Viral Vaccination Post
I shared some thoughts on Facebook last night and had my first taste after years as an active social media user of ‘going viral’. As I write there have been 1,463 shares and 1310 likes.
The subject was vaccination. It can be a viral subject, but it can be very ugly too, generally with discussion strings getting quite insulting and with most participants either pro-vax, or anti-vax and with the people in between keeping out of the line of fire.
My Vaccination Position : Pro-Truth
My position on vaccination is pro-data, and pro-truth.
Vaccination is not an issue that is purely black or white.
The subject in my experience get lots of misinformation pumped in from both sides of the argument.
It is a subject to which I bring quite deep industry experience having worked as a senior commercial executive in medical science for 12 years and in other sciences for another three. I’ve been involved in TGA and FDA approval processes, clinical trials, medical manufacture, medical product R&D, and in commercial relationships with universities.
I am in favour of vaccines for certain diseases, and where the vaccine product has been well designed, and has good safety profiles.
Epidemiology is an absolutely essential field and some management of the risk of epidemics is not only responsible, but an essential function of public health. Humankind has made the progress it has in eradicating many diseases because of the science of epidemiology.
The key point here is science.
One of the key things to know about science today is that there is increasingly less and less science that is untainted by commercial drivers. In fact our governments encourage the presence of commercial participants and funders in most forms of science grants as a demonstration that the science can develop commercial outcomes which are generally presumed to be ‘good for business’ and therefore the economy. The trouble is, commercial participants generally want to influence study design and the way the studies or trials are reviewed and analysed. Even good science is grey and there are always issues of outliers, specificity, and sensitivity and with commercial parties at the table they do have an influence in how these are dealt with.
Even absent specific studies, most University Professors have consulting contracts with commercial parties, from which they personally benefit, and this can have an effect anywhere from emotional commitment through to (in rare circumstances) fraud for personal gain. My feeling is most university professors strive for the high ground, but with a commercial party at the table there will always be an influence and then the reader doesn’t know what they don’t know about how much the study has been impacted.
It is an absolute fact that you can’t say every vaccine is both safe and well designed to be effective.
The Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting systems exist because side effects are an unavoidable part of injecting products into a diverse population of individuals. Furthermore they have to deal with the fact that the agents injected travel all through the body, and absent clever nano-delivery mechanisms can’t just go where they need to in order to achieve the desired result and stay out of all of the other bodily systems. If you are in doubt about the reality of side effects in medicine read a package insert in a drug or vaccine packet.
Through an old colleague I came to know a number of people in the HPV (Human Papaloma Virus) world. My old colleague is a scientist who took the CEO/Business path and counts as friends many of the HPV opinion leaders in the US. He will not have his daughter immunised for HPV because he believes it is poorly designed because it doesn’t address all the species of HPV. That omission changes the landscape for infection, but does not eradicate the disease and his position is that doing so is irresponsible and creates a false sense of safety in the patient, and in turn a complacency about managing ongoing risks in a disease that needs monitoring. People may disagree with his position, but it is one based on his reading of the complexity of the issue and is an example that it is not black and white, and that not all objectors are ill-informed.
The problem is now the journey the whole vaccination issue has taken. It began with more people making the conscious decision not to have their children or sometimes themselves vaccinated. The Pro-Vax lobby argue this was all driven by the Andrew Wakefield study (a study withdrawn by the Publisher over which there are now doubts) tying vaccination and autism together, and there is no doubt that was a big part of the trend. That said, it’s discrediting does not remove the issue that side effects are a real issue as outlined above and people have good reason to pause and consider vaccination decisions. The issue is the anti-vax trend attracted some people that made it black and white and painted all vaccines as bad. This aligned the interests of the now worried Public Health Officials charged with managing Epidemiology and those of the Vaccine companies worried about loss of revenues.
Murdoch Media No Jab No Play and No Jab No Pay Campaigns
This brings me to ‘No Jab No Play’ and No Jab No Pay’.
The No Jab No Play campaign was initiated by the Murdoch Daily Telegraph. Yes, a newspaper whose function I understand to be reporting news, not initiating campaigns.
James Murdoch was a Director of Glaxo Smith Kline one of the largest vaccine manufacturers in the world. He decided not to stand for re-election as a Director in 2012, that’s the public story.
One could wonder why a drug and vaccine company needed the skills of a media expert on its board. Clearly they have felt threatened by the trend of more people questioning vaccines.
By 2012 my assessment is that GSK and the industry’s media strategy had been born, now it would serve GSK better if Murdoch was not tied to them, ‘Plausible Deniability’ they call it in the game.
The mood has definitely altered on the issue in Australia and there is now a vehement element of the public who have taken as granted the Murdoch Campaign’s one sided painting of vaccines as free from risk and the only responsible decision for every disease for every person.
The Murdochs were successful in having NSW State Law passed on the strength of supposed public support that had to a large degree been manufactured by the Murdoch Press for ‘No Jab No Play’. Under this law children could not be enrolled in Preschools if they had not been vaccinated.
Now our Prime Minister Tony Abbott has announced a policy that parents receiving social security benefits for their children will only receive it if their children have been vaccinated in accordance with the recommended public health recommendations (‘No Jab No Pay’).
Movement into mandating vaccination and taking away parental rights to make a decision considering the welfare of their child is a worrying step. Vaccination is not black and white and parents do have the right to weigh up evidence. Its not only a right it’s a responsibility, because not all vaccines are good products and vaccine approvals focus mainly on safety profiles, and set relatively low bars for issues like product efficacy. HPV is the perfect case in point, as I outlined above.
Our Prime Minister has delivered to the Murdoch campaign and to the Vaccine companies a windfall revenue outcome by creating a massive financial incentive for a significant part of the population to comply with policy.
Those in the GSK and other Vaccine company boardrooms will be congratulating themselves and without question increasing forecasted revenues.
From the reactions to my Facebook post today, there are a lot of people who value a voice that recognises vaccinations is not a black and white issue.
It should be driven by careful consideration of good untainted science, and we need more of that rare commodity.
Public Policy is not something that should be driven by Drug Company and Newspaper PR campaigns. Very few people have joined the dots between the Daily Telegraph campaign, the Murdochs, and GSK and the Industry.
This whole situation has been an over-reaction to an over-reaction and its time we as people all came to the middle ground and demanded good policy of our leaders and public health officials, in place of propaganda.
The emerging culture with the government and drug companies over-reacting has been to come (at least publicly) from a place of denial sweeping the genuine issues under the carpet. There are already too many strong commercial drivers that create that behaviour, we don’t need it from our regulators. We need a commitment to analyse side effects properly and to drive the creation of safer and more efficacious products.
Join me in the middle ground and look for the truth, not propaganda or anti-propaganda from one side or the other.
The Value of a Rational Voice
The biggest take home message for me today was how much people valued hearing a rational voice coming from a middle ground.
For those interested in the issue I can tell you that people are tired of the debates being wars. Every share in essence was applauding the taking of a balanced position.
In listening to the arguments and concerns of both sides, I was heard by both sides and I saw movement in the positions of people on both sides. There was almost no flaming or debates on my post or those I saw on other’s shares.
To my eyes there is a lesson in that for those who seek to have influence in the world.
People feel truth and sincerity, and there is a trust built when we show a commitment to truth no matter how it falls. When we have dug ourselves into a foxhole defending a philosophical position, we engender suspicion more than trust. At an intuitive level most people know these issues are not black and white.
Ura P Auckland
Social Entrepreneur and Business Coach
Authegrity Pty Ltd