first time and get angry. And inevitably some will contact Barnett directly and say upsetting things. Complaints from LBC staff and appeals from Ben won’t change that. If LBC/Barnett aren’t going to do anything constructive to make amends they need to learn to ignore abusive emails, not whinge about them or blame the wrong person.

  30. Garulon said,

    February 11, 2009 at 5:23 pm

    “but I’d lay money they’ve already been moderated and the abusive and/or sweary ones were never displayed in the first place.”

    Sorry for the multiple posts, in her latest blog (quite a charming one about the dentist TBH):

    www.jenibarnett.com/2009/02/snow_bound.php

    there’s post number 8 which doesn’t do much more than call her a moron, which I’d have filtered out if I was her. So I don’t know, but PLEASE don’t try to find out (a) that’d be playing right into their hands (b) this isn’t about Jeni Barnett (Dotty old ladies with crazy opinions abound) this is about the wall of horrific misinformation about MMR that has been pumped to the general public for a decade.

  31. michael said,

    February 11, 2009 at 5:32 pm

    Maria – take your point, hadn’t looked at it that way … all we can hope is that people who have found the clips through this site aren’t going to harass her

  32. Michael Grayer said,

    February 11, 2009 at 5:36 pm

    @maria:
    “If LBC/Barnett aren’t going to do anything constructive to make amends they need to learn to ignore abusive emails, not whinge about them or blame the wrong person.”

    That’s true. Unfortunately we don’t (in the short term, at least) have any control over the actions or reactions of Jeni and LBC, regardless of whether they are right or wrong. We can, however, exert some influence about what we do ourselves.

    As mentioned in many posts on Bad Science and other similar sites, the anti-MMR lobby frequently cherry-pick unrepresentative samples and use that as evidence. I fear that this precedent will be used again to attempt to portray those who use scientific evidence as bullies. If even 1% of emails received by Jeni Barnett are vicious in tone, you can bet your bottom dollar which 1% of emails will be used to “represent” the whole body of emails that Jeni received. It’s morally reprehensible, I know. I agree with you there. But my point is that we have a duty not to provide them with such cheap ammunition in the first place.

  33. Garulon said,

    February 11, 2009 at 5:38 pm

    (argh another one)

    And I’m not saying that Jeni’s not receiving abusive email, I’m just saying I’d really like to know if they’re including disagreement with her absurd nonsense in their set of “abusive”.

  34. julie oakley said,

    February 11, 2009 at 6:27 pm

    Well done Ben on being clear and reasonable in your response. I agree, I think that if Jeni is so combative on her programme and on her blog she is going to attract the ire of people who might otherwise be more reasonable, but politen

    I had a theory that while everyone was praising Jeni for allowing the deluge of unmoderated comments on her blog, the frail vulnerable old dear was desperately spending the weekend trying to find out how to delete the damn things. Which she unfortunately succeeded in doing, because many of the last hundred or so comments (including my beautifully crafted contribution) were in fact polite. They disagreed but they weren’t abusive.

  35. Andrew Clegg said,

    February 11, 2009 at 6:34 pm

    Quick question, and a tad off-topic, and please forgive me if it’s been answered elsewhere (if so, paste link!)…

    What’s the best answer to an anti-vaxer saying “if the three jabs were available separately, there wouldn’t be a measles or mumps or rubella outbreak”?

    My first thoughts are:

    1. They’re too expensive separately to cover all the kids

    2. Nobody makes them in enough quantities any more

    3. The evidence that they’re safe is no more strong than the evidence that the triple jab is safe anyway!

    (Although they might take the wrong way…)

    All of the above?

    Some of them, but not others?

    Or phone a friend, I mean, something else entirely?

    Sadly I left my last job before completing a project on this sort of thing and never found out the gory details.

    Andrew.

  36. The Biologista said,

    February 11, 2009 at 7:04 pm

    Andrew,

    Another problem is that the jabs must be spread out over time. There is thus a greater window of opportunity for infection. Also, any given person is far less likely to keep three appointments than just one. Especially when the appointments involve a needle.

  37. spk76 said,

    February 11, 2009 at 7:07 pm

    In brief:

    1. the child is unprotected against the other 2 diseases after having the first jab

    2. 6 jabs are required overall instead of just 2 (consider the time, cost and inconvenience of getting children to clinics for 3 times as many jabs)

    3. the safety and efficacy of single jabs is not proven, i.e. they do not have the decades of evidence and monitoring that the triple jab has had internationally. Single jabs are not even licensed for use in the UK, so have not been subject to the rigorous safety and efficacy testing of approved drugs e.g. MMR. Private clinics tend not to bother with the adverse event monitoring/reporting procedures that NHS clinics must abide by. All this means that the evidence for the safety of MMR is in fact stronger than that for single jabs.

    4. single jabs are more costly than the triple jab (good for Big Pharma, bad for the NHS)

    5. the triple jab is free on the NHS, single jabs can only be obtained privately at a cost

    6. parents may choose which jabs to give their kids, i.e. some may choose not to give boys the anti-rubella, or choose not to give the measles jab

    7. offering single jabs would further undermine public confidence in MMR, as many would view this as a tacit admission that MMR is not as safe as all that

    Overall, the introduction of single jabs would be costly both financially and socially, would not offer the same level of protection as MMR, and is simply an unjustified measure that panders only to media hysteria and not to clinical evidence.

  38. gadgeezer said,

    February 11, 2009 at 7:11 pm

    #34 Andrew Clegg – as per Biologista, plus previous response on the matter of combined v. single jabs culled from deaf-blind charity Sense Position statement.

    Sense Scotland has a good briefing on measles, mumps and rubella.

    Would the choice of single vaccines help to compensate for the drop in MMR uptake?

    No. Even if every parent followed a single vaccination programme, the time delay would still mean the spread of all three diseases in the community.

    Fewer children will be protected at any one time increasing the risk of outbreaks among them
    Some may not complete the course and remain unprotected
    Some may opt to miss out rubella in the mistaken belief that it is less dangerous than measles and mumps
    More children will be born with deafness, blindness and other lifelong difficulties because of rubella infection in pregnancy
    Single vaccines would require six separate trips to the GP and an increase in invasive procedures increases the incidence of local reactions.

  39. gadgeezer said,

    February 11, 2009 at 7:20 pm

    One of the strong passages in the Sense Position Statement on the issue of MMR is the summary of what happened the last time when separate jabs were offered as a response to loss of confidence in vaccination.

    [Reprise of what happened the last time single vaccines were offered because of a (groundless) vaccine scare.] In the 1970s, following a decrease in uptake of the diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTP) vaccine, single vaccines for pertussis (whooping cough) were offered, with diphtheria and tetanus vaccines given separately. What happened was that over half of parents chose to vaccinate their children without the pertussis component. Coverage fell from 80% to 30%, there were three epidemics of pertussis, thousands of hospital admissions and around a hundred deaths. It took nearly fifteen years for vaccine uptake levels to recover…

  40. Andrew Clegg said,

    February 11, 2009 at 7:21 pm

    @ 35 and 36 — fantastic, thanks. It never even occurred to me that the single jabs were actually less proven-safe than the combined one.

  41. PaulG said,

    February 11, 2009 at 8:51 pm

    My apologies for the length of this one, but this covers my complaint to LBC over the MMR broadcast, the reply from Jonathan Richards, Jeni Barnetts Programme Director, and my follow-up. Mr. Richard’s reply didn’t even remotely begin to address my complaint.

    Particularly not the areas of legal responsibility identified.

    No need to get personal, the facts are on our side.

    So, OFCOM here I come.

    —–Message 1—–

    From: Paul Godden
    Sent: 09 February 2009 21:20
    To: LBC Complaints
    Subject: Website: Feedback and Complaints

    Brand and Ross leave a tasteless message on a clebrities’ voicemail, and are publicly disciplined with a full apology by the most senior member of staff at the corporation.

    Jeni Barnett spouts complete, uninformed ignorance, without any basis in fact (and yes, I am a qualified biological scientist and do know of what I speak).

    Ignorance which can endanger lives – not just some ill-considered prank.

    She admits publicly that she was uninformed on the topic (as was revealed by two healthcare professionals on-air), and she is allowed to continue broadcasting without any public acknowledgement of her failure as a professional broadcaster (in terms of lack of research), or of her failure in her responsibilities under paragraph 2(1) of Part II of Schedule 2 to the Broadcasting Act 1990, paragraphs 9 and 10 of Schedule 1 to the Human Rights Act 1998, and paragraph 15 of Schedule 14 to the Communications Act 2003, which state that Broadcasting Act licensees should not:

    > practise or advocate illegal behaviour;
    > practise or advocate behaviour which is injurious to the health or morals of participants or others;
    > practise or advocate behaviour which infringes the rights and freedoms of participants or others;
    > pose a threat to public safety;
    > pose a threat to national security or territorial integrity or
    > threaten the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

    My complaint is that Jeni Barnett’s broadcast will prove “injurious to the health” of some listeners and certainly poses a “threat to public safety”.

    On these grounds I intend to raise a complaint with OFCOM and look into the potential for legal action against LBC and your parent company.

    Please acknowledge that this complaint has been LOGGED (not simply received).

    A copy has been kept for my records and forwarded to solicitors retained.

    —–Message 2—–
    From: LBC Complaints
    Sent: 11 February 2009 09:02
    To: Paul Godden
    Subject: RE: Website: Feedback and Complaints

    The incident you refer to happened four weeks ago. The presenter was
    given robust feedback about her performance straight afterwards. She is
    entitled to have her own views but must present a balanced debate. Since
    then the subject of MMR has been discussed several times on LBC without
    any comment from bad science or any other quarter. At the time of the
    original broadcast I received three complaints. We take the subject of
    MMR and other public health matters extremely seriously.

    Jonathan Richards
    Programme Director LBC News 1152 & LBC 97.3
    Group Head of News Global Radio

    —–Message 3—–
    From: Paul Godden
    Sent: 11 February 2009 09:49
    To: LBC Complaints
    Subject: RE: Website: Feedback and Complaints

    > The incident you refer to happened four weeks ago.

    That has absolutely nothing to do with my complaint and is not an acceptable response. You have not addresseed my complaint.

    > The presenter was given robust feedback about her performance straight afterwards.

    Robust feedback is not sufficient for someone who has endangered public health with ill-informed argument and ignorance.

    > She is entitled to have her own views but must present a balanced debate.

    She may be entitled to have her own views, but she is not entitled to broadcast them if they are “injurious to the health or morals of participants or others” or “pose a threat to public safety”. In this case Jeni Barnett clearly does both and thus is in breach of broadcasting law.

    This broadcast did not present a balanced debate, Jeni Barnett was clearly biased and dismissed her critics with ignorance and foolishness. This does not represent a “balanced debate” by any definition.

    > Since then the subject of MMR has been discussed several times on LBC without any comment from bad science or any other quarter.

    That has absolutely nothing to do with my complaint and is not an acceptable response. You have not addresseed my complaint.

    > At the time of the original broadcast I received three complaints.

    That has absolutely nothing to do with my complaint and is not an acceptable response. You have not addresseed my complaint.

    > We take the subject of MMR and other public health matters extremely seriously.

    Quite obviously you do not take this matter remotely seriously enough. Jeni Barnett – and yourself as a manager responsible for content, have endangered public health, to the point of promoting a strategy that endangers life.

    This cannot be taken more seriously.

    You have not even begun to address the matters raised in my original complaint and I shall be taking this matter further.

    Yours sincerely,

    Paul D. Godden

  42. Ian Edmond said,

    February 11, 2009 at 9:01 pm

    Wow, deja vu! That is the exact reply that I got, so Jonathan Richards is just sending out a stock reply. And my reply to him was remarkably similar to yours, Paul!

  43. PaulG said,

    February 11, 2009 at 9:05 pm

    Great minds and all that.

  44. Andrew Clegg said,

    February 11, 2009 at 8:13 pm

    Err, thanks to gadgeezer too for the Sense Scotland info, who somehow managed to insert a comment before mine even though mine was directly after spk76 earlier…!

  45. Jeesh42 said,

    February 11, 2009 at 8:33 pm

    Well done Ben. We have the evidence on our side, so we don’t need to resort to ad-hom attacks.

  46. JohnED said,

    February 11, 2009 at 8:40 pm

    Jeni’s agent has explained why the comments were taken down from the blog

    blogs.journalism.co.uk/editors/2009/02/11/personal-comments-detract-from-original-mmr-lbc-debate/

    “[The comments] do not address the debate about the use of MMR and that is the reason for taking the comments off Jeni’s website,”

    “Jeni would never wish to restrict discussion on this topic or indeed any other, however, when that debate encourages threats and abuse it is impossible to do so and I have advised [her] not to continue to make any further comments,”

  47. jojo said,

    February 11, 2009 at 8:53 pm

    If you’re thinking of contacting Ofcom…

    This may not seem like the largest of her errors – but it’s the bit which I think Ofcom will be most interested in. She didn’t ask for, or encourage, other points of view. Look at the transcript where she’s giving out the number. That bit is really important – as she only asks for people to ring in if they agree with her. She asks for an expert – but only if they can tell her “what’s in the vaccine, and why people have a reaction to it” – presenting the idea people have a reaction as fact – she does not ask for people who think MMR is a good idea. And when she gets a good, authoritative person – nurse Yasmin – she doesn’t give her space to explain her argument, cuts her short and then calls her “vicious” on her blog. This is the bit of the Ofcom code in question:

    from the Ofcom code:

    5.9 Presenters and reporters (with the exception of news presenters and reporters in news programmes), presenters of “personal view” or “authored” programmes or items, and chairs of discussion programmes may express their own views on matters of political or industrial controversy or matters relating to current public policy. However, alternative viewpoints must be adequately represented either in the programme, or in a series of programmes taken as a whole. Additionally, presenters must not use the advantage of regular appearances to promote their views in a way that compromises the requirement for due impartiality. Presenter phone-ins must encourage and must not exclude alternative views.

    You don’t need to tell me that MMR should be all about the science – not treated like two sides of a debate. But the key thing is she didn’t allow a person disagreeing with her enough space to lay out their argument.

    One last thing – Ben you wondered if Ofcom’s the same as the PPC. It’s not perfect but it has more teeth. It not only can make people apologise, and fine them – it also can stipulate *when* they apologise – so if they told a radio station to apologise at peak time – it has to. Unlike papers which I understand can cheerfully put their apology on page 24 in small writing if they want to.

  48. evidencebasedeating said,

    February 11, 2009 at 9:53 pm

    Carlotta @ #18 said
    “Listening to Jeni’s show this afternoon, much safer ground, broccoli vs cabbage – but she does not use a microwave because someone once told her it affects the molecules”

    Bong!
    Wrong again. Yes, microwave prevents glucosinolates from forming isothiocyanates because the enzyme myrosinase that frees them from the cut raw version is destroyed with cooking
    BUT
    our trusty bowel bacteria replace myrosinase, in releasing these ITCs from glucosinolates in cooked food which we then absorb.

    Just eat Broccoli
    preferably whilst NOT listening to audio tripe.

  49. JQH said,

    February 11, 2009 at 10:20 pm

    Probably best if people refrain from emailing Ms Barnett at all. As has been said above, as she referred to a perfectly polite caller as “vicious” she is going to regard any criticism as abusive.

    And if there have been any genuinely abusive emailers, I would just point out that currently the pro-EBM view has the moral high ground. We do not want to throw it away.

  50. MykReeve said,

    February 11, 2009 at 10:32 pm

    My local MP claims that Ministers can’t sign Early Day Motions (or at least, did when I asked her to sign the one against the proposed amendment to the Freedom of Information Act – for MPs expenses). Can anyone confirm if this is really the case? If so, it seems an odd thing to lie about…

    Also, I had an argument with my girlfriend about freedom of speech and Jeni Barnett’s broadcast as an example of ill-informed media coverage, which provided content for my blog this week: thomyk.podbean.com – if anyone’s interested in checking it out.

  51. spk76 said,

    February 11, 2009 at 10:35 pm

    Anyway, those new comments that had managed to creep onto her blog have now been removed, whilst the older comments were retained, so assuredly not a technical glitch after all, as if that was ever in doubt…

  52. spk76 said,

    February 11, 2009 at 11:12 pm

    See here for comments from her agent:

    blogs.journalism.co.uk/editors/2009/02/11/personal-comments-detract-from-original-mmr-lbc-debate/

    But compare that with the archived comments here:

    www.quackometer.net/blog/2009/02/jeni-barnett-have-you-lost-something.html

    It is obvious that the comments almost entirely addressed the debate about the use of MMR and were on the whole never extremely personal and abusive.

    It seems she is being very badly advised. This weak attempt to portray Jeni as some sort of abused victim in this affair is frankly pathetic.

    All she needs to do to turn this whole thing around and regain some respect and credibility would be to publicly retract and apologise or at the very least, invite some knowledgeable expert onto her show to present the scientific side of things.

  53. Sazzle said,

    February 11, 2009 at 11:15 pm

    Whilst I was shocked and appalled by the LBC broadcast in the recent Bad Science podcast I think that Ben himself is right – it was the broadcasting of the programme that was irresponsible, not the view that Jeni Barnett held. Whilst I disagree fundamentally with what Jeni had to say and found the way she treated Yasmin on the show disrespectful, ultimately her views are her views, and she is entitled to them. It is the producers’ faults for letting the show air and not Jeni’s for holding the opinions she does.

  54. Dr Aust said,

    February 11, 2009 at 11:27 pm

    Re comment 47 – perhaps in the Jeni-verse “MMR” stands for “Microwaves Massacre Reason”. I suspect there may be a Wi-Fi transmitter in the LBC studio… Don’t tell Jeni, though, or the next programme may be about “electrosmog”.

    Jeni seems sincere – she is just sincerely wrong. I suspect the “offended by insults” actually helps her ignore having the fractured and disconnected logic of her worldview pointed out to her.

    I must admit, though, that the LBC people look like utter fools. The reaction of the Programme Director of LBC overall is pathetic. It seems to reduce to

    “Those bastards! They’re out to get Jeni – and us! And all because we did a challenging and entertaining vox pop!”

    I find I am oddly reminded of the puffs of smoke and umbrage that emerged from the Observer when they ran a famously idiotic MMR story and fawning Andrew Wakefield interview back in the Summer of 2007. They similarly didn’t seem to be able to see that this stuff actually matters. Also similarly, when any number of people pointed out the mistakes, they singularly failed to apologise properly, or to address the question of what responsibilities journalists have WRT striving for truth and objectivity.

    Really, one has to ask: if these high-up editorial people really don’t get the importance of stuff like this in terms of the media and the wider public conversation, then why are they in the jobs that they are in? Are they really the best the owners could find?

  55. JohnED said,

    February 11, 2009 at 11:32 pm

    As comments can no longer be left on Jeni’s blog I would suggest people turn their attention to three fairly shoddy pieces of journalism

    The Witch Hunt Against Andrew Wakefield by Melanie Phillips
    www.spectator.co.uk/melaniephillips/3346281/the-witchhunt-against-andrew-wakefield.thtml

    The MMR Scandal is Back by Liz Hunt
    www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/lizhunt/4583540/The-MMR-scandal-is-back.html

    There’s more to the pain of autism than the MMR debate by Gill Hornby
    www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/4571963/Theres-more-to-the-pain-of-autism-than-the-MMR-debate.html

  56. fontwell said,

    February 11, 2009 at 11:32 pm

    But when are we going to give the same treatment to Melanie Phillips?

    BTW I’m increasingly of the opinion that The Moral Maze is another spoof like Down The Line or Alan Partridge but the BBC is not letting on.

  57. JMS said,

    February 12, 2009 at 12:47 am

    Just a thought. Many people have written “Jeni has the right to her own opinion” or words to that effect. This is of course an argument about free speech. In the US the right to free speech is taken much more seriously than here in the UK. However even in the US there are limits to free speech, the usual example of something that would not be allowed is shouting “Fire!” in a crowded cinema if there was no fire. It seems to me that what Jeni Barnett and others have done is pretty much equivalent to shouting “Fire!” in a crowded cinema.

  58. HolfordWatch said,

    February 12, 2009 at 1:02 am

    So, Melanie Phillips still reposes her full confidence in Andrew Wakefield: The Witch-Hunt Against Andrew Wakefield. She fully accepts all of Wakefield’s responses without investigating them further and states:

    I stand by everything I have written and the conclusions I have previously reached: that the clinical jury is still out on the risks of MMR; that the epidemiological research on which the claims are based that it has conclusively been proved to be safe is at best methodologically inadequate and at worst has been misleadingly spun; that although any link to MMR remains unproven, Wakefield’s Lancet findings of a new clinical syndrome have beenreplicated.

    There are no links or further information on these “replicated” findings. And we have the, by now, familiar references to Hannah Poling (here and here) and Dr Bernardine Healy.

    The whole sundae is then topped off as Phillips echoes Wakefield’s call for single vaccines: an argument that holds no merit. Ironically, in the comments, several people affect to object to what they characterise as Brian Deer’s unethical disclosure of children’s medical records – other issues aside, no identifying details were revealed. However, those people have nothing to say about David Kirby’s treatment of Hannah Poling’s records, the transgressing of the tribunal order in place to protect her privacy, or the fact that John Poling had failed to disclose his relationship with Hannah when authoring a paper about her condition, nor did he declare that he was involved in a pending action before the Division of Vaccine Injury Compensation that concerned the matters described in the paper. This behaviour was so egregious that it prompted the journal to publish a blistering correction under the title: The Appalling Poling Saga. The piece gives the timeline and history of the journal accepting the paper for publication and what they knew and when. Dr Brumback then issues one of the sternest implied reprimands that has ever been published in such a prestigious journal:

    However, in order for journals to maintain credibility with the scientific community and the general public, it is essential that any conflicts of interest be clearly identified.

    Beginning in January 2009, statements from all authors concerning potential conflicts of interest will be published as a part of each article. However, no written statement can substitute for honesty, good faith, and integrity on the part of authors. [Emphasis added.]

  59. caithlin said,

    February 12, 2009 at 2:30 am

    Dear Dr. Goldacre,

    I just wanted to thank you for staying with this story and continuing to press the case for using actual science instead of hand-waving and superstition. As an American, I’ve encountered many “anti-vaccine” parents in various places, and the raw foolishness of their “opinion” continues to boggle my mind. I’m hopeful that this situation raises awareness about the importance of the MMR, and of the nonexistence of any link between it and autism–both in the UK, and here across the pond.

    Best wishes, and good luck.

  60. AndyD said,

    February 12, 2009 at 5:13 am

    While I cannot disagree that idiotic emails add nothing of value, I do find one thing interesting.

    On her blog, Jeni said it was unfair to hold one individual responsible for decreasing acceptance of MRR. However, it seems LBC are only too happy to hold Ben Goldacre responsible for Jeni’s inbox.

    Or have they also contacted all those other bloggers out there who’ve taken up this story?

    Good luck with the campaign Ben. If nothing else comes from this, you have helped to demonstrate what bloggers can do when they work together on a common cause.

  61. EleanorC said,

    February 12, 2009 at 9:51 am

    Barnett and co are behaving like children.

    That’s not abuse, that’s an observation.

  62. fishy6969 said,

    February 12, 2009 at 10:07 am

    Having listened to the broadcast again, I noticed a worthy plug in her show for a breast cancer fundraiser. One quick observation (and apologies if it has been made elsewhere) – if there was a breast cancer immunisation available, would she be anti that? More relevant today, what is he stance on gardasil and cevarix?

    It never ceases to amaze me how many parents I see who refused to go for MMR and are now first in the queue for to give their daughters gardasil.

    Ironic times for ironic minds!

  63. HolfordWatch said,

    February 12, 2009 at 10:09 am

    AndyD, it is not at all clear whether LBC is complaining about emails (unseen and therefore unavailable for verification) or the comments that are still available on Quackometer.

    Had it been an email problem, if Jeni Barnett chose to do so, a number of bloggers, such as PZ Myers, reserve the right to publish emails that contain threats of physical violence.

    The comments were mostly decorous.

    Jeni Barnett and her agent seem to have misunderstood the significance of the act of deleting comments and posts. Scots Law Student made a pertinent observation in Jeni Barnett on MMR – is copyright law right for this case?. Different groups operate by different rules of conduct:

    Dr Goldacre claims to have posted the long extract as it was the only way to convey the content which he took issue to without claims of bias or selective editing – in other words fair use of the extract for purposes of review. I think that’s a very carefully thought out reason to put the 44.2 megabyte file on his site and would be accepted without question in an academic debate in which you live and die by the rule “you cite your sources or people can’t trust you”.

    Attempting to withhold primary sources (programme segment) or deleting them (blog posts and comments) are unthinkable actions to people who wish to promote discussion about the content of those sources.

    London’s biggest sulk.

  64. Angus said,

    February 12, 2009 at 10:52 am

    I’ve also just asked my MP (now upto 19 signatures) to sign EDM 754 and posted my support for the EDM and you Ben on my blog. As father of a young daughter recovering from leukaemia she is not allowed to have live vaccines yet, but if any child at her school does not get the vaccine and then catches M or M or R, then she is at high risk.

  65. michael said,

    February 12, 2009 at 10:55 am

    @JohnED

    Regarding Liz Hunt’s commentary – I think she makes a particularly valid point towards the end, and one that is brushed over a little by Ben and the pro-MMR (of which I’m a member) group

    “Some commentators have dismissed the controversy as a “middle-class mania”. It did obsess them but they weren’t its victims. In many cases, a look at the data or a consultation, and this privileged group were rightly persuaded of the evidence supporting the safety of MMR. I know many who did just that and I am sure that Cherie Blair, who famously – and shamefully – refused to say if her son Leo had been vaccinated, falls into this category. (She later admitted that he had had the injection.) And those who still had doubts could pay for the single jab if their GP was unable to provide it on the NHS.

    It is those who only read the headlines and didn’t have access to private consultations or couldn’t pay for single vaccinations who have been so ill-served by the clinicians and by some sections of the media. They did what they thought was best and their children suffered as a result. It remains a scandal.”

    Has anyone actually looked into the socio-economic backgrounds of those who rejected the triple jab? Is it a little unfair and ignorant to use sweeping ‘humanities graduates’ stereotypes to dismiss them – and possible innaccurate?

    Regarding Gill Hornby’s article, again this is a valid and constructive article. She is actually saying that we should forget about the MMR bit and focus on what was the original impetus for the Royal Free’s research, an association between a gut disorder and autism. The MMR controversy has overtaken that and derailed useful research.

  66. Wyatt Earp said,

    February 12, 2009 at 11:12 am

    Hi Angus: your story is familiar, so you may be a friend of a friend, although there will of course be many in your position. What a horrible state of affairs.

    Anyway. This line being taken by LBC is deeply suspect, I think. I’m sure there will have been a few clowns posting personal nonsense, but I’m even surer, having read Jeni Barnett’s blog, that the overwhelming bulk of posts were polite, and all of them, not just the rare nasties, were wiped.

    That suggests either that LBC are spinning a line here, or that they experience all robust criticism as abuse. Either is plausible, as of course is a mixture of the two.

    We need to contest strongly the idea that JB’s blog was deluged with hate mail; the cached versions at quackometer will presumably help. We also need to make sure that any temptation towards what JB calls “vitriol” is resisted, though for people in Angus’ position that must be quite a heroic struggle sometimes.

  67. hamlets ghost said,

    February 12, 2009 at 11:28 am

    Email requesting MP sign EDM sent to David Drew. Since he’s MP for Stroud, the home of woo, I can only hope….

  68. abahachi said,

    February 12, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    No one seems to have mentioned this (though there is a heroic attempt there from Julie Oakley at talking sense), but the anti-MMR/anti-vaccination brigade are out in force on a Grauniad blog, smugly congratulating themselves at having seen off doubters; it’s tucked away in the Education section, rather than in Comment is Free, which may be why people seem to have missed it.

    www.guardian.co.uk/education/mortarboard/2009/feb/10/mmr-vaccination-measles

  69. michael said,

    February 12, 2009 at 12:42 pm

    Earlier today I posted on this thread, but for some reason it’s only visible when I’m logged in – anyone know why?

  70. K9 said,

    February 12, 2009 at 12:49 pm

    I have tried to get my MP to sign the EDM, but he says that as he did not hear the LBC programme or knows who Jeni Barnett is, then he feels he cannot sign up, even though he strongly supports MMR vaccination.

    Anyone else come up against that kind of answer?

  71. thepoisongarden said,

    February 12, 2009 at 12:49 pm

    As an aside on the single vaccines theme, last week there was a sign up in our local health centre on the day of the monthly visit from the hospital paediatrician; ‘December – 12 appointments made – 4 children attended’.

    That seems to say it all when you talk about needing six jabs instead of two.

  72. michael said,

    February 12, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    @JohnED

    Regarding Liz Hunt’s commentary – I think she makes a particularly valid point towards the end, and one that is brushed over a little by Ben and the pro-MMR (of which I’m a member) group

    “Some commentators have dismissed the controversy as a “middle-class mania”. It did obsess them but they weren’t its victims. In many cases, a look at the data or a consultation, and this privileged group were rightly persuaded of the evidence supporting the safety of MMR. I know many who did just that and I am sure that Cherie Blair, who famously – and shamefully – refused to say if her son Leo had been vaccinated, falls into this category. (She later admitted that he had had the injection.) And those who still had doubts could pay for the single jab if their GP was unable to provide it on the NHS.

    It is those who only read the headlines and didn’t have access to private consultations or couldn’t pay for single vaccinations who have been so ill-served by the clinicians and by some sections of the media. They did what they thought was best and their children suffered as a result. It remains a scandal.”

    Has anyone actually looked into the socio-economic backgrounds of those who rejected the triple jab? Is it a little unfair and ignorant to use sweeping ‘humanities graduates’ stereotypes to dismiss them – and possible innaccurate?

    Regarding Gill Hornby’s article, again this is a valid and constructive article. She is actually saying that we should forget about the MMR bit and focus on what was the original impetus for the Royal Free’s research, an association between a gut disorder and autism. The MMR controversy has overtaken that and derailed useful research.

  73. thepoisongarden said,

    February 12, 2009 at 1:04 pm

    Thanks, abahachi for the Guardian link. There’s an awful lot of comments there and I haven’t read all of them. Some seem to be from people who can make Jeni B look rational.

    But the latest one, from jennorann 12 Feb 09, 5:47am actually made me quite sad because I think it illustrates the effect the anti-vac militants can have on ordinary people with ordinary levels of intelligence.

  74. HolfordWatch said,

    February 12, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    Dr Crippen wrote:

    I know as a doctor on the front line that “herd immunity” is a hard argument to sell to a worried parent looking at someone standing over their child with a needle.

    Yes it is which is why it was so startling but cheerful to see a story in The Sun that implicitly highlights the potential benefits of herd immunity: Have MMR catch-up vaccinations, Mother Urges.

    BRAVE Lydia Ayirebi had her first MMR jab yesterday – as official figures revealed an explosion in measles cases.

    And her mum Annette urged all parents to make sure their kids are protected.

    Lydia’s parents have delayed giving their daughter the shot for two years.

    But it wasn’t because of fears of side-effects and claims of a link to autism. They were waiting for their daughter to be well enough for the triple jab.

    Lydia caught measles when she was just seven months old, and too young to be vaccinated.

    She suffered multiple organ failure and breathing difficulties.

    As per Angus #60, above, there are more children surviving with leukaemia or similar and it is important for them that there is a reliable degree of herd immunity. In May 2008, Professor Salisbury sent out a memo, CEM/CMO/2008/07, in which he reminded people of the importance of vaccination and herd immunity for protecting such individuals.

    cannot emphasise enough the risk that measles presents to immunosuppressed individuals, particularly children. Between 1974 and 1984, of 51 children who died when in the first remission from acute lymphatic leukaemia, 15 of the deaths were due to measles or its complications. While the incidence of measles has declined since then and the coverage of measles-containing vaccine has increased, there have been about 1000 confirmed cases reported in England and Wales in the last 12 months. There are ongoing outbreaks in other European countries.

    MMR vaccine cannot be given to immunosuppressed individuals, so their protection is dependent on avoiding exposure to the virus.

    Measles is so contagious that every child with measles infects 15 others (pdf).

    #66 Poison Garden’s report of the woeful statistics says a lot. Single vaccines are not the way to head off an epidemic of measles, mumps or rubella.

  75. tom-p said,

    February 12, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    Firstly, I just don’t believe that there have been abusive comments or emails. Not even from lone nutters.
    She’s playing the classic victim cards that bullshitting blowhards always try when their lies and ignorance have been exposed.
    If there were, then why delete all the previous polite comments? Why not simply close the comment thread with a note explaining that there’s so many that they can’t monitor them adequately. That would be a perfectly reasonable and fair thing to do. Deleting the comments makes it look to someone who’s just heard the broadcast like nobody’s replied and so encourages people to inadvertently repeat the many excellent points already made.
    ********************
    test

  76. tom-p said,

    February 12, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    Andrew Clegg, SPK76′s reply wasn’t wholly correct (good though it largely was). I’m annotating the relevant erroneous arguments for your reference:

    3. the safety and efficacy of single jabs is not proven, i.e. they do not have the decades of evidence and monitoring that the triple jab has had internationally.
    Single jabs are not even licensed for use in the UK, so have not been subject to the rigorous safety and efficacy testing of approved drugs e.g. MMR.
    The single measles jab was introduced in ’69 and has been in use longer than MMR. Single mumps and rubella jabs were both available before MMR too and have quite a body of evidence regarding their safety and efficacy. They are basically fine, but giving all 3 together is better from a public health perspective (better coverage &c), as you already rightly pointed out
    They used to be licensed, but the pharma companies allowed the licenses to lapse ‘cos it wasn’t cost-effective to maintain them

    Private clinics tend not to bother with the adverse event monitoring/reporting procedures that NHS clinics must abide by.
    There is no requirement for NHS clinics to report adverse drug reactions (ADRs), and even so there is no evidence that compulsion leads to higher ADR reporting rates (Italy has compulsion, the UK doesn’t, ADR reporting rates are not significantly higher in Italy than the UK (even when adjusting for population and market sizes). Also, I know of no evidence that shows that private clinics are less likely to report ADRs. The fact that anaphylaxis is relatively (4x) more likely to happen with the single jabs than the combined MMR, despite no plausible biological mechanism for why this should be so, suggests that maybe reporting rates are higher from private clinics (or maybe their storage conditions are worse). either way, you’d think that they’d report if only to cover their sorry greedy arses.

    5. the triple jab is free on the NHS, single jabs can only be obtained privately at a cost
    Well, that’s only ‘cos that’s what the government (for very good public health reasons) has decided to do. That’s no argument against the government switching their policy; it’s like saying that drugs are bad because they’re illegal, and that they’re illegal ‘cos they’re bad.

  77. HolfordWatch said,

    February 12, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    #72, Michael

    Has anyone actually looked into the socio-economic backgrounds of those who rejected the triple jab? Is it a little unfair and ignorant to use sweeping ‘humanities graduates’ stereotypes to dismiss them – and possible innaccurate?

    Yes. Dr Aust has covered some of the relevant literature: LBC, laughable, blustering, canting and HolfordWatch links to others: Some Rebuttals to Jeni Barnett’s Canards in Her LBC Radio MMR Segment.

    There is a clear indication that a disproportionate number of well-to do, educated parents were the ones who were opting out of the vaccination programme.

  78. HolfordWatch said,

    February 12, 2009 at 3:14 pm

    Very useful comment from Allo V Psycho on the comparatively overlooked illness of rubella.

    Most attention seems to have focussed on the dangers posed by measles. However, perhaps because of my research background, I personally am most concerned about an outbreak of rubella (German measles). Because it generally presents as a relatively mild disease, it may not be detected in children or most adults. However, the consequences for infected pregnant women are devastating. It is impossible to overstate the seriousness of the resulting Congenital Rubella Syndrome (CRS). The nature of the outcomes depend upon the stage of pregnancy, but include eye defects leading to affected eyesight or blindness, hearing defects leading to deafness, heart defects, mental retardation, and of course, fetal death. Fetal infection rates following maternal infection are estimated as 100% up to week 10 of pregnancy, with an estimated 90% of infected babies suffering malformation, with infection and abnormality rates decreasing but remaining significant in succeeding weeks. In the last major pandemic, in 1963-65, there were at least 13,000 early or fetal deaths, 20,000 infants born with major abnormalities, and 10,000 to 30,000 infants born with less severe abnormalities in the US alone. WHO estimates suggest there are currently at least 100,000 and possibly 200,000, babies born each year who are affected by CRS.

    This dreadful scourge has almost been eliminated from the developed world by infant and childhood vaccination programmes. The vaccine is unusually effective, with seroconversion rates of as much as 98%, and long lasting persistence. It appears to be very safe, even when given to women who become pregnant shortly after the vaccination. However, paradoxically, this can place the population at greater risk if vaccination rates subsequently fall: a disease which was endemic can then become epidemic.

    Epidemic risks are increased by the fact that the disease itself is often mild both in adults and in children. If it is undiagnosed, then sufferers may not be isolated from pregnant women. Some children remain infective for long periods after the symptoms have disappeared, and in the nature of things, young children are often in the same company as pregnant women.

    Reduced MMR uptake poses just such a risk. Given that no plausible evidence has been produced to suggest that the vaccine poses risks to child development, and that there is no possibility of doubting that the disease poses devastating risks to child development, I think it is tragic and regrettable that misguided parents are campaigning against MMR. When they have a child with a developmental disorder themselves, they are then in the position of campaigning for the promotion of developmental defects in others. In my opinion, ill informed media journalists, like Jeni Barnett, and pressure groups like JABS, must bear a significant share of responsibility for cases of CRS occurring over the next 10 or 20 years.

    References: too many to cite, really, but see for example Duszak RS (2009) Congenital rubella syndrome – major review. Optometry 80: 36-43, and Robinson JL et al (2006) Prevention of congenital rubella syndrome – what makes sense in 2006? Epidemiologic Reviews 28: 81-87.

  79. abahachi said,

    February 12, 2009 at 3:42 pm

    The horror, the horror: latest wibblings on the Grauniad discussion thread mentioned above:

    The human body is strengthened by infections not weakened by them. If you subscribe to Darwin’s theory of evolution, then you will know that this is correct. I have also read studies that show that a child’s brain shows a marked leap forward in development and cogniscant function shortly after a measles infection. There are current studies which focus on the measles vaccination having a positive effect on such things as prostate cancer… now if that’s the case, then what benefits might ‘real’ measles confer?

    Even as a humanities graduate, albeit one with an interest in ecological history, disease and demography, I can see that this is deranged, but I don’t have the scientific training to offer a full rebuttal. Anyone? Or should we ignore this and hope no one bothers to read it?

  80. HolfordWatch said,

    February 12, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    Social media tool to help guide decisions whether to ignore or engage with comments or posts with which you disagree etc.

  81. Angus said,

    February 12, 2009 at 3:53 pm

    Holfordwatch – thanks for that info. and link – I will be posting it on my own blog “Life with Leukaemia”.

  82. HolfordWatch said,

    February 12, 2009 at 4:54 pm

    Special Court for Autism Omnibus Hearings does not find that MMR or other causations were credible.

    Details of the petitioners’ attempt to exclude the authoritative testimony from Professor Stephen Bustin concerning the conditions at the laboratory whose results underpinned the flaws in Andrew Wakefield’s research.

  83. Horace Foster said,

    February 12, 2009 at 5:04 pm

    Certainly personal abuse is not called for…

    But something hilarious like this video recreating Yasmin’s call to Jeni Barnett certainly is!

    www.youtube.com/watch?v=TIO1NhfKTVU

    absolutely brilliant

    HF

  84. Kess said,

    February 12, 2009 at 8:02 pm

    I have to saw I’m always amazed by Ben’s ability to remain calm, tolerant and pleasant in the face of unreasonable flack from people like the LBC Programme Director. Alas, I suspect Ben’s measured and balanced response to Jonathan will go unread.

  85. Steve Page said,

    February 12, 2009 at 8:07 pm

    I can’t help but suspect that anyone who criticises Jeni for her ignorance is considered ‘abusive’, just as Yasmin, the nurse on her show, was considered ‘vicious’. AFAIC, if Jeni can’t take the heat, she should stay the hell away from the kitchen, particularly when she metaphorically opened the oven with no gloves on and her eyes shut, and thrust her hands inside.

  86. PreviousChemist said,

    February 12, 2009 at 8:38 pm

    Having read the comments on the linked Guardian article, I think Welshmum is superficially, impressively persuasive, and obviously well briefed. That does not mean I agree with Welshmum’s conclusions. In linking to a paper by Joseph Mercola, I think she has overreached herself. With people like her arguing the anti-vaccination cause, there is little wonder that non-experts are confused. The problem is that non-experts cannot distinguish valid scientific debate and anti-vaccination hogwash. If you look at the history of demonstrating that helicobacter pylori caused gastritis and peptic and duodenal ulcers, you see apparently rejection by the medical mainstream followed by slow acceptance – which is what the anti-vaccination movement would have you believe of their hypotheses. The actual story of Helicobacter pylori is a little more nuanced: see (www.csicop.org/si/2004-11/bacteria.html).

    Its made worse by the fact that some people really do believe in the hogwash they spout, and disabusing people of their beliefs is never easy (ask any atheist campaigner).

    I am at a loss as to how to deal with people who do not realise the depths of their own ignorance, have a fervent faith that they are in the right, and also possess the rhetoric and debating skills to seem plausible to non-experts. I know that if I were to engage them, I would come out embarrassed, angry, and with egg on my face, so I keep quiet: but it is *really* frustrating to watch foolish ignorance on the rampage.

  87. JohnED said,

    February 12, 2009 at 8:40 pm

    @michael

    Regarding Liz Hunt. She has the sub heading “Claims about Dr Andrew Wakefield have reopened the debate about the controversial jab.” A controversy created by commentators such as herself in papers such as the Telegraph. So what is her valid point? That people “ill-served by the clinicians and by some sections of the media”. How can she try and pass the blame on to clinicians for large sections of the media creating a controversy out of what is clearly poor research.

    Regarding Gill Hornby. She writes “It is crucial that we avoid a measles epidemic, and that if the MMR vaccine is safe, we keep it.” Why the if? All scientific evidence points to MMR as being safe, it is this ambiguity by journalists that creates uncertainties in parents looking for answers.

  88. Dr Aust said,

    February 12, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    Re. Michael’s post 72, the Sussex social science research I have blogged briefly about actually discussed the social class and so on of the people they interviewed about their attitudes to vaccination.

    The other kind of evidence relating to “who does or doesn’t vaccinate” is the analysis of the % vaccination in different health areas, or boroughs, or postcodes, which can be compared with the wealth and demographics of the area. This work – an example is here – shows some indication of wealthy middle class areas having greater drops in vaccination take up rates over the last decade or so, although in London the poorest boroughs had the lowest absolute figures for vaccine take-up. There is some discussion of this on a long-ago Bad Sci thread (June 2006) here.

    Concerning the “autism-gut disorder link”, the analysis of autistic children referred to the Royal Free clinic ultimately showed that their main problem was bad constipation – NOT a mysterious gut inflammatory syndrome, post viral or otherwise, as Wakefield had claimed.

    Since emptying your bowels in an orderly fashion is a learned response – learned in early toilet training – there has always been a perfectly straightforward mundane explanation, which is that the learning of toilet habits is sometimes problematic for some autistic spectrum kids. Of course, it is problematic for some normal kids too, as many a parent could tell you. But the point was that there was really nothing “gut sinister” about even the highly self-selecting group of referrals to the Royal Free clinic. The whole gut problem – autism thing is, scientifically at least, a mirage.

  89. michael said,

    February 12, 2009 at 9:15 pm

    @JohnED – like it or not, MMR has been ‘controversial’ for many years now, sadly so.

    Reading Liz Hunt’s article – she is very clear that low MMR uptake has caused the current rise in measles. She notes that there have been two deaths reported, and several cases of serious complications. She is reasonably sympathetic to Wakefield, but does at least note the allegations against him. I think she is wrong to state that ‘doubt and fear’ will always hang over MMR. But she does also describe as ‘shameful’ Cherie Blair’s refusal to admit to her son receiving the jab. I found the point about the dismissal of the MMR issue as ‘middle class mania’ enlightening, and queried whether this was a valid point – Holfordwatch tells me not so, that there is evidence low MMR uptake is concentrated in the ‘middle classes’. I think the dismissal is still interesting though – and hasn’t been productive.

    As for Gill Hornby, I thought overall emphasis of the article – that important research into autism and gut conditions had been derailed by the saga – was valid. Should you wish to focus your criticism on one two letter word, that’s your choice. The majority of the comment is really nothing to do with MMR.

    Compared to historical comments from the height of the scare these two articles were hardly that bad.

    Finally, there is one issue I’ve not really seen addressed (forgive me if it has been). First off, I will happily agree that there has been a lot of bad practice in media handling of the issue of Wakefield’s ‘findings’ and the subsequent ‘scandal’. However, the fact is that his results were published in the Lancet. They were peer reviewed. They were announced at a press conference (is that standard practice?). To place blame entirely on the ‘media’ (and I’m unsure about the tendency for characterisation of the ‘media’ as a sentient single-minded being!) is a bit narrow. Fair enough when the words of homeopaths, or ‘scientists’ who never publish, is the basis for scare stories – but weren’t they following what we (and Ben) argue for? That is, reporting on the results of peer-reviewed research in a reputable journal?

    @Holford watch – thanks for the links, and a little surprised (pleasantly so) at the use of an ethnographic study. I think the findings were quite telling. In terms of the theory that the media alone informs parents over MMR – to paraphrase Ben – perhaps it’s a little more complicated than that?

  90. pv said,

    February 12, 2009 at 9:53 pm

    tom-p said,
    February 12, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    Firstly, I just don’t believe that there have been abusive comments or emails. Not even from lone nutters.
    She’s playing the classic victim cards that bullshitting blowhards always try when their lies and ignorance have been exposed.
    If there were, then why delete all the previous polite comments? Why not simply close the comment thread with a note explaining that there’s so many that they can’t monitor them adequately. That would be a perfectly reasonable and fair thing to do. Deleting the comments makes it look to someone who’s just heard the broadcast like nobody’s replied and so encourages people to inadvertently repeat the many excellent points already made.

    Actually, deleting all the comments makes it impossible for someone who’s just heard the clip or broadcast to see that in reality there weren’t any abusive posts. The question is, was that the intention? Imo it compounds one wrong with yet another and makes Ben’s observation of lack of insight seem to be a gross understatement.

  91. spk76 said,

    February 12, 2009 at 10:10 pm

    Special Court for Autism Omnibus Hearings does not find that MMR or other causations were credible.

    Says it all about Obama’s America; corrupt and misguided.

    Three special muppets controlled by big pharma facists make an obviously bad decision. Not really going to convince the 1 in 10 parents and growing.

    The fight has only just begun.

  92. JohnED said,

    February 12, 2009 at 10:33 pm

    @micheal

    I like it not that MMR has been controversial for a number of years, as the scientific evidence does not justify this.

    I do agree that they contain some valid points, these are diminished by the points which I have highlighted. Therefore, I think we will have to agree to disagree over these two articles.

  93. michael said,

    February 12, 2009 at 10:54 pm

    @JohnED – i don’t like that it has been controversial either, and agree with you that it has not been scientifically justified. However, it has been controversial, and unfortunately hoping that ‘the media’ will cease from using that word when discussing it is only likely to result in disappointment.

    Fair enough – agree to disagree. I only really commented on your first post since you highlighted them as ‘shoddy pieces of journalism’. My point was that in the grand scheme of things these two weren’t actually that bad, and not entirely unsympathetic to the feelings of most people commenting here.

    Notice that I didn’t try to defend the Melanie Phillips article!

  94. penglish said,

    February 13, 2009 at 10:39 am

    www.fiercevaccines.com/story/vaccine-experts-autism-defense-triggers-fiery-reaction/2008-09-18 reports how Paul Offit was so concerned by antivaccinationists (who presumably threatened him) that he had a security system installed on publication of his book and his comments on the lack of a causal link between vaccination and autism (edition.cnn.com/2008/HEALTH/conditions/03/24/autism.vaccines/index.html).

    It’s encouraging to read, however (edition.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/02/11/autism.vaccines/index.html; www.fiercevaccines.com/story/special-court-hand-down-autism-decisions/2009-02-12?utm_medium=nl&utm_source=internal&cmp-id=EMC-NL-FBRV&dest=FBRV) that the courts backed the science against the alleged victims, despite their sympathy for the latter.

    The way that sympathy for a person damaged by a disease such as autism can be used to attack something as beneficial as vaccination, which was not the real cause; and the way that people defending vaccination can be portrayed as lacking sympathy for the “victims”, is very interesting.

  95. Delster said,

    February 13, 2009 at 11:27 am

    I’ve just been listening to the clips up on youtube of this broadcast…or at least the first 1.5 clips as i found myself reaching for something to throw at the monitor at that point so turned it off.

    Her first caller didn’t have her 5? children vaccinated because she felt that was the right thing to do after attending a “short course” on said subject that was being run by a homeopath….They strike again!

    Another comment was that “yes 1 in 15 kids used to die” and that “not everybody is that 1 in 15″

    ummm maybe 14 in 15 are not that 1 in 15? This still means that 1 in 15 died.

    Overall i found her to be a fairly incoherent speaker with sentances frequently making no sense and leaping from one thing to another pretty much at random. I would wonder how she got employed as a radio broadcaster in the first place.

  96. hamlets ghost said,

    February 13, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    Supportive email from MP David Drew which implies he’s going to sign.

  97. the chiggler said,

    February 13, 2009 at 5:21 pm

    You may be interested to read my response to an email received from the Programme Director of LBC.

    Dear Jonathan,

    You write “we are never going to agree on this issue” and I agree. But that’s hardly surprising because you steadfastly refuse to debate any of the issues I raised but instead try to shift the terms of our debate by employing a fallacy. You say “Jeni took a particular angle…”during her programme.” That’s a Straw Man argument. I didn’t complain about a particular angle that Jeni took on the issue of MMR and autism. Do have done so would have been to admit that she had made reasonable inferences or deductions from the evidence and then debated them. I made it quite clear that I was complaining about her repetitious use of the lies and canards that are the stock in trade of the MMR hoaxers.

    You then go onto to say: “I’ve already told you I was unhappy with certain aspects of her handling of the debate.” Well, no you didn’t. You actually wrote:

    “Jeni was spoken to straight after the broadcast. You’ll be aware we’ve debated the subject many times since, what did you think of those broadcasts? By the way you’ll also be interested to know that Jeni is now receiving abusive emails from people for merely having long held views (however naïve those views might be).”

    So you manage to misremember what you wrote to me and to employ another Straw Man by implying that I was complaining about the way in which she handled the programme. My concerns were solely with what she said. To quote Jeni again: “It’s a conspiracy by the pharmaceutical industry”; “Science always changes so you can believe what you like”; “It’s a debate and a controversy”; “Measles was never that bad anyway”; “Immune systems are damaged by being understimulated”; “Immune systems are damaged by being overstimulated.” And so on.

    And for your final fallacy you now tell me that three out of the five calls that Jeni took were from listeners who were “pro-MMR”. This is a Red Herring presented in order to divert attention from the original issue: Why did LBC permit Jeni Barnett to lie in support of the MMR hoax?

    You conclude by telling me that: “I don’t believe at any point Jeni broke broadcasting rules.” That will, of course be for OFCOM to decide. But in the light of Jeni’s subsequent admission that she was uninformed on the topic of MMR and autism (as was revealed by two healthcare professionals on-air), and the fact that she is allowed to continue broadcasting without any public acknowledgement of her failure as a professional broadcaster (in terms of lack of research and knowledge), you should perhaps note the duties of Broadcasting Act licensees. Under paragraph 2(1) of Part II of Schedule 2 to the Broadcasting Act 1990, paragraphs 9 and 10 of Schedule 1 to the Human Rights Act 1998, and paragraph 15 of Schedule 14 to the Communications Act 2003. These require inter alia that broadcasters should not: 
practise or advocate illegal behaviour;
practise or advocate behaviour which is injurious to the health or morals of participants or others;
practise or advocate behaviour which infringes the rights and freedoms of participants or others;
pose a threat to public safety.


  98. pv said,

    February 13, 2009 at 10:04 pm

    What seems to be clear here is that the folks at LBC don’t understand how injurious to public health the MMR fiasco has been. They still see it as a “controversy” to be stirred up and milked for all its worth. Another thing to consider is that local radio, which LBC most definitely is, has a long standing tradition of promoting quackery and health idiocy and having health “experts” in the form of naturopaths, homeopaths, nutritionists… they have appealed to the sCAM audience for years.

  99. mattygroves said,

    February 13, 2009 at 10:49 pm

    Here’s the email I sent to Global Radio:

    Dear Mr Allen,

    By now, you should have read that there is no link between the MMR and autism – indeed, a group of Americans have recently lost a lawsuit claiming a link. All the available evidence (including meta studies) shows no evidence, and indeed disproves any causal link. On the other hand, there is a clear link between a decline in uptake of the MMR and incidents of measles (in particular) and deaths from measles. The MMR, is for the vast, vast majority of children (not to mention society at large) a very good thing.

    On 9 January, Jeni Barnett did a show on LBC doubting the wisdom of using the MMR combined vaccine. She even implied that she was advocating letting children get measles, and only dealing with those who will die from it (and you know how, exactly?). Let me quote the woman herself:

    Quote from: Jeni Barnett
    …back in the day, children got measles, children got mumps. I’m not suggesting – I am not suggesting – that we got backwards where some children, where we have one in fifteen children die of it. And that one person in fifteen is the one we have to be looking at and wondering why and dealing with it. But if, as a human being, you decide you do not want to give your child a vaccination, you should, in a democracy, have that right to say no.

    The way she said ‘I’m not suggesting’ is much the same tone as when I say ‘I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t believe in God, but….’. The thing about the MMR is it DOES deal with the ‘one in fifteen’ who suffer fatal or serious problems due to measles – it prevents everyone from getting it. After all, it’s impossible to determine which children will suffer such complications.

    Dr Ben Goldacre, on his wonderful, wonderful blog www.badscience.net, objected. He did so in a slightly amusing, yet reasoned, educated way, and posted a link of the 30 or 40 minutes of Ms Barnett’s programme that discussed the MMR. The transcript is worth reading in full. LBC, and, by extension, Global Radio, rather than admitting that Ms Barnett was misguided at best, and wrong and dangerous at worst (remember, MMR take up rates in London had dropped below 70%), have defended Ms Barnett to the point of threatening Dr Goldacre for including elements of the broadcast so that his readers could hear what was said and form their own opinion as to the absurdity of it. He has also posted many of the statistics disproving a link, and conversely, proving a link between the ‘controversy’ and reduced vaccine uptake rates, and the link between that and an increase in reports of measles and mumps.

    There are many, many, many scientific, official and robust studies disproving a link between MMR and autism. The official, House of Commons report is here: www.parliament.uk/commons/lib/research/briefings/snsg-02581.pdf. There are many, many, many more published studies regarding the links – here’s another. www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=2287222

    Ms Barnett had posted a slight apology on her blog, but this was later pulled when people commented on the blog. It would behove Global Radio to have Ms Barnett retract her uninformed rambling on air, on the same time slot as she originally broadcast her misguided (at best) rant against a proven vaccine, and, frankly, a boon to public health.

    I await with interest your reply.

    Yours sincerely,

  100. mikewhit said,

    February 13, 2009 at 11:03 pm

    The Early Day motion calls for ‘evidence-based reporting’ – but on past performance the Govt. itself appears to have no interest in evidence-based anything … (prison sentencing, teaching, drugs classifications … ooh, maybe ID cards too !)

  101. Alfster said,

    February 14, 2009 at 10:44 am

    We must remember that it hurts when someone is hit over the head with the frying-pan of logical rationalism.

    I also tried to listen to the youtube clips but after the first 10minutes of her rabbiting on about nothing I had to switch off.

    Kudos to the people who transcribed it!

  102. Dr Aust said,

    February 14, 2009 at 11:29 am

    I can’t see Jeni B “retracting” what she said, as I would bet she will be thinking it was her opinion, and she is paid to be opinionated.

    It is LBC that take my breath away. AS I see it, they are the ones with apologising to do, which makes the resounding on-the-record silence from them all the more pathetic. I have written a bit about this (in the “Update” bit) here.

  103. kantata said,

    February 17, 2009 at 9:42 am

    When I downloaded the Bad Science podcast and heard for the first time this nutty lady broadcaster – I honestly thought it was a joke.

    A good letter Ben – we can’t let ‘em get away with this nonsense even if she is a frail 60 yr old lady.

  104. Butlins said,

    February 18, 2009 at 10:42 pm

    This just seems somehow relevant to the whole debate – www.theonion.com/content/video/courageous_man_refuses_to_believe – it’s art imitating life, I think.

  105. EleanorC said,

    February 19, 2009 at 2:19 pm

    DrAust – you’re right; she’s back on her blog still whinging about having been “bullied”.

    www.jenibarnett.com/2009/02/neigh_neigh_thrice_neigh.php

  106. joemyerscough said,

    February 20, 2009 at 12:11 am

    If anybody is interested, here is a piece that I produced for Roundhouse Radio’s ‘Art Attack’ on the now infamous Jeni Barnett broadcast… www.joemyerscough.co.uk/?p=149

  107. mattygroves said,

    February 26, 2009 at 8:09 pm

    Rec’d from Vincent Cable (my MP)

    Thank you for your e-mail.

    You will be pleased to know that I have signed EDM 754.

    The re-emergence of measles and the loss of life and long term health
    which will afflict children as a result of the decline in the
    vaccination rate is grave cause for concern. This followed Dr Andrew
    Wakefiled’s now discredited research paper suggesting a link between MMR
    vaccine and autism.

    Irresponsible and ill informed comments in the media is causing
    unfounded anxieties for parents and will have the effect of discouraging
    some parents from choosing to take up the MMR vaccine. It is very
    important therefore, that reporting surrounding the issue of MMR is less
    sensationalist and more evidence based.

    Thank you for taking the time to contact me with your concerns and
    please do not hesitate to contact me should you have any further
    questions.

    Yay!

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