HART Rapid Response
The BMJ published an article on 5 May entitled We need a gold standard for randomised control trials studying misinformation and vaccine hesitancy on social media. This lends yet more weight to the thesis set out in our article relating current events to the Orwell 1984 classic. Here we have yet another example of Newspeak trying to eradicate dangerous Wrongthink, in one of the supposedly most ‘prestigious’ scientific journals.
Their piece begins:
“Vaccine hesitancy and the spread of misinformation on social media have been recognised by the World Health Organization as an urgent threat to public health, with potentially lethal consequences.”
Well that’s settled then. Being recognised by the unelected, pharma-funded, supranational organisation that is the WHO does not lend any credibility to the article’s claim.
They go on to say:
“US president Joe Biden concluded that misinformation on social media was “killing people“”.
If this Biden quote is the best they can find to lend support to their hypothesis, it may be time for the authors to go back to the drawing board.
A final excerpt (we recommend reading the whole piece):
“Although doctors are typically among the most trusted professionals, during the covid-19 pandemic some medical credentials were used to peddle fake cures and outright misinformation about vaccination.”
Given the well-established, proven vaccine (in)efficacy, and the military grade coercion that was employed to get people to take them, it’s hard to know where to start in critiquing this particular sentence.
A HART member felt compelled to submit this Rapid Response to the BMJ, pointing out that there is a more pressing need to address the glaring holes in current vaccine trial methodologies, than for ‘studying’ those raising valid questions. The letter has yet to appear.
However, in another excellent Rapid response published on 24th May, authors Pearce and Oliver point out that, “the use of loaded terms like ‘vaccine hesitancy’ betray a particular worldview where the researcher is better informed, and makes better,more rational decisions than others regardless of personal circumstances. This lack of curiosity and humility is a poor starting place for inquiry.”
The unpublished response from Dr Ros Jones is printed in full here.
Rather than working out rules for gold standard RCTs on how to reduce online misinformation and vaccine hesitancy, maybe the best thing would be to re-address the golden rules for RCTs of vaccines in the first place.
The Covid-19 vaccine trials provide a classic example of how to increase vaccine hesitancy.
Firstly, the clinical trials were commenced before any human pharmacokinetic and biodistribution studies of all the components were carried out let alone published.
Secondly, they allowed unblinding to take place and many of the control arm then received the vaccine, making the longer term safety assessment from the Phase 3 trials meaningless.
Thirdly they looked at mortality only from the disease in question rather than looking at all cause mortality.
Fourthly, they failed to provide raw anonymised data so that readers could check the results. The dangers of lack of transparency have been highlighted before.
Fifthly, there was no clear separation of the authors from the drug company sponsors, which has its own dangers.
Sixthly, the manufacturers required unlimited indemnity, which tends to make the public ask why.
Seventhly, many studies are underpowered. The children’s trials in particular were too small to elucidate safety – their efficacy was largely based on the concept of ‘immunobridging’.
Eighthly, use of saline placebo. Some vaccine trials used other unrelated vaccines as a control rather than a saline placebo, which is a problem if the comparator vaccine also has under-reported side effects.
It is time to return to proper independently conducted RCTs in which the trial organisers are genuinely in ‘equipoise’, previously the ethical basis for any trial. It is also time to ensure that ‘all cause’ morbidity/mortality are used as end points rather than allowing the investigators to decide whether an individual SAE was or was not related to the vaccine under investigation and use a double-blind placebo-controlled methodology with a minimum 12 month follow-up as recommended by the International Coalition of Medicines Regulatory Authorities (ICMRA)
Such an approach could go a long way to restore faith in the whole process of approvals.
Dr Rosamond Jones, retired consultant paediatrician
- Doshi, P. (2018). Pandemrix vaccine: why was the public not told of early warning signs? BMJ, 362:k3948. doi: 10.1136/bmj.k3948
- Jureidini J, McHenry L B. (2022).The illusion of evidence based medicine BMJ 2022; 376 :o702 doi:10.1136/bmj.o702