An Oxford University website features an appeal by Prof Andrew Pollard – who has often appeared in our columns – calling for compulsory vaccination, quoting from a report in the Guardian newspaper which followed three weeks after the newspaper’s egregious and deceitful editorial on the subject. However, both web-feature and newspaper report failed to mention a rather important detail: Prof Pollard heads the United Kingdom body, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which recommends vaccines for the schedule, and a 2009 act of Parliament (though itself of dubious legality) already places a responsibility on the Secretary of State for Health (ie an elected parliamentarian and member of the government) to follow the advice of the committee. This means that if the UK Parliament did legislate to make vaccines compulsory, Prof Pollard himself would have effective dictatorial powers over citizens telling them which vaccines they and their children must have.
Prof Pollard was appointed chair of the JCVI in 2013 and at his second meeting in February 2014 chaired a discussion which led to the recommendation of Bexsero Meningitis B vaccine to the schedule, a product of which he was also lead developer as director of Oxford Vaccine Group: previously the committee had refused to recommend the vaccine despite political pressure. This event was followed within weeks by the transfer of the Novartis vaccine division – which manufactured Bexsero - to GlaxoSmithKline and a huge up-swing in the product’s sale potential.
Pollard was appointed to the JCVI by a panel chaired the government’s head of immunisation, Dr David Salisbury. Shortly afterwards Dr Salisbury retired and became chair of the Jenner Vaccine Foundation, a funding body for Oxford Vaccine Group, on which he sits with Prof Polllard and Dr Norman Begg, Vice-President and Chief Medical Officer of GSK Biologicals. Dr Norman Begg was formerly attached to the Public Health Service Laboratory and was the co-author with Dr Salisbury of the Department of Health guide to vaccination, the Green Book 1996, prior to departing to join one of the fore-runner companies to GSK (not clear whether Glaxo Wellcome or SmithKline Beecham) at the beginning of 2000 as “Director of Medical Affairs”, without there apparently being any gap between appointments. Among the funders of the Jenner Vaccine Foundation are the Wellcome Trust (which sold its pharmaceutical interests to Glaxo in 1995), the UK Medical Research Council, the UK Department of Health, the European Commission, the US National Institutes of Health, The Foundation for National Institutes of Health and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Recently, under Andrew Pollard’s chairmanship the JCVI succeeded in adding Hepatitis B to the infant schedule as part of GSK's controversial Infanrix Hexa multivac which the Oxford Vaccine Group helped develop. When he was lobbying to have the Hep B vaccine on the infant schedule in 2007 Pollard made the following disclosure:
Competing interests: AJP conducts clinical trials on behalf of Oxford University, sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline Vaccines, Novartis Vaccines, Sanofi Pasteur, Sanofi Pasteur MSD, and Wyeth Vaccines and has received funds from vaccine manufacturers to attend scientific meetings. The University of Oxford has received unrestricted grants for educational meetings organised by AJP. Industry sourced honorariums for lecturing or writing are paid directly to an independent charity or an educational/administrative fund held by the department of paediatrics, University of Oxford.
Pollard’s featured statements in the Guardian and the Oxford University website are:
“Immunisation is something that many people think of as personal, but it is actually part of being in a society. Our children really have a right to be protected from this entirely preventable disease.”
“We know that this is a very dangerous disease for young children…There have been deaths in Europe in the last year because of drops in coverage in various countries.”
The problem is here - disregarding the rhetoric – is not that anyone wants children to suffer or die from infectious diseases, it is one of transparency, it is one of whether vaccines are as safe and effective as Pollard wants people to believe, and it is question of manning up to it and admitting fallibility when things go wrong. In the case of measles he might also admit that on his home territory – despite the alleged baleful influence of Andrew Wakefield - there have only been three deaths from contracting measles in the UK since 1992. Around 13 million people will have died in the interim, so the risk is probably as low as it gets.
If the system was about either being humane or scientific it would listen to families, not use the media to trash them and the law to tread them underfoot. What is being replicated in this aggressive vaccine ethos are the worst principles of subjugation to a social ideology that history has ever witnessed: if it was science all the manipulation, bullying and denial would not be necessary.
John Stone is UK Editor for Age of Autism.