Editorial Note: This is another post on the vaccination and censorship theme. Elizabeth Hart’s comments, over the past few weeks in response to some of the posts here, on efforts to stifle debate have been balanced and eloquent. Given the growing number of new journalism outlets, such as The Conversation, that portray themselves as tackling cutting edge issues fearlessly but in fact do no such thing it is a pleasure to help her get a message out that the editor of The Conversation has ignored.
Her interest in the issues began in an unusual way – after her dog died from a booster dose. Checking into it she became aware that pet vaccination is big business and one that has does more for the health of Vets than Pets. This is what radicalized her.
For the attention of:
Mr Andrew Jaspan
Executive Director and Editor
I suggest there are serious problems of bias and censorship at The Conversation and I question whether you are fulfilling your charter.
The Conversation is very ‘pro-vaccination’, there is little in the way of critical analysis of vaccine products. For example The Conversation has helped promote HPV vaccination. I suggest HPV vaccination is controversial, see for example my summary which discusses the questionable way HPV vaccination was initiated in Australia when Tony Abbott was Health Minister in 2006.
The Conversation should be mindful that it has conflicts of interest in that it receives funding from universities that receive funding from the pharmaceutical industry for vaccine research. It seems to me that The Conversation is a marketing arm for the university and research sector.
Today comments were closed down on The Conversation article “Forget ‘no jab, no pay’ schemes, there are better ways to boost vaccination”.
Comments were also recently closed down on “Want to boost vaccination? Don’t punish parents, build their trust” and “’No jab, no pay’ policy has a serious ethical sting”.
I had posted detailed and referenced comments on these articles relevant to vaccine policy and practice, with some still awaiting a response. I had planned to post more comments, but I have now been thwarted in this regard, as ‘the conversation’ has been closed down. Opportunities for serious discussion on vaccination policy and practice are limited in the current hostile climate, and The Conversation does not help by curtailing debate.
Mr Jaspan, Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s announcement that vaccination will be compulsory to obtain family tax benefits is a very serious matter. We are on a slippery slope when governments mandate medical interventions such as vaccination.
There are serious problems with transparency and accountability for vaccination policy in Australia, and I have recently raised this matter with Prime Minister Abbott, see my letter dated 21 January 2015. There is a serious problem of potential conflicts of interest and lack of disclosure by people influencing vaccination policy.
Tony Abbott, and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, have reacted to the crude “No Jab, No Play” campaign by News Corp Australia media, e.g. The Sunday Telegraph.
It appears the vigilante pro-vaccination group SAVN (Stop the Australian (Anti) Vaccination Network) was also instrumental in this campaign. It also appears The Conversation is a supporter of SAVN, as evidenced by its publishing articles by self-avowed SAVN members, e.g. Rachael Dunlop and Patrick Stokes. It is notable that Patrick Stokes’ membership of SAVN is not included in the Disclosure Statement on his article “No, you’re not entitled to your opinion”.
I have tried to raise serious discussion about vaccination and individual vaccine products on The Conversation as my ‘activity’ illustrates, but I have often been impeded by followers of the SAVN who colonise comments threads on vaccination articles on The Conversation.
I was astonished today to discover that SAVN member Patrick Stokes has the ability to ‘hide’ (i.e. censor) comments on articles on vaccination on The Conversation, (see discussion between Patrick Stokes and Adam Bonner on “Forget ‘no jab, no pay’ schemes, there are better ways to boost vaccination”). Patrick Stokes is hardly an impartial arbiter, on what basis have you given him this power?
I also suggest there are serious problems at The Conversation in regards to proper disclosure of authors’ potential conflicts of interest. In this regard see my discussion with Professor C Raina MacIntyre on the “Want to boost vaccination? Don’t punish parents, build their trust” comments thread.
It is also ironic that experts on vaccination such as Professor MacIntyre and A/Professor Kristine Macartney do not appear to understand the difference between ‘vaccination’ and ‘immunisation’, and incorrectly use these words interchangeably, another point I raised on their articles. If ‘experts’ are so careless with the basics, what else are they getting wrong?
Mr Jaspan, compulsory vaccination is at odds with the requirement for ‘valid consent’ before vaccination, see Section 2.1.3 of The Australian Immunisation Handbook.
I suggest there should be an investigation into the aggressive campaign to make vaccination compulsory in Australia, and the tactics used by News Corp Australia, SAVN, and The Conversation.