Tag Archives: flu vaccination

The Conversation – a marketing arm for the university and research sector?

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????The university and CSIRO-funded The Conversation website(1) publishes articles promoting vaccination, but appears reluctant to provide critical analysis on the worth of individual vaccine products. Indeed critical analysis of vaccines seems to be limited to comments on articles, often by members of the general public.

The dearth of critical analysis of individual vaccines is a major failing on The Conversation website(2), particularly as the university and research sector has a vested interest in promoting lucrative vaccine products, e.g. the controversial HPV vaccine(3).  This lack of objectivity undermines trust in The Conversation(4).

The Conversation claims to be “an independent source of news and views, sourced from the academic and research community” introducing “new protocols and controls to help rebuild trust in journalism”, and believing in “open access and the free-flow of information.(4) The Conversation states: “We only allow authors to write on a subject on which they have proven expertise, which they must disclose alongside their article. Authors’ funding and potential conflicts of interest must be disclosed. Failure to do so carries a risk of being banned from contributing to the site.”(4)

Given its promise to be “an independent source of news and views, sourced from the academic and research community”(4)The Conversation’s support of the Stop the Australian (Anti) Vaccination Network (SAVN)(5) bears investigation.   The SAVN is a stalwart defender of mandated vaccination and will brook no dissent.  While the SAVN’s raison d’etre is ostensibly to oppose the controversial Australian Vaccination Network(6) and its spokesperson Meryl Dorey, in practice SAVN supporters have taken it upon themselves to stifle and patronise anybody who dares to question vaccination practice in any way, as can be seen in The Conversation discussion threads listed below.(7)

Rachael Dunlop is an administrator of the SAVN Facebook page(8), and Vice President of Australian Skeptics Inc(9).  Her articles on vaccination are published on The Conversation.  Contrary to The Conversation’s assurance that “we only allow authors to write on a subject on which they have proven expertise”(4), Rachael Dunlop’s profile on The Conversation website(10) provides no indication that she has “proven expertise” in the wide range of vaccine products on the Australian National Immunisation Program Schedule(11).  While Rachael Dunlop is given carte blanche to publish her opinions on vaccination on The Conversation(12), others of us relegated to the comments section are intimidated by the threat of censorship.  For instance two of my comments were censored on Rachael Dunlop’s article A view on: vaccination myths(13).

In his support for The Conversation, Professor Peter Doherty, Nobel Laureate, says: “The whole motivation behind this was to open communication between people in our universities and institutes of higher education and the general public…None of us want to live in an ivory tower, we all want to be part of society.  So how do we do that?  It has been difficult to do that in conventional newspaper and media formats because they have their own priorities.  So we started The Conversation…”(14)

Given The Conversation’s general reluctance to critically analyse individual vaccine products, cynics might wonder if The Conversation has its own priorities’, principally to do with selling the products of the university and research sector?   Is The Conversation merely a marketing arm for the university and research sector?

Vaccines of questionable value are being added to national vaccination schedules.  Mass populations of children are being vaccinated against diseases which may never pose a serious threat for them, e.g. human papillomavirus(15).  It is questionable whether ‘informed consent’ is being properly obtained before these medical interventions.

Vaccine products are being developed for more and more diseases e.g. novovirus(16), chlamydia(17), skin cancer(18), herpes(19), HIV(20), malaria(21) etc, etc, yet nobody has any idea of the long term cumulative effect of all these medical interventions, or ‘unintended consequences’ for disease development, consider for example the possible implications of genotype replacement with HPV vaccination(22); vaccine-related reassortment of rotavirus(23); HBV S protein mutations after vaccination(24); and increasing selection among the B. pertussis population in Australia in favor of strains carrying prn2 andptxP3 under the pressure of acellular vaccine–induced immunity(25).

Aggressive marketing by the pharmaceutical industry and industry-affiliated ‘experts’, including lobbying for compulsory vaccination with vaccines of dubious value, is threatening citizens’ autonomy.  It seems we are now expected to meekly accept every vaccine product manufactured by the vaccine industry.  

The increasingly lucrative vaccine industry benefits from the oppressive climate that has developed on the subject of vaccination.

The potential conflicts of interests of academics working in the areas of vaccine development and promotion, and the influence of these academics on government policy, needs to be examined.  It’s time there was an investigation into the relationships between governments, the vaccine industry, and the industry’s handmaidens in the scientific/medical establishment, but who can we trust to do that?  The mainstream media has generally been completely useless on this matter, and incapable of providing critical analysis, merely supporting the status quo(26), likewise The Conversation.

Citizens must be allowed to have a rational debate on this important subject to ensure public confidence in vaccination practice.  All vaccination recommendations must be transparently evidence-based.

It’s time for The Conversation to lift its game on this subject and provide some objective critical analysis of individual vaccine products, and the lucrative international vaccine market.

For discussion on controversial vaccine products see:  

I have provided critical comment(27*) on a number of The Conversation’s articles pertinent to vaccination, see list below:  

References: (Links current as at 12 November 2013.)

1. Partners and funders of The Conversation: https://theconversation.com/au/partners

2. Our charter – The Conversation: https://theconversation.com/au/our_charter

3. Also refer to Ian Frazer. Catch cancer? No thanks, I’d rather have a shot! The Conversation 10 July 2012: http://theconversation.com/catch-cancer-no-thanks-id-rather-have-a-shot-7568

4. Who we are – The Conversation: https://theconversation.com/au/who_we_are

5. Stop the Australian (Anti) Vaccination Network Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/stopavn

6. Australian Vaccination Network: http://avn.org.au/

7. This has been my personal experience – see responses to Elizabeth Hart on The Conversation discussion threads listed above.  As far as I am aware, editors at The Conversation have done little to address concerns about vaccines of questionable value such as the controversial HPV vaccinethe arbitrary second dose of the measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) live vaccineannual flu vaccination and controversial ‘gain of function research’; or pertussis ‘boosters’ of the existing vaccine against the new strain.

8. The disclosure statement on Rachael Dunlop’s article “A view on: vaccination myths” on The Conversation, 28 May 2013, notes that she is “an administrator of the Stop the AVN Facebook page”: https://theconversation.com/a-view-on-vaccination-myths-14699

9. Australian Skeptics: http://www.skeptics.com.au/contact/nsw/

10. Rachael Dunlop’s profile on The Conversation website http://theconversation.com/profiles/rachael-dunlop-4133/profile_bio

11. Australian National Immunisation Program Schedule: http://www.immunise.health.gov.au/internet/immunise/publishing.nsf/Content/nips-ctn

12. Rachael Dunlop. Six myths about vaccination – and why they’re wrong. The Conversation, 26 April 2013: http://theconversation.com/six-myths-about-vaccination-and-why-theyre-wrong-13556

13. Rachael Dunlop. A view on: vaccination myths. The Conversation, 28 May 2013: https://theconversation.com/a-view-on-vaccination-myths-14699

14. Peter Doherty: Why I support The Conversation. Video on Who we are – The Conversation, quote starting at 0.30: https://theconversation.com/au/who_we_are

15. In an article on the university and CSIRO-funded The Conversation website, titled “Catch cancer? No thanks, I’d rather have a shot!”, Professor Ian Frazer states: “Through sexual activity, most of us will get infected with the genital papillomaviruses that can cause cancer. Fortunately, most of us get rid of them between 12 months to five years later without even knowing we’ve had the infection. Even if the infection persists, only a few individuals accumulate enough genetic mistakes in the virus-infected cell for these to acquire the properties of cancer cells”.  If only a few individuals accumulate enough genetic mistakes in the virus-infected cell for these to acquire the properties of cancer cells”, is it really justifiable to coerce mass populations of children to have HPV vaccination, particularly as the long-term consequences of the HPV vaccine are unknown?  Refer to this link for further background: https://over-vaccination.net/questionable-vaccines/hpv-vax/

16. Takeda’s norovirus vaccine misses endpoint in early-phase trial. FierceVaccines, 7 October 2013: http://www.fiercevaccines.com/story/takedas-norovirus-vaccine-misses-endpoint-early-phase-trial/2013-10-07

17. Igietseme JU, Eko FO, Black CM. Chlamydia vaccines: recent developments and the role of adjuvants in future formulations. Expert Rev Vaccines. 2011 Nov;10(11):1585-96: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22043957

18. Professor Ian Frazer close to creating skin cancer vaccine. News.com.au, 31 July 2011: http://www.news.com.au/technology/science/skin-cancer-vaccine-hope/story-fn5fsgyc-1226105179167

19. Allied Healthcare’s herpes simplex vaccine trial under way. 17 October 2013: http://www.proactiveinvestors.com.au/companies/news/49190/allied-healthcares-herpes-simplex-vaccine-trial-under-way-49190.html

20. Breakthrough in hunt for HIV vaccine as scientists capture ENV protein. News.com.au, 2 November 2013: http://www.news.com.au/technology/science/breakthrough-in-hunt-for-hiv-vaccine/story-fn5fsgyc-1226751689734

21. New malaria vaccine has its flaws, but it’s better than nothing. The Conversation, 9 October 2013: https://theconversation.com/new-malaria-vaccine-has-its-flaws-but-its-better-than-nothing-19020

22. Pons-Salort M et al. Exploring individual HPV coinfections is essential to predict HPV-vaccination impact on genotype distribution: a model-based approach. Vaccine. 2013 Feb 6;31(8):1238-45: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23246257

23. Tatiana Lundgren Rose et al. Evidence of vaccine-related reassortment of rotavirus, Brazil, 2008-2010. Emerging Infectious Diseases. Volume 19, Number 11 – November 2013: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/19/11/12-1407_article.htm

24. Bian T et al. Change in hepatitis B virus large surface antigen variant prevalence 13 years after implementation of a universal vaccination program in China. J. Virol. 2013 Nov;87(22):12196-206: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24006443

25. Sophie Octavia et al. Newly emerging clones of Bordetella pertussis carrying prn2 and ptx3 alleles implicated in Australian pertussis epidemic in 2008-2010. J Infect Dis. (2012) 205 (8): 1220-1224: http://jid.oxfordjournals.org/content/205/8/1220

26. For example, the Murdoch media’s aggressive “No Jab, No Play” campaign contributes to the oppressive climate surrounding vaccination – “Big win for No Jab, No Play as NSW state cabinet approves tough new vaccination laws”. The Telegraph, 29 May 2013. In this climate it is difficult to raise legitimate questions about vaccination practice, e.g. questioning arbitrary revaccination of all children with the live measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) vaccine, as most children are likely to be immune after age appropriate vaccination with an effective first dose of this vaccine.

27. Elizabeth Hart, Independent Vaccine Investigator.  Comments on The Conversation: https://theconversation.com/profiles/elizabeth-hart-6978/activities  (*Edited to include additional articles 24 June 2014.)

Influenza: marketing vaccine by marketing disease

syringeIn a recent feature article published in the British Medical Journal, Peter Doshi discusses the marketing of influenza vaccine by marketing disease.

Here are some excerpts from the article:

Promotion of influenza vaccines is one of the most visible and aggressive public health policies today…Closer examination of influenza vaccine policies shows that although proponents employ the rhetoric of science, the studies underlying the policy are often of low quality, and do not substantiate officials’ claims. The vaccine might be less beneficial and less safe than has been claimed, and the threat of influenza appears overstated…

Selling sickness: what’s in a name?…Could influenza—a disease known for centuries, well defined in terms of its etiology, diagnosis, and prognosis—be yet one more case of disease mongering? I think it is. But unlike most stories of selling sickness, here the salesmen are public health officials, worried little about which brand of vaccine you get so long as they can convince you to take influenza seriously.

Marketing influenza vaccines thus involves marketing influenza as a threat of great proportions. The CDC’s website explains that “Flu seasons are unpredictable and can be severe,” citing a death toll of “3000 to a high of about 49 000 people.” However, a far less volatile and more reassuring picture of influenza seems likely if one considers that recorded deaths from influenza declined sharply over the middle of the 20th century, at least in the United States, all before the great expansion of vaccination campaigns in the 2000s, and despite three so-called “pandemics”

But perhaps the cleverest aspect of the influenza marketing strategy surrounds the claim that “flu” and “influenza” are the same. The distinction seems subtle, and purely semantic. But general lack of awareness of the difference might be the primary reason few people realize that even the ideal influenza vaccine, matched perfectly to circulating strains of wild influenza and capable of stopping all influenza viruses, can only deal with a small part of the “flu” problem because most “flu” appears to have nothing to do with influenza. Every year, hundreds of thousands of respiratory specimens are tested across the US. Of those tested, on average 16% are found to be influenza positive.

All influenza is “flu,” but only one in six “flus” might be influenza. It’s no wonder so many people feel that “flu shots” don’t work: for most flus, they can’t.

Read the entire article via this link: http://www.bmj.com/content/346/bmj.f3037

Reference: Doshi, P. Influenza: marketing vaccine by marketing disease. BMJ 2013;346:f3037

The reluctance to acknowledge adverse reactions to vaccination

Here’s a link to an article that illustrates the medical/scientific establishment’s reluctance to publish material that casts vaccination in a bad light: “Special Report: How vaccine scares cast shadows over science”.

Some quotes:  (Emphasis added.)

At a Finnish medical convention in January 2011, a colleague approached neurologist Markku Partinen, laid a hand on his shoulder and said: “Markku, it’s going to be a bad year for you.”

In the following months, other scientists ridiculed him, questioned his methods and motives, and raised doubts about his mental stability. Colleagues began crossing the street to avoid him, he says. 

Partinen, director of the Helsinki Sleep Clinic and Research Centre, had raised the alarm about a GlaxoSmithKline vaccine called Pandemrix. He had discovered the drug, used to protect people from H1N1 swine flu, may be linked to a jump in cases of narcolepsy, a rare sleep disorder, in children and young people. He knew his findings might help limit the risks of narcolepsy for other children around the world, but was fearful nonetheless. The work was bound to generate scientific suspicion and public anxiety. Indeed, he struggled to get his paper on the vaccine published.

His story underscores an increasingly tough challenge for scientists balancing compelling data with public concern over vaccines and their side effects. Treatments which stimulate immunity to disease are highly controversial. In the past couple of decades – especially after a British doctor made now-discredited claims linking the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine to autism – the field has become even more charged. After the false alarm sounded by British doctor Andrew Wakefield, some scientists say they are more hesitant to credit reports of potential side effects from vaccines.

Partinen is keen to distance himself from Andrew Wakefield, calling Wakefield a “fake”.  It will be interesting to see how history views Andrew Wakefield, time will tell on that score…

The article provides another scientist’s perspective:

At a medical centre on the outskirts of Helsinki, another Finnish scientist agrees with Partinen’s results and is probing the mechanics of the Pandemrix-narcolepsy link, which she thinks may have to do with the vaccine’s super-charging effect on the immune system.

Outi Vaarala previously worked in research on autoimmune diseases and diabetes. Since crossing over into the field of vaccinology, she says she has found herself harangued in emails and phone calls by people on one side accusing her of undermining trust in vaccines, or on the other begging her to join an anti-vaccine crusade. 

“There’s not the kind of open discussion we used to have. You’re afraid you will lose your whole career if you say something bad,” says Vaarala. “When you’re dealing with vaccine it suddenly becomes like working in politics, or religion.”

Partinen tells of the problems he encountered in publishing his results:

Partinen attended another Helsinki medical conference last month, two years after he had been warned about difficult times ahead. But this time he was leading the first Nordic Symposium on Narcolepsy and its links to the H1N1 swine flu vaccine.

“When we found this, we wanted to publish our results and spread the news to the world because we knew Pandemrix was also being used in other countries,” he said. “But there were big problems.” 

Having double- and triple-checked his findings, Partinen approached the New England Journal of Medicine, one of the world’s most respected medical journals, and submitted his study for publication. He says the journal asked for several revisions to the paper, then finally declined to accept it.

“After that we sent it to The Lancet,” he said, stressing that this was the same journal which published the now discredited Wakefield paper.

While it is not unusual for such high-level medical journals to reject many papers, Partinen said he was shocked by the strength of The Lancet’s resistance to his.

“It was quite exceptional, they asked for revision and revision and revision,” Partinen said. “Then they said they’d made an editorial decision – that they couldn’t publish it because we didn’t know the (biological) mechanism (behind the link between narcolepsy and Pandemrix).”

Partinen argues that scientists don’t know the biological mechanisms behind a whole host of diseases – multiple sclerosis and diabetes to name just two – yet The Lancet is full of peer-reviewed papers about those.

Neither The Lancet nor the New England Medical Journal would comment on their editorial decisions.

By the time Partinen’s study was published – March 2012, in the open-access journal of the Public Library of Science, PLoS One – many more scientists had replicated his findings, the H1N1 flu pandemic that Pandemrix was designed to protect against had been declared over, and the vaccine’s use had been restricted.

For those with narcolepsy it was already too late.

“There is no doubt any more that there is a link,” Partinen said. “But it’s taken three years to get here.”

It’s alarming that the medical and scientific establishment, for example highly influential journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine and The Lancet, is reluctant to acknowledge safety problems with vaccines. 

The public is ill-served by this cover-up to protect the status quo.  

With so many vested interests in play, who can be relied upon to provide objective research into vaccine effectiveness and safety?

For more general discussion on flu vaccination see: Annual flu vaccination and the influenza industry



Special Report: How vaccine scares cast shadows over science. Thomson Reuters News & Insight. 21 March 2013: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/03/21/us-vaccines-narcolepsy-specialreport-idUSBRE92K06620130321