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Swept Aside: an Un-Published Submission to the Leveson Inquiry about Science Journalism

Lord-Justice-LevesonBy  John Stone 

Age of Autism has been highlighting the mis-directed UK media abuse inquiry headed by Lord Justice Leveson. Ostensibly set up after public concerns about intrusive journalism and political cronyism the inquiry somehow concluded a fortnight ago with a further assault on the integrity of Andrew Wakefield – referred to as “a rogue scientist”  - and capitulation before industry lobbyist Fiona Fox of Science Media Centre (who isn’t a scientist at all). Age of Autism’s UK editor, John Stone, who was one of group of parents who initially submitted evidence to Leveson about the Brian Deer/Sunday Times MMR investigation – which Leveson refused to hear – submitted further evidence (published here for the first time) after Leveson chose to give room to Ms Fox last December. Although swiftly submitted this submission was also ignored by the judge, just as he was subsequently to ignore the fact that Wakefield’s colleague Prof John Walker-Smith was fully exonerated in the High Court, knocking on the head a host of the Sunday Times’s allegations.

Various matters are not mentioned in the submission, either for diplomatic reasons, or because at the time they had not come to light.  There is no mention of the fact that both Leveson and the inquiry’s lead attorney, Robert Jay, had already been instrumental in denying MMR litigants a hearing. Nor the fact that Fox had been appointed by the UK’s Department of Business to head a committee to advise on the future of science journalism which included the editor who hired Deer at the Sunday Times, Paul Nuki,  and the boss of Hacked Off, the self-appointed guard-dog organisation to the Leveson Inquiry, Martin Moore. In effect Leveson has endorsed and sanctioned a situation in which scientific issues can be manipulated for the benefit of the powerful against the public interest – and while the position is already dire we are now faced by the possibility of this being enforced by legislation and a newly created arm of government. The danger, however, was pointed out to the judge a year ago, and he ploughed on regardless.

Evidence to the Leveson Inquiry on MMR and the behaviour of the “science” lobby, including journalist Ben Goldacre, former MP Dr Evan Harris and Fiona Fox of Science Media Centre.

John Stone

Dr Goldacre’s ‘Bad Science’ column began in the Guardian in 2003 and he rapidly rose to prominence receiving the Association of British Science Writer’s award for that year for an article on the MMR issue ‘MMR: Never mind the facts’. It may be noted that the ABSW awards were at the time sponsored by MMR manufacturers and defendants GlaxoSmithKline [1]. It was also not disclosed at any time, though Dr Goldacre’s column dealt heavily in issues of epidemiology and public health policy that his father, Michael Goldacre, was a professor public health at Oxford and a leading government epidemiologist [2, 3, 4] whose work had included papers on MMR (notably GSK’s Pluserix vaccine after it was withdrawn by the manufacturers in 1992) [5].  In the case of Pluserix it should also be taken into consideration that the NHS had apparently indemnified the manufacturers for the use of what was known to be a faulty vaccine (already being removed from use in Canada in 1988 and its license revoked there in 1990) [6, 7]. Despite the growing public celebrity of the younger Goldacre, and the professional prominence of the older, no authoritative information for their familial relationship came to light before 2009, although it is the sort of matter that might normally be in the area of public comment.

It is evident that had this been generally known from the beginning Ben Goldacre’s column would have been seen in quite a different light. Also, if this had been known and Ben Goldacre had wished to assert that he was nevertheless an independent voice, the public would still have been better informed. Moreover, there must have been a huge circle of people “in the know” who never commented in the public domain until Ian Fairlie did in 2009 [2], which is in itself a remarkable circumstance.

Ben Goldacre repeatedly ducked answering questions about the shortcomings of the epidemiology of the safety of MMR both in his Guardian blog and in British Medical Journal over an extended period [1,8]. Typically he would engage in ad hominem attacks against his critics on the issue (never mentioned by name) but not answering their specific questions. For a long time his website carried the intimidatory message “…personal anecdotes about your MMR tragedy will be deleted for your own safety” [9] and he has an on-line shop which sells novelty merchandise declaring the safety of MMR, including at various times t-shirts, thongs, mugs and baby-bibs, as well as characteristically abusive items about nutritionists and homeopaths [10]. Another problem was that though Goldacre styled himself as a junior doctor he was coy about which institutions he was affiliated to, which at one point included the Institute of Psychiatry [11]. This not only disguised potential conflicts over MMR because of the Institute’s relations with pharmaceutical manufacturers, but also mobile phone radiation. At one point Goldacre was involved in making a personalised attack on a fellow journalist Julia Stephenson while not disclosing that his institution included the industry funded Mobile Phones Research Unit [11]. Of course, if you personally attack those people who may have suffered ill effects from the products you are defending this is taking the debate to somewhere else than science (and perhaps to somewhere not very pleasant).

After I drew attention to Goldacre’s presence at the Institute of Psychiatry in BMJ Rapid Responses he did not contribute another article to the journal for two years, by which time he had left the Institute.

One particularly anomalous issue in Goldacre’s coverage of the MMR issue was his apparent disagreement with Brian Deer over the Wakefield/Lancet paper. In another ABSW award winning article for 2005 Goldacre declared:

“people periodically come up to me and say, isn't it funny how that Wakefield MMR paper turned out to be Bad Science after all? And I say: no. The paper always was and still remains a perfectly good small case series report, but it was systematically misrepresented as being more than that, by media that are incapable of interpreting and reporting scientific data.” [12]

An extraordinary feature of this matter was that a participant in the panel of judges that gave Goldacre this award was MP Dr Evan Harris [13] who had collaborated with Deer, had taken part with Deer in an ambush on Wakefield and his fellow doctors in the Lancet offices [14], and had led a debate making allegations against  Wakefield’s 1998 paper under the cloak of privilege in the Commons in March 2004 [15]. The issue, which is still under appeal by Prof Walker-Smith, was whether the Lancet paper corresponded to the protocol for a study commissioned by the Legal Aid Board or was simply as stated an “early report” (to add to the confusion the GMC not only found that it was the LAB study that the doctors were doing but paradoxically found them guilty on numerous counts of failing to conduct it according to the protocol for that study, which the defence were claiming had never been undertaken) [16]. Effectively, Goldacre was suggesting, albeit indirectly, that Deer and Harris were wrong – although never stating why in detailed documentary terms -  while maintaining a separate epidemiological style defence of MMR vaccine.

In January 2010, when the GMC brought in its findings against the three doctors Goldacre moved to support them [17]. However, this was not the end of the matter. On the evening of the GMC “findings” the Guardian health editor, Sarah Boseley also noted obscurely (because in fact no direct report of the defence case had ever appeared in the mainstream media):

“Opinion is divided in the medical establishment on the wisdom of pursuing Wakefield – and particularly his colleagues who played a lesser role in the drama – at the GMC. Some say there was a clear case to answer and that the GMC had no other option but others believe that no good can come of it.” [18]

But when the point was made under the noses of Deer, Goldacre and Harris in February 2010 in BMJ Rapid Responses that there was a strong  and specific defence case about the lack of identity between the LAB protocol and the Lancet paper none of them had anything to say about this embarrassing matter [16].

However, in November 2010 in an interview in an Irish on-line publication Goldacre had reverted to his earlier position telling them:

“But you have to remember this paper didn’t actually say MMR causes autism, it didn’t even speculate on that. It was accompanied by an editorial that said by the way people should be very clear that it doesn’t mean that MMR causes autism.

“Also, this was a 12 subject case series report - it was a description of only 12 children’s clinical anecdotes, and while this is not good evidence to say MMR causes autism, it is a perfectly legitimate thing to publish.” [19]

All of which continues to contradict Deer and the GMC findings without explicitly saying so. Goldacre was finally forced to square the circle in January 2011 writing under Deer’s blog in the Guardian which was published in conjunction with the new wave of his allegations in BMJ, but essentially both things could not be true [20].

Simultaneously - virtually to the minute - with the publication of Goldacre’s post a Guardian editor contacted me with a response to a complaint about Goldacre’s apparently duplicitous behaviour that I had made a few weeks before to the Guardian’s editor-in-chief, Alan Rusbridger. This email, which is now lost due to an unrelated hacking incident dishonourably waived any responsibility on the basis that Goldacre, despite his regular column, was not a Guardian employee and it was therefore not their affair what he might say in other places in contradiction of views expressed in the newspaper.

While it would obviously be up to Goldacre to explain what he was trying to do his activity would be consistent with the medical establishment needing to have a ready fall-back position in case the allegations against Wakefield failed (noting Sarah Boseley’s warning after the GMC findings that a significant contingent in the medical establishment still believed that this was going to unravel) but there must also have been professional pressures on Goldacre to jump into public line after the findings were made.

I believe there is fundamental problem here that journalists could be keeping their silence or partial silence when they know or suspect an injustice is being committed. It was a feature of the mainstream media coverage of the GMC hearing against Dr Wakefield, and Profs Walker-Smith and Murch that at no stage did any mainstream media outlet make a single attempt to report the defence’s case, even where it was placed under their noses. People accused of the most heinous crimes against humanity will commonly have the defences reported in the mainstream media but in this case there was an effective news blackout. Of course, where the media abdicates responsibility for fair reporting the potential for executive abuse must increase.

Another extraordinary episode in Goldacre’s career was the attack he in part led on an article in the Observer by Denis Campbell published just prior to commencement of the GMC’s Wakefield hearings in 2007. Campbell’s article highlighted concern about autism rates in schools and the failure to publish a study undertaken in the early part of the decade which had identified the possibility that the rate of autism was two-thirds higher than previously reported (a figure of 1 in 58 was quoted). There followed a concerted attack on the Observer newspaper by the industry lobby organisation Science Media Centre and by Goldacre (both in the Observer’s sister newspaper the Guardian and in BMJ). Goldacre’s article began in the most menacing and unpleasant terms:

“Whatever you think about Andrew Wakefield, the real villains of the MMR scandal are the media. Just one week before his GMC hearing, yet another factless "MMR causes autism" news story appeared: and even though it ran on the front page of our very own Observer, I am dismantling it on this page. We're all grown-ups around here.” [21]

Critical to his case was the denial by Prof Baron-Cohen:

“First, it claimed that the lead researcher, Professor Simon Baron Cohen, "was so concerned by the one in 58 figure that last year he proposed informing public health officials in the county." Prof Cohen is clear: this is inaccurate and scaremongering.” [21]

Indeed, Baron-Cohen had already written to the Observer:

“The research is based on a study of Cambridgeshire children, which ran for five years. It has not yet come out with a definitive figure on the prevalence of autism and it is therefore irresponsible to single out one figure.

“The best estimate of the prevalence of autism is the 1 per cent figure published in the Lancet in 2006.” [22]

However, only a few months later (May 2008) in the relative seclusion of an academic conference Baron-Cohen presented a paper stating in the abstract:

“Conclusions: The prevalence estimate of known cases of ASC [autism spectrum conditions], using different methods of ascertainment converges around 1%. The ratio of known to unknown cases means that for every three known cases there are another two unknown cases.” [23]

This is a figure of 1 in 60 which sounds remarkably like a rounded version of the 1 in 58 of the article. In the meantime the Observer had been forced to withdraw the article and it was reported in the Daily Mail that the episode had contributed to the dismissal of the Observer’s editor, Roger Alton, by Guardian newspapers [24].

I believe this episode demonstrates how offending a certain lobby can lead to censorship and intimidation even where the basis of story is well founded. It is plain that addressing such issues as the soaring rate of autism and its possible causes can be a suicidal move either in medicine or journalism, and the defence of policy has taken the place of open public discussion and the wider public interest. We are dealing with a situation where not only may we not talk openly about whether vaccines cause autism but even whether the rate of autism is rising.  It is possible, I suppose, that Goldacre considers himself misled by Baron-Cohen, but he has never said so, and in the meantime a lot of professional damage had been done. It may also be that Baron-Cohen was terrified into falsifying the public position because of the actions of a lobby. I will return to this in due course.

Another episode illustrating the manipulation of opinion over MMR occurred in 2009 when complainers mobbed the website of LBC radio [25] after journalist Jeni Barnett had attacked the MMR lobby on the air, causing her broadcast to be removed from the web. While Barnett’s broadcast was not scientifically speaking particularly well-informed the incident proved her point about the way in which open discussion was being deliberately closed down, and people were being strong armed into silence. Following this incident Goldacre lobbied Parliament and an Early Day Motion censuring Barnett for expressing an opinion was signed by approximately 130 MPs: the lead signatory was Liberal-Democrat health spokesman, Norman Lamb, and the second signatory Dr Evan Harris [25, 26]. Many politicians with “liberal” credentials seem to have lost sight of the fact that allowing people to express opinions you disagree with – even in the mainstream media - is part and parcel of living in “a liberal democracy”. There is also obviously a new style of journalism in which mainstream media journalists may also be involved in web-wars.

Science Media Centre and the Denis Campbell incident, Goldacre and the Cochrane Review

As I have already documented Denis Campbell’s July 2007 report regarding incidence of autism in the school population, which was withdrawn and finally contributed to the sacking of the Observer’s editor, later turned out to be well-founded. So, it may be instructive to look at the activity of Science Media Centre over this incident and the blog of its director, Fiona Fox, is particularly informative.

“With this in mind, the SMC reacted to the article primarily by coordinating a joint media statement by 14 institutions involved with child health and vaccination to back the safety of the jab which we issued to coincide with the GMC hearing. However I did also send a note to Denis Campbell, the journalist who wrote the article and a friendly contact of ours, to make sure he knew that the SMC was unable to defend the piece to the angry scientists who were contacting us. The result was an invitation to meet with him, the readers' editor and a variety of other Observer news editors at their offices. So, with two leading MMR experts at my side, I went to highlight the concerns.” [27]

Let us be clear what is going on here. While SMC poses as the voice of science it is actually an industry funded lobby organisation, supported by among others the three manufacturers of MMR vaccine (and former case defendants) GSK, Merck and Sanofi Pasteur [28]. Nor would it be difficult for SMC to find public bodies willing to take part in a coordinated complaint against any challenge to their policies. What it is not is a disinterested party, and some might find that requiring the support of SMC to publish an article unmolested a disquieting proposition.

In viewing the representations of a body like SMC the inquiry would also do well to take note of the warning of the Commons Health Committee report  ‘The Influence of the Pharmaceutical Industry’ 2005. The report complained about proximity of the industry to government, the naivety of the Department of Health, the lack of distance between the licensing authority and the manufacturers, the use of ghost writers, the suppression of negative evidence. The report also wrote the relationship of the media to the industry (p.60):

‘221. ………. Considerable resources are invested into building long-term, sustainable relationships with stakeholders and ‘key opinion leaders‘ and journalists. These relationships are used to promote the use of certain brands and counter concerns relating to safety. Efforts to undermine critical voices in particular were identified, under terms of “issues management”. In later evidence, in response to the ISM’s memorandum, Pfizer stated that PR is entirely legitimate and can “help to educate and inform”. According to the PMCPA, PR activities may include “placing articles in the lay press, TV documentaries, soap operas etc“.’  [29]

In the case of MMR even the relative safety of product has never been established, which was what Andrew Wakefield was talking about when he advocated caution in 1998. The Cochrane review of MMR safety in 2005 declared safety studies to be “largely inadequate” suggesting that this needed to be balanced against the importance of the policy of targeting the diseases, but this was not made clear to the media or the public. Indeed, of the six autism related studies it reviewed none was considered to be of low risk of bias [8, 30]. Underneath bureaucratic language the studies were too poorly conducted to establish anything, and this was even without examining their conflicts of interest. The abstract stated:

‘The design and reporting of safety outcomes in MMR vaccine studies, both pre- and post-marketing, are largely inadequate.’ [30]

However, the relative frankness of the abstract and much of the main text was contrasted with the ‘plain language summary’ in which the scientific failure to conduct studies of sufficient quality to tell whether the product was safe or not – a position that we do not know and we have been let down – was buried in spin and unwarranted positive endorsement [8, 30]. The one journalist to pick up on the deficiency, Melanie Phillips, was sprayed with ad hominem disparagement by Goldacre [31], but the truth was otherwise. Goldacre’s argument was that due to Phillips’s alleged scientific ignorance she was expecting too high a degree of certainty from the science. He might have had a point if the review had said the studies were “adequate”, though it would scarcely have been a ringing endorsement, but in point of fact it said the studies were “largely inadequate”. Some of us might have felt that since we were supposed to be injecting our children with the product that an “adequate” assessment was scarcely good enough, that “excellent” would be a start but setting the acceptable level at “largely inadequate” was an insult. And Goldacre was wrong: this is not a matter of the necessary uncertainty of science or Melanie Phillips’s personality, this is a comment by Cochrane on the quality of the studies available for review.

It would be useful to focus briefly on what institutionally this means, and what by and large the media are not reporting on. Cochrane sifted 5,000 related papers on MMR and came up with what were purportedly the 31 best and most suitable, yet on their own account these were mostly so poor that it is not readily understandable how they even met the inclusion criteria. But why with so much scientific activity would there not be “good studies”? Could it be that governments and industry are backing off “good studies” because of what they might show? If these were cars and not medical products the level of error would be completely unacceptable, but the media have quite certainly been cowed into silence and apathy by an aggressive and well organised lobby.

It is a matter of forgotten history that when Wakefield advocated the use of single vaccines this was still an option on the NHS and within government policy: this was not turned on its head by Wakefield but by government and industry removing the products from availability in the succeeding months of 1998 and then blaming the decline in vaccine uptake on Wakefield, although it was they that had chosen to make a stand on it.

The picture is therefore not clear: the views of the Science Media Centre are neither authoritative or disinterested, and the public interest not necessarily served by the suppression of debate in this field any more than any other. The “science” lobby might like to elide such topics with the creationist debate, or largely fictional people who insist the earth is flat (in the jargon “quackbuster” tactics) but actually this is about the safety of industrial products injected into our children, and there is nothing inherently contemptible or outmoded about such a concern. What beyond anything ensures that such products can never be assuredly safe is the institutional attack on anyone who reports adverse happenings, the pre-empting of due investigation and substitution of heavy-handed manipulation and propaganda for science.

There may as Goldacre and Science Media Centre insist be a general problem over the quality of science journalism, but as the Commons Health Committee warned in 2005 it is not the answer to hand over the issue of what gets published to ruthless lobby groups attached to government and industry. We should, in fact, be particularly on our guard against them.


[1] John Stone, ‘Re: Restrictions on hospitality apply to journalists and doctors’, BMJ Rapid Responses, http://www.bmj.com/rapid-response/2011/11/01/re-restrictions-hospitality-apply-journalists-and-doctors

[2] The confirmation of the family relationship came to light in the review of Ben Goldacre’s book ‘Bad Science’ by Dr Ian Fairlie in the peer review journal ‘Medicine, Conflict and Survival’, vol 25, pp 255-7 2009.

[3] Michael J Goldacre Debrett entry http://www.debretts.com/people/biographies/browse/g/23990/Michael%20John+GOLDACRE.aspx

[4] Web page for NCHOD http://nchod.uhce.ox.ac.uk/

[5] E Miller, M Goldacre et al ‘Risk of aseptic meningitis after measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine in UK children’, Lancet. 1993 Apr 17;341(8851):979-82. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=Goldacre%20M%20urabe There will be a number MMR related studies from Prof Goldacre’s Unit of Health-Care Epidemiology, not all of them co-authored by him. None of these publications were regarded by the Cochrane review of 2005 to be of sufficient calibre to be included, although the standard for inclusion – as will be seen – was not particularly high.

[6] I have supplied a copy of the contract, with the indemnity in clause 9. An explanation of the indemnity was provided by solicitor Clifford G Miller in a comment on AgeofAutism.com http://www.ageofautism.com/2010/05/the-urabe-factor.html :-

“Michael Bliss appears completely out of his depth on legal issues relating to the "any cause" indemnity. This was given by the UK National Health Service to the supplier of the dangerous Pluserix/Trivirix MMR vaccine Smith Kline & French Laboratories Limited.

“The identical MMR vaccine manufactured in the same Smith Kline factory in Belgium was first licensed under the brand "Trivirix" for the Canadian market in 1986. Canadian distribution was officially withdrawn on 23rd November 1987.

“Despite being four times the price of an MMR vaccine officially assessed by the UK Committee on Safety of Medicines as safer and despite knowing it was a dangerous MMR vaccine the UK National Health Service contracted for the supply of 1.4 million doses of Pluserix/Trivirix in August 1988 and launched this known dangerous vaccine in the UK in October 1988.

“On 11th September 1992 this known dangerous vaccine was urgently withdrawn worldwide by Smith Kline Beecham acting on legal advice. The UK Department of Health was taken by surprise as reported in the UK press at the time but did not officially withdraw the vaccine or cancel its product licence because "revoking the licence would have caused a worldwide vaccine crisis". So childrens' lives and safety was put a poor second to the commercial interests of the drug industry and the career prospects of UK health officials.

“When it comes to indemnities, it is the normal practice for the supplier to indemnify the customer and not vice versa. The only time the supplier is indemnified by a government agency is when the drug company does not want to supply eg. because the product is not particularly safe but the government wants to supply it.

“This is a known practice to the insurance industry as they sometimes have to write policies to underwrite the risk.

“The contract with Smith Kline & French Laboratories Ltd contained an "any cause" indemnity given by the North-East Thames Regional Health Authority acting as agent for the UK's NHS Procurement Directorate. This appears to have been done without any government or Ministerial oversight.

“In other words, the contract appears to have been laundered by the back door to avoid any scrutiny.

“The "Nominated Distributor" is a red herring. This was Farillon. The only reason that qualification is in the indemnity is so the NHS did not indemnify Glaxo for MMR vaccine products not distributed by Farillon.

“Anything supplied outside the NHS supply chain - eg. by Glaxo itself or any third party was not covered. The NHS would not have to pay out for that.

“Yes, damage caused by Farillon was covered but also damage caused by the vaccine itself was too - any damage - for any cause.

“Additionally, this clause was inserted in 1988 - the year after the UK's Consumer Protection Act 1987 was passed which introduced "no-fault" liability on suppliers/manufacturers for death and injury caused by a defective product.

“So SK&F would have wanted that clause in. No doubt they had already covered themselves in negligence by disclosing to the DoH everything that had happened in Canada with Trivirix/Pluserix.

“In fact it is highly unlikely they could have negotiated this clause into the contract without having disclosed the defective nature of the product thereby justifying not supplying unless they had an indemnity.

“And of course the government was not going to pay out unless there was proven loss. Michael Bliss wants them to pay out against fake loss?

“Bliss is also wrong when he says:-

“"The distributor mishandles the vaccine so it is contaminated and a child dies from the contamination. The parents sue SK&F. Provided SK&F tells the NHS immediately, the NHS agrees that it will pay the legal fees and damages awarded against SK&F."

“If the distributor was at fault then SK&F has no liability - it would be Farillon at fault and liable on behalf of the UK's NHS.

“Clifford G Miller is a British attorney and trained scientist [BSc & ARCS Hons Physics]”

I also include a letter from the MHRA to a contact disclosing that the UK regulator knew that that the vaccine was faulty from November 1987, nearly 5 years before the manufacturers withdrew it.

[7] Brown et al ‘Nucleotide sequence analysis of Urabe mumps vaccine strain that caused meningitis in vaccine recipients’, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1759507

[8] John Stone ‘Re: Evidence is not bullying’ BMJ Rapid Responses http://www.bmj.com/rapid-response/2011/11/02/re-evidence-not-bullying I have not included any of the many challenges in Goldacre’s Guardian blog, but those published in BMJ are representative.

[9] John Stone ‘..and the Maudsley should be transparent too’ BMJ Rapid Responses http://www.bmj.com/rapid-response/2011/11/01/and-maudsley-should-be-transparent-too

[10] http://www.badscience.net/how-to-use-this-website/bad-science/

[11] John Stone ‘OK Ben, let’s be transparent’, BMJ Rapid Responses http://www.bmj.com/rapid-response/2011/11/01/ok-ben-lets-be-transparent

[12] Ben Goldacre ‘Don’t Dumb Me Down’ Guardian 8 September 2005 http://www.absw.org.uk/jobs-awards/awards/previous-winners

[13] http://www.absw.org.uk/jobs-awards/awards/previous-winners

[14] Richard Horton ‘MMR Science and Fiction’, Granta Books 2004, p.5-7

[15] http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200304/cmhansrd/vo040315/debtext/40315-34.htm In the debate Harris disclosed that he had recently received hospitality from one MMR defendant company, Aventis, but not that he was a parliamentary fellow with Glaxo (http://www.bmj.com/rapid-response/2011/11/02/evan-harriss-competing-interests-historical-perspective). He disclosed that his father, Frank Harris, was a recently retired professor of paediactrics but not that Frank Harris had sat on the Committee on Safety and Medicines (CSM) and the Adverse Reactions to Vaccines and Immunisation committee (ARVI) at a time when the adverse effects of Pluserix MMR vaccine were being reported (Who’s Who 2008, p.1006 column 3 and  http://www.advisorybodies.doh.gov.uk/jcvi/foi2006-adv-minutessept1990.pdf).

[16] John Stone ‘The unexplained puzzle of the GMC verdict (and responses to Peter Flegg) BMJ Rapid Response 10 February 2010 http://www.bmj.com/rapid-response/2011/11/02/unexplained-puzzle-gmc-verdict-and-reponses-peter-flegg

[17] Ben Goldacre ‘Expert view: the media are equally guilty over the MMR vaccine scare’ Guardian 28 January 2010 http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2010/jan/28/mmr-vaccine-ben-goldacre

[18] Sarah Boseley ‘From the Lancet to the GMC: how Dr Andrew Wakefield fell from grace’ Guardian 28 January 2010 http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2010/jan/28/andrew-wakefield-downfall

[19] Niall Hunter ‘Health info –sorting the wheat from the chaff’ IrishHealth.com 22 November 2010 http://www.irishhealth.com/article.html?id=18246

[20] http://www.guardian.co.uk/discussion/comment-permalink/9122814

[21] Ben Goldacre ‘The MMR story that wasn’t’ Guardian 28 July 2007 http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2007/jul/18/badscience.comment There was another version in BMJ but Goldacre and Baron-Cohen did not respond to my comment in 2009 about the turning out to be correct http://www.bmj.com/rapid-response/2011/11/02/we-are-owed-explanation-prof-baron-cohen-and-dr-goldacre-1 

[22]  ‘Letters: Reasons why autism could be on the rise’ Observer 15 July 2007 http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/2007/jul/15/letters.health

[23] Baron-Cohen et al ‘ESTIMATING AUTISM SPECTRUM PREVALENCE IN THE POPULATION: A SCHOOL BASED STUDY FROM THE UK’ INSAR conference 16 May 2008 http://imfar.confex.com/imfar/2008/webprogram/Paper2245.html. The figure in the finally published article [June 2009] was 157 in 10,000 which is equivalent to 1 in 64, which while lower than 1 in 58 is much in the same region as compared with 1 in 100 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19478287

[24] Geoffrey Levy ‘Fear and loathing in Farringdon Road – the bloody civil war within the Guardian Group’ Daily Mail, 25 October 2007 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-489574/Fear-loathing-Farringdon-Road--bloody-civil-war-The-Guardian-Group.html

[25] While the purpose of Goldacre was plainly to censure and censor opinion the strategy following the removal of Barnett’s broadcast from the web was to make LBC replace it on their website (and there was legal battle over Goldacre making it available on his website). A post on Goldacre’s shows how the campaign was mobilised against her on the web “This is not about Jeni – and it goes without saying that you should not be abusive towards her..” http://www.badscience.net/2009/02/lbc-mmr-jeni-barnett-an-early-day-motion-the-times-and-er-a-bit-of-stephen-fry/

[26] http://www.edms.org.uk/edms/2008-2009/754.htm

[27] Fiona Fox ‘Why we need the best journalism on public health stories’, On Science and Media 18 July 2007 http://fionafox.blogspot.com/2007/07/why-we-need-best-journalism-on-public.html

[28] Science Media Centre Funding http://www.sciencemediacentre.org/pages/about/funding.htm

[29] House of Commons Select Health Committee ‘The influence of the pharmaceutical industry’ http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200405/cmselect/cmhealth/42/42.pdf

[30] Demicheli et al ‘Vaccines for measles, mumps and rubella in children (Review)’ The Cochrane Library October 2005 text with additional material 2008, http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD004407.pub2/pdf/standard

[31] Ben Goldacre ‘The MMR sceptic who just doesn’t understand science’ Guardian 2 November 2005 http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2005/nov/02/health.science




I read an article today in the mainstream media that new research on viruses shows that similar viruses make each other less virulent while different, competing viruses duplicate much faster. I am not a scientist but I thought about the combination of three separate live viruses of different types in one vile. What if the differences in the viruses makes them more potent and maybe this is why the vaccine gives some children the disease in the gut rather than building up immunity against it. Just a thought

Joan Campbell

Many thanks again John for taking the amount of time you must need to write these articles. It is a sorry state of affairs when it turns out that money is more important than life.

billie joe

Because of days like today....

Birgit Calhoun

Unfortunately, what you so eloquently state about the science writing regarding MMR is also true when it comes to suspected autism and Alzheimer's toxins such as dental amalgams and Thimerosal. They go largely under-scrutinized in the media. The general population, with only minimal knowledge of the extent of the problem, takes little heed. As a matter of fact I often encounter eye-rolling, and "oh not again" when I mention anything about anything having to do with the dangers of vaccine adjuvants and how they affect the health of our children.

Keep these excellent writings going. There will be a tipping point sooner or later.

John Stone

Thanks Sandy. That's a very interesting observation. It would be fascinating to see parallel transcripts.


PS It also highlights how the UK led the world in stitching up Andy.

Sandy Lunoe

Excellent and well documented article thank you John Stone.

“Dr. Wakefield’s crucifixion is a desperate well-orchestrated effort to restore faith in risky vaccinations that the majority of people worldwide no longer trust”
~Dr. Horowitz.
We noted that in connection with the harassment of Dr Wakefield simultaneous broadcasts from radio stations worldwide announced that his work was fraudulent and they interviewed “experts” who all said that the MMR vaccine was safe.
We tuned in to several European and African radio stations. Questions and answers in the interviews were identical, irrespective of where they were broadcast from in the world.

Angus Files

Leveson has made sure just the same old trick he pulled out of a hat for the MMR litigation that anything said by the complainers would not be heard or as we will see all the celebs and victims of Murdoch will be buried and knowledge lost.

John Stone is making sure through his articles that we all have accounts thanks John.



Mr. Stone, I love to read your articles. Please keep up the good work and research.

Jenny Allan

A very well researched and written article by John Stone. The implications are frightening for all of us in the UK.

Fiona Fox's Science Media Agenda is not just about vaccines; the Science Media Centre is also about 'pushing' GM foods, proliferation of Nuclear power stations, and man made 'global warming' on a vulnerable public, which is not to be permitted to hear any dissenting scientific or medical opinions. (Fox's ridiculous SMC Blogspot article about the catastrophic Fukushima multiple nuclear meltdowns, which trivialised the whole thing as some minor temporary problem, has been hugely criticised. Fox is not a nuclear physicist; in fact she has no scientific or medical qualifications at all-and it shows!!)

Leveson, knowingly or unwittingly, has now become part of a very ruthless machine, sponsored by powerful corporate and political interests. Be afraid...be VERY afraid.

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