Jabs “as bad as the cancer”

October 10th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, express, Express, Lucy Johnston Express, vaccines | 53 Comments »

Ben Goldacre, Saturday 10 October 2009, The Guardian

imageLast month I had a debate at the Royal Institution with Lord Drayson, the Science Minister, in which he argued that I was too harsh on British science coverage, which is the best in the world. During this event our chairman (bizarrely and excellently Simon Mayo) pulled out a health front page from the Express, and asked what we thought about it. I said the article might well be accurate, but it’s also quite likely to be a work of fantasy, and as a serious matter of public health I would urge people to be extremely sceptical about health information on the front page of the Express. Lord Drayson thought this was cynical and unfair. He warmly encouraged us to trust this newspaper.

And here comes the proof in a new front page story. “Jab ‘as deadly as the cancer’” roared the giant black letters on the front page of the Sunday Express this week. “Cervical drug expert hits out as new doubts raised over death of teenager” said the subheading, although no such new doubts were raised in the article. We will now break with tradition and reproduce a whole paragraph from the Express story. I’d like you to pay attention, and perhaps build a list of its claims in your mind. This is one of those stories where every single assertion made on someone else’s behalf is false.

“THE cervical cancer vaccine may be riskier and more deadly than the cancer it is designed to prevent, a leading expert who developed the drug has warned. She also claimed the jab would do nothing to reduce the rates of cervical cancer in the UK. Speaking exclusively to the Sunday Express, Dr Diane Harper, who was involved in the clinical trials of the controversial drug Cervarix, said the jab was being “over-marketed” and parents should be properly warned about the potential side effects.”

The story seemed unlikely for three reasons. Firstly, Professor Harper is not a known member of the antivaccination community, which is vanishingly small. Secondly, it was on the front page of the Sunday Express, which is indeed cause for concern. Lastly, it was by specialist health journalist Lucy Johnston, whose previous work includesDoctor’s MMR fears”, “Exclusive: Experts Cast Doubt On Claim For ‘Wonder’ Cancer Jabs”, “Children ‘Used As Guinea Pigs For Vaccines’”, “Dangers Of Mmr Jab ‘Covered Up’”, “Teenage Girls Sue Over Cancer Jab”, “Jab Makers Linked To Vaccine Programme”, and so many more, including a rather memorable bad science story, the front page: “Suicides ‘Linked To Phone Masts”.

So I contacted Professor Harper. For avoidance of doubt, so that there can be no question of me misrepresenting her views, unlike the Express, I will explain Professor Harper’s position on this issue in her own words. They are unambiguous.

“I did not say that Cervarix was as deadly as cervical cancer. I did not say that Cervarix could be riskier or more deadly than cervical cancer. I did not say that Cervarix was controversial, I stated that Cervarix is not a ‘controversial drug’. I did not ‘hit out’ – I was contacted by the press for facts. And this was not an exclusive interview.”

Professor Harper did not “develop Cervarix”, as the Sunday Express said, but she did work on some important trials of Gardasil, and also Cervarix. “Gardasil is not a ‘sister vaccine’ as the Express said, it is a different compound. I do not know of the side effects of Cervarix as it is not available in the US.” Furthermore she did not say that Cervarix was being over marketed. “I did say that Merck was egregiously overmarketing Gardasil in the US- but Gardasil and Cervarix are not the same vaccines.”

And here is the tragedy. In a clear example of the extent to which academics are often independently-minded about the interventions they work on, Professor Harper is a critic of Gardasil, or more specifically of how it is marketed.

Briefly, her view (which has been published a long time ago) is that we do not yet know how long the protection from these vaccines will last, and this will affect the cost-benefit decisions. She is concerned that aggressive advertising aimed directly at the public – which is not permitted in Europe, with good reason – may lead people to falsely believe they are invincible to HPV, and so neglect other precautions. Lastly, she suspects from modelling data that for the specific and restricted group of women who are punctilious about attending every single one of their cervical cancer screening appointments, vaccination may have little impact on their risk of death from cancer; but even this group will still benefit from the reduction in reproductive problems caused by treating precancerous changes in cervical cells, and from avoiding the unpleasantness of screening and treatment.

The article has now disappeared from the Express website, and Professor Harper has complained to the PCC. “I fully support the HPV vaccines,” she says. “I believe that in general they are safe in most women. I told the Express all of this.”

Her criticisms of some aspects of cervical cancer vaccination are nuanced and valuable, but they do not fit into the black and white hysteria of the British news media. It would be nice if we could have a public discussion about the relative risks and merits of different treatment options. Sadly, with this kind of ugly reporting, scientists around the world may learn that such a discussion is not currently possible in the UK media. That is the greatest tragedy.


Simon Mayo thinks the original version of this article reads as if the the front page story discussed a month ago in the debate with Lord Drayson is actually this week’s cervical vaccine scare story from the Sunday Express. I’ve added an extra sentence above to make it as clear as possible, informed the Guardian, and I hope nobody feels misled. They are of course two separate stories, and my point – which I hope is very clear and also taken – that Lord Drayson is wrong to describe the front page of the Express as a reliable source of information about health.

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53 Responses

  1. dutch said,

    October 10, 2009 at 12:44 am

    Just on the bit at the beginning about the debate: that particularly Express story was ok, as the guy in the audience at the debate who worked at the cancer charity involved pointed out — Drayson was right about that bit.

  2. CoralBloom said,

    October 10, 2009 at 1:41 am

    Clearly this is becoming a public health issue. When will the public health people take action?

    I’d love to see properly funded research to test exactly what damage these types of articles are doing. Really in-depth work.

    Lord Drayson, seemed not to want to say a failing press is a failing press. Like a teacher who gives you an F mark and the comment ‘The answer to question one was pretty good!’.

    Finding the one question that was right and singing praise might do a lot for the ego, but that praise really isn’t much good if you then think you are doing so well, you could take the subject at A-level!

  3. Dr Aust said,

    October 10, 2009 at 2:37 am

    Glad to hear Prof Harper has complained to the PCC about the Sunday Express’ truly dire coverage. I hope they get epically busted.

    There was a discussion of this over at Nature Network last week where one editor from Nature was observed to muse:

    “Is it possible to charge newspapers with conspiracy to endanger life?”

  4. Dr Aust said,

    October 10, 2009 at 2:38 am

    Oops – URL for Nature Network discn got cut –


  5. Lurkinggherkin said,

    October 10, 2009 at 8:07 am

    Sadly, they have probably factored an epic busting into their cost/benefit analysis…the reason that certain sections of the press continue to get away with this crap is that the risk is worth the reward.

  6. pidster said,

    October 10, 2009 at 8:14 am

    It does seem like a good idea to establish exactly what is and isn’t permissible in law and under the admittedly light regulation that the newspapers operate under.

    Is it liabellous to misrepresent a scientist views?

    I understand we have rather good laws for that kind of thing, where the burden is on the accuser to prove that their statement is accurate.

    Surely doing such a thing could cause immeasurable harm to the victims reputation, and it wouldn’t be hard to show that a scientists reputation is extremely important to their career and ability to raise funds for research.
    (ie demonstrating ‘loss’).

  7. pidster said,

    October 10, 2009 at 8:14 am

    (Yes, sorry, I spelled libellous incorrectly.)

  8. pidster said,

    October 10, 2009 at 8:18 am

    @Lurkinggherkin if the papers had that much money knocking around, Murdoch wouldn’t be bothered about declining sales and the Google ‘kleptomaniacs’ (his word, not mine).

  9. Zamzara said,

    October 10, 2009 at 9:10 am

    The irony is here we have something that genuinely can prevent cancer, and now they don’t want it.

  10. drunkenoaf said,

    October 10, 2009 at 9:37 am

    @draust. It would be superb if research into the direct impact each media outlet has on public health. Eg, we estimate that at least 600 deaths from X were caused by The Sunday Express group’s egregious reporting on public health matters in the last decade.

    @pidster — you really need to read Flat Earth News by Nick Davies. The section on old Rupert left my jaw wide open.

  11. SitP Leicester said,

    October 10, 2009 at 9:53 am

    @dutch – Drayson wasn’t “right about that bit”. The point Ben was making in the debate wasn’t that the original Express article was inaccurate – but that it was impossible for him to trust it one way or the other seeing as the Express has a history or printing utter crap.

    Perhaps Professor Harper should put the UK’s terrible libel laws to a good purpose. Labelling a scientist as an anti-vax campaigner is worthy of a claim.

  12. xtaldave said,

    October 10, 2009 at 10:04 am

    The sensationalist spin on health news can cut both ways.

    A couple of years ago, I was fortunate enough to work for a major UK Cancer Research charity 😉

    We had shown that a particular protein (the product of a known tumour suppressor gene) down regulated the activity of another protein (over-expressed in certain cancer cell lines) involved in cell motility. We showed that de-regulation of this system in cancer cells lead to an increase in cell motility and that this might increase the chances of metastasis leading to secondary tumours.

    As charities need donations to survive, and funding drives benefit from publicity, a press release was duly, um, released.

    We were extremely happy to see our work covered quite sensibly in the Graun, Indie, and on the BBC website..

    The Express however… put us on the front page and hailed us “cancer life savers”. Which is very nice and flattering, but utterly inaccurate. (AFAIK, there are no plans to develop drugs based on our work. I suspect that the system is suitably complex as to preclude a small molecule inhibitor, and therefore, only gene therapy would be appropriate.)

    By the time you reach the comment section of the story, the Express readers were bemoaning the fact that our British ingenuity would no doubt be exploited and patented by evil US drug companies and our own drugs sold back to us. (!)

    Such stories, which no doubt generate excellent publicity for the research charities, can generate false hope, and give a unrealistic impression to the reader of how basic science can lead to drug development. No mention was made of clinical trials or the therapeutic potential of the system.

    Sensationalist health reporting is a certainly thing – and IMHO desperately needs sorting out… but I guess the big question is how?

  13. Cthulhoo said,

    October 10, 2009 at 10:10 am

    @drunkenoaf I like this idea. Maybe a site parallel to www.jennymccarthybodycount.com/Jenny_McCarthy_Body_Count/Home.html? Something like “pressbodycount”, “carelessjournalismbodycount” or similar. The difficult thing is a solid estimate though.

  14. Moganero said,

    October 10, 2009 at 10:24 am

    I wonder how carcinogenic the solvent fumes from the ink the Express uses are. Will they print a scare story about it if it’s shown to be a major cause of lung and finger-tip cancers?

  15. owencm said,

    October 10, 2009 at 10:28 am

    As @Simonmayo pointed out on twitter, I’m afraid this wasn’t the article debated in the RI…

    The article brought up there was “Two a day pill stops cancer” from the sunday express: bit.ly/46pdkf

  16. Dr Jim said,

    October 10, 2009 at 10:51 am


    It is actually completely irrelevant that the Express was correct in regards the article discussed in the debate. The point was that most people do not have neither the inclination nor resources to get hold of the researchers and confirm the data with them (as Lord Drayson had his staff do).

    The point is credulity. You have to trust your sources of information, and they [the sources] must fight to earn and maintain that trust. We can have no trust in the Daily Express as they intersperse seemingly correct scientific reporting with complete hack jobs, with little regard for consistency.

    Thus, with a lack of credulity, we assume that in fact most of what they report is toss; and Ben’s position of skepticism when presented with the debate article was reasonable.

  17. skyesteve said,

    October 10, 2009 at 10:54 am

    Leaving the RI debate aside, I would like to reiterate my previous position. The press have (and must have) the right to print facts and information and in that respect freedom of information legislation does not go far enough in this country (why can’t I as a taxpayer and license holder know how much the publically-funded BBC pays its employees, for example?).
    But what the press have NO right to do is publish deliberate dis-information and out-and-out lies. As far as I’m concerned that is actually the opposite of free speech and as such it should be treated very harshly. Such “news” papers should be prosecuted and, if found guilty, banned from publishing. That would soon encourage them to “play fair”.
    I also think that if a damaging effect on public health can be shown to have arisen following the knowing publication of lies, the newspaper(s)or journals concerned should be open to class action prosecutions. In fact, with regards to MMR, I’m astonsihed that someone hasn’t gone down that road already.

  18. jdc said,

    October 10, 2009 at 11:13 am

    I wrote about the Sunday Express article here and noted that the article seemed to provide a summary of Dr Harper’s views in most cases, with only a few direct quotes. I also noted that Dr Harper had (only a few days previously) clarified her position on Cervarix after having been quoted in a Daily Mail article on HPV vaccination. As I felt that (in light of the clarification made regarding the Mail article) I should not rely on the Sunday Express’s characterisation of Dr Harper’s views on Cervarix, I concentrated on the comments made by Dr Richard Halvorsen.

  19. MarkEO said,

    October 10, 2009 at 11:23 am

    I was at the RI debate on the 16th September, and I’m pretty sure that that wasn’t the article. Especially as it’s dated October 4th. Your point on this article obviously stands, but your post isn’t clear that this wasn’t the article you were talking about on the day. I think you need to rectify this.

  20. warhelmet said,

    October 10, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    Why are the comments closed on the Guardian for this story?

  21. Ben Goldacre said,

    October 10, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    never occurred to me in a million years that people would confuse a front page story discussed in the drayson debate last month before the cervical cancer vaccine story even happened, and this week’s front page sunday express story. i have added a sentence at the beginning of the second paragraph to disambiguate this further in the post above, and i have also let the guardian know. apologies if that was not clearer.

  22. Mojo said,

    October 10, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    I went over to the Grauniad’s version of this to see what John Stone had to say about it, but it says “Comments are now closed on this entry.” A little ironic in view of their headline for the column: “Cancer jab fantasy closes down a debate”.

  23. puzzlebobble said,

    October 10, 2009 at 5:59 pm

    They’ve opened it up for comments at the graun now.

    most amusing comment so far is by ‘freewoman’ who thinks men should get circumcised instead.

    otherwise it’s eerily quiet.

  24. allshallbewell said,

    October 10, 2009 at 11:49 pm

    Why trust “Lord” Drayson, the “Science Minister” as an authority? His positions were purchased with cash, not virtue.

    I’m no fan of Wikipedia, but this is a good summary:

    “In 2002 [Lord Drayson’s company] PowderJect was awarded a £32 million government smallpox vaccine contract without competition shortly after Paul [Lord] Drayson donated £50,000 to the Labour Party”.

    Obviously, once you get £32 million from the Government, you have a lot more to ‘donate’ to the party of your choice.

  25. Robert Carnegie said,

    October 11, 2009 at 1:53 am

    Is there still a Daily Express as well as a Sunday Express, and are we talking about both?

    I think it was the Sunday Express that years and years ago published a story about a successful cure for AIDS involving cycling the patient’s blood out into a machine that heats it up a bit, but to be fair I don’t think it was the top headline – in broadsheet days and “below the fold”.

  26. CoralBloom said,

    October 11, 2009 at 4:26 am



    Everyone seems to get very defensive of our free press, but what is a free press?

    If the press has rights to freedom of publication, but with no enforcible responsibilities, then I’m against having it. Why bother with a press where truth, lies and fiction merge into one!

    Perhaps a system where research institutes and universities challenge the newspapers, and where successful, the researchers could benefit from a whacking research grant as a part of an apology, awarded by the courts of course! Researchers could talk to the press knowing they won’t be ‘attacked’, and papers would have a real interest in being responsible. Management would also have an incentive in taking action, especially if the awards are hefty.

    In the States, one or two of the top universities have their law students undertake significant cases to give them hands on experience. There is a pool of budding lawyers right there!

  27. Thimble said,

    October 11, 2009 at 9:05 am


    Surely ‘proof’ is too strong here. It’s not a proof, it’s a counter example.

    “And here comes the proof in a new front page story.” could be “Perhaps we should trust this new front page story?”


  28. CoralBloom said,

    October 11, 2009 at 11:54 pm

    I’ve just come across this article in the Guardian.



    If we assume this article is a piece of good journalism, then we need to really get a grip of ourselves.

    Why are our nursing and hospital staff concerned about the vaccine?

    I’ve thought, at least in part, one of the problems we have here is that it has been decades, due to the advances in science and medicine, we’ve not had epidemics of illnesses such as polio, and so with few people seeing and dealing with the consequences of epidemics in their daily lives, we have this ‘cockiness’ here. If we saw the effects of epidemics and the ruining of lives regularly, then wouldn’t we all be really eager to protect ourselves.

    Maybe this isn’t so, since nurses deal with illnesses every day. That is their job. They do deal with the consequences of ill-health.

    So, is this an indication of the effects of bad science in the press? Being surrounded by bad science, surely must have an impact? Just like expensive advertising the benefits of one product or another.

    I should get to work on a grant application…

  29. CoralBloom said,

    October 11, 2009 at 11:56 pm

    Oops. The title of the article is ‘Swine flu fears grow as NHS staff shun vaccine’ Published on 11/10/09 and that should be in my post rather than two links to it.

  30. mikey2gorgeous said,

    October 12, 2009 at 1:43 pm

    Could we ‘flash mob’ a paper through the courts? What if large numbers of us all bought the paper then wrote to them asking for our money back? If they refuse we could all issue small claims against them (with corresponding ‘costs’ too!).

    Perhaps too fanciful. Have you talked to Mark Thomas about this??

  31. mikewhit said,

    October 12, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    “… the antivaccination community, which is vanishingly small …” – (IMHO) bad use of “vanishingly small”, from a mathematical point of view: it’s finite and does not tend to zero.

  32. mikewhit said,

    October 12, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    An alternative “reductio ad absurdam” approach would be to take the Express item as being correct, and then to complain to the various powers-that-be and companies involved on the basis of the quoted article, always quoting your source as the journalist’s verbatim text in the Express article.

    There might then follow a flurry of annoyed rebuttals from the parties which could be redirected at the Express and the journalist.

    Might cause sufficient embarrassment to them that the journo gets a smack on the wrist …

  33. pv said,

    October 12, 2009 at 8:06 pm

    Lurkinggherkin said,

    October 10, 2009 at 8:07 am

    Sadly, they have probably factored an epic busting into their cost/benefit analysis…the reason that certain sections of the press continue to get away with this crap is that the risk is worth the reward.

    They will also know that the PCC is a self-serving Industry committee, set up by the Industry of which they are obviously a part, for the Industry. It is the perfect example of all that is wrong with self-regulation. Self-regulation without a legal underpinning is a pernicious idea – which is why homeoquacks and charlatans in general are so in favour of it.

  34. jbuzza said,

    October 13, 2009 at 10:43 am

    A correction was published in the Sunday Express on 11-Oct.

    “Last Sunday we incorrectly suggested that the cervical cancer vaccine Cervarix could be as deadly as cervical cancer and that the vaccine is ineffective.

    We now accept that there is no evidence to suggest that this is the case and that Cervarix in fact provides protection against the viruses that cause 70% of cervical cancers.

    We are happy to set the record straight and apologise for causing undue alarm to all those women and teenage girls considering vaccination against cervical cancer.”

    Suspect they were in danger of being sued for defamation. Can’t find the story on their website though.

  35. mikewhit said,

    October 13, 2009 at 11:02 am

    “We now accept that there is no evidence to suggest that this is the case” – hang on, that was your 2-inch font headline !

    _Who_ is going to get sacked ???

  36. elvisionary said,

    October 14, 2009 at 2:45 pm

    Do you think the Express could be persuaded to run a story entitled “Reading this newspaper could give you cancer”? Given their propensity for scaring their readers off vaccines, it could turn out to be true.

    As they are evidently susceptible to bad science, we could back this up with some statistics showing that their readers are more likely to die of cancer than readers of most other newspapers. Given the age profile of their readership, this is probably true – although the Mail and the Telegraph might be even more “dangerous”.

    Give them a taste of their own bad medicine…

  37. blindlemon said,

    October 14, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    Here is a link to a website for the Citizen’s Commission on Human Rights. This organisation has ‘views’ on science. A journalist called Lucy Johnston, though not necessarily the one from the Express, endorses them:


    The journalist from the Express needlessly mentions them at the end of an article a few years ago: www.express.co.uk/posts/view/10244

    I am sure a few minutes reading about the CCHR will be well spent…

  38. molyneux1000 said,

    October 14, 2009 at 11:14 pm

    Yes, I am aware of this organization. It is a branch of the Scientology organisation/cult. I dislike it, as someone who works within the mental health field, because it’s views (and approaches to disseminating those views) debase the concerns of those who are critical of psychiatry and aspects of the pharmaceutical industry.

  39. mikewhit said,

    October 15, 2009 at 1:47 pm

    Yes, there is an anti-medication lobby as well as an anti-vaccination lobby; that Express item mentioning the CCHR seems to be written from that point of view, as well as attracting comment posts from the same standpoint.

    Maybe they’re scientologists as well.

  40. elvisionary said,

    October 15, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    Hold on a minute, you don’t need to be in the anti-medication lobby or a scientologist to believe that there may be a problem – particularly in the US – with the over-prescription of certain drugs to children to deal with behavioural issues. It’s perfectly legitimate to ask whether weaning kids off junk food, sweets and fizzy drinks might be a more effective prescription for certain attention-deficit or hyperactivity “conditions” than ritalin. With the added benefit that they don’t label children with any kind of lasting condition.

    There are certain sweets that I won’t let my children near. This is not based on scientific evidence, but on experience of how they behave after they’ve eaten them – it’s extraordinary how quickly they develop behavioural issues.

    In the words of Willy Mason, “I wanna speak louder than ritalin for all the children who think that they’ve got a disease”.

  41. mikewhit said,

    October 15, 2009 at 7:36 pm

    Fizzy drinks aren’t in it – in our experience of ADHD there is a disconnect between e.g. working memory performance, distractability and other ed. psych scores.

    A disability that appears to be corrected in some measure with methylphenidate – except among some who say, “it’s the diet/parenting/fish oil/E-numbers” … do you think we didn’t try that first ?!

  42. molyneux1000 said,

    October 15, 2009 at 9:50 pm

    My problem with the whole ‘feeding kids speed’ thing is that giving stimulants to any individual would have the effect of improving academic performance, at least transiently. I believe there is now a black market in the U.S. made up of students who take these medications to help study. With this in mind, I don’t believe these drugs work by repairing neurological pathology, rather that they induce an abnormal brain state which may (to some extent) control what is deemed dysfunctional behaviour in children.

  43. mikewhit said,

    October 16, 2009 at 11:16 am

    I guess you have to see it to believe it; it’s not a matter of “giving stimulants to any individual” – at these doses there’s not much effect on ‘normal’ individuals, whereas the improvement effect on our child was noted by all, and he wasn’t classic “hyperactive”, just able to concentrate, remember and not be distracted.

    Regulated dosage is not exactly ‘feeding’ either – it’s down to achieving a functional level in the bloodstream during “working hours”.

    Oh well, agree to differ on this one.

  44. Veronica said,

    October 19, 2009 at 1:33 pm


    Children with ADHD already have an “abnormal brain state” which is what the drugs (and methylphenidate is not speed) aim to correct.

    Thank you mikewhit for some balance in this set of comments.

  45. molyneux1000 said,

    October 19, 2009 at 3:41 pm

    @mikewhit: the feeding kids speed comment was tongue in cheek as evidenced by the inverted commas.

    @Veronica: I’m sorry, but the evidence on these kids have dysfunctional brains is far from conclusive. Even if their brains do deviate from the mean, I do not agree that this automatically equals a diseased state, unlike say vascular dementia.

  46. anitaisabelgomes said,

    October 19, 2009 at 11:13 pm

    Hi :)

    I am a medicine student in Portugal and I follow your work on this website since I have read your book.
    First, let me congratulate you for the acuracy and objectivity of your comments. Thanks!
    Secondly, what I have to say is not that good. Unfortunatelly in Portugal the situation with the media is similar from the one in the UK. Information not scientific, subjective… things are writen with a missinterpretation of the facts because of a under-covered goal or jornalists do it on purpose on an unbelived and un-ethical attempt of a “hit”.

    Now that I had suscribed this blog, if you think it may be interessting every time the issue is equivalent I will talk about what is written in Portugal about it.

    For example on this case of the vaccine, our National Health System (SNS) gives it for free to teenagers. They have decided it after an intense pressure from the media (I am not saying if I agree or not with the decision, what bothers me was the fact that they were against and when the media stared saying the government should resign because they didn´t care about peoples lifes, suddenly they have given the vaccine!) and after that the media started questioning the im+portance of the vaccine giving contradictory information about the advantages or desadvantages of it.

    Yours sincerelly,
    Ana Isabel Gomes

  47. sue61 said,

    November 13, 2009 at 8:31 pm

    As a mother of 2 girls of different ages, both having the jab 3 days after the edition under discussion, my heart sank when I saw it. More of my daughters friends than I could count dropped out of their first vaccine during the next two days.
    Co-incidentally, I am in charge of health studies at a secondary school. There was such a sudden wave of frightened and misinformed panic that I sent round a letter to all pupils, going through some of the FAQ’s and trying to encourage parents to find out for themselves whether or not the rumours (being spread faster than butter on hot toast)were something that they should be concerned about. It was a relief to see that many of those who had dropped out of the first wave of jabs rejoined the programme for the second wave

    It frustrates me that such fear can be spread by those who do not have to take responsibility. I took a show of hands yesterday of pupils in my class to find out who had had the MMR jab when they were younger (we were studying public health campaigns and how they affected the health and well-being of the population). less than half put up their hands.

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  50. AlanCrawley said,

    April 17, 2013 at 11:35 pm

    I read this after the current ‘epidemic’ of measles in South Wales with parents flocking to have their children vaccinated. Crazy stuff and it’s getting harder to know who to believe. As the saying goes ‘there’s no smoke without fire’ but where do you draw the lines? The pharma companies are governed by money and our healthcare system riddled with inefficiencies and (yes) incompetencies. Although I BELIEVE and WANT an NHS.

  51. ChickPea57 said,

    July 17, 2013 at 3:23 pm

    The Express is a reliable source of today’s date. Nothing more.

  52. Jon Marathon said,

    September 15, 2014 at 2:17 am

    I wish Dr. Goldacre would expand on the first half of his statement, “I said the article might well be accurate …” Surely he recognizes that vaccines are developed, tested, approved and marketed in a manner similar to pharmaceutical drugs. Unlike pharmaceuticals, they are mandated for all school-age children, or they cannot attend school without valid exemptions.

    I do not deny that vaccines have been beneficial, particularly with diseases like smallpox and polio. However, vaccines have also caused harm, and one has to wonder about the drug industry’s push to get more vaccines on the childhood vaccination schedule. This accelerated after the passage of the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 in the US, which relieved vaccine manufacturers of financial liability due to vaccine injury claims. I can think of no other product that is exempt from liability, and vaccines went from a potential money loser to a cash cow.

    Does Dr. Goldacre or anyone else see the parallels between vaccines and pharmaceutical drugs? Aside from the obvious, what are the differences (ie, vaccines allegedly protect against infectious diseases for the greater good of humanity)?

  53. Jim McIntosh said,

    December 6, 2014 at 9:41 am

    Hello – my daughter has been suffering severe seizures since the age of 18, she is now 24. The onset of her seizures may well coincide with her receiving the HPV vaccine in the UK and I would be interested in any groups, further information or any route to investigate. My daughter health is in a very poor state as a result of these still undiagnosed seizures, she has suffered complications including life threatening bronchial problems following vomiting during these seizures.