By John Stone
An associate editor of British Medical Journal and member of the Cochrane Collaboration, Peter Doshi of the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy, has written an article in the journal supporting Donald Trump’s sceptical attitude to vaccines. In the article Doshi challenges the mainstream media’s lazy agenda based reporting both of Trump generally and of the vaccine issue. Doshi, who has long been a critic of flu vaccination writes:
One topic the new president may test journalists on is vaccines. Candidate Trump expressed doubts about vaccine policy...there is reason to think a “vaccine safety commission” may be in the works…Good journalism on this topic will require abandoning current practices of avoiding interviewing, understanding, and presenting critical voices out of fear that expressing any criticism amounts to presenting a “false balance” that will result in health scares.
Doshi makes several interesting points. He criticises labelling vaccine critical parents who had vaccinated as “anti-vaccine”:
Many parents of children with developmental disorders who question the role of vaccines had their children vaccinated. Anti-vaccination is an ideology, and people who have their children vaccinated seem unlikely candidates for the title…Secondly, they [the mainstream media] lump all vaccines together as if the decision about risks and benefits is the same irrespective of disease—
Doshi would like de-polarise the issue, though for many here it will be a little late. One problem that arises is that when you have such very successful repressive machinery any real assessment of risk-benefit is heavily prejudiced, and it makes it much easier to market and mandate faulty products. Given the place of publication it is not surprising that Doshi dismisses the MMR-autism connection - perhaps at odds with his acknowledgement that developmental disorders are likely implicated - but the call for tolerant and open discussion is at the very least welcome.
John Stone is UK Editor for Age of Autism.