Challenges to key medical intervention don’t stack up

EDITORIAL

To challenge or overturn accepted science the evidence needs to be very strong. This is especially so when that accepted medical science is understood by the World Health Organisation to avert 2 to 3 million deaths a year, could avoid a further 1.5m deaths, and efforts to reduce public support for it put lives at risk.

The surfeit of links to anti-vaccination studies and articles now populating the opinion section of our website do not constitute “strong evidence” or even evidence in large part. Much of it has been discredited, some of it refers to historic issues with vaccinations, and none of it backs up the most concerning claims among the misleading anti-vaccination propaganda our online readers in particular are being subjected to (if they choose to follow it and those links).

If anti-vaccination protagonists cannot provide peer-reviewed research that has been published in respected journals, and not later retracted, this subject will soon be closed as a matter for discussion in The Gisborne Herald and on our website — unless new evidence emerges. More commentary will be published in Saturday’s paper, with response.

Many readers will agree with the person who privately urged the editor to stop providing anti-vax propaganda so much oxygen.

“They will see that a trusted institution like The Gisborne Herald is giving (them coverage) and think they must have valid points to make. Meanwhile, we are struggling to get all our children vaccinated. The sad thing is those children are at risk of becoming very ill from a preventable disease.”

Your editor reluctantly allowed this discussion to take place because it was raised nationally in a prominent way and some locals were keen to have their say.

At first, misinformation should be countered with accurate information. If it continues and is dangerous, it should be curtailed (as much as the views are honestly and passionately held).

Freedom of speech is vital for a democratic society to function well, but it does come with responsibilities for the publisher when speech can cause harm.

To challenge or overturn accepted science the evidence needs to be very strong. This is especially so when that accepted medical science is understood by the World Health Organisation to avert 2 to 3 million deaths a year, could avoid a further 1.5m deaths, and efforts to reduce public support for it put lives at risk.

The surfeit of links to anti-vaccination studies and articles now populating the opinion section of our website do not constitute “strong evidence” or even evidence in large part. Much of it has been discredited, some of it refers to historic issues with vaccinations, and none of it backs up the most concerning claims among the misleading anti-vaccination propaganda our online readers in particular are being subjected to (if they choose to follow it and those links).

If anti-vaccination protagonists cannot provide peer-reviewed research that has been published in respected journals, and not later retracted, this subject will soon be closed as a matter for discussion in The Gisborne Herald and on our website — unless new evidence emerges. More commentary will be published in Saturday’s paper, with response.

Many readers will agree with the person who privately urged the editor to stop providing anti-vax propaganda so much oxygen.

“They will see that a trusted institution like The Gisborne Herald is giving (them coverage) and think they must have valid points to make. Meanwhile, we are struggling to get all our children vaccinated. The sad thing is those children are at risk of becoming very ill from a preventable disease.”

Your editor reluctantly allowed this discussion to take place because it was raised nationally in a prominent way and some locals were keen to have their say.

At first, misinformation should be countered with accurate information. If it continues and is dangerous, it should be curtailed (as much as the views are honestly and passionately held).

Freedom of speech is vital for a democratic society to function well, but it does come with responsibilities for the publisher when speech can cause harm.

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S.Williams - 1 month ago
Questions re vaccine safety remain unanswered
I agree with the editor: "to challenge or overturn accepted science the evidence needs to be very strong". Accepted science tells us one should not ingest mercury, or formaldehyde, or aluminum, let alone inject these to one's arm. Could you please provide peer-reviewed research (PRR) showing aluminum injection is safe for an adult, let alone for an infant whose blood-brain barrier is not even fully formed? Same for mercury, same for formaldehyde? Same with a combination of these plus other pathogens, fetus DNA, animal DNA, chemicals, viruses and antibiotics, etc. listed on vaccine inserts. Further, could you please tell us why vaccines are not tested against a true placebo, as required of other drugs? Could you please provide PRR showing it is OK to give the same dose of vaccine to a child, irrespective of his age, his weight, his genetics, his health status? If vaccination protagonists cannot provide PRR for above legitimate questions, then I suggest vaccinations be stopped immediately, as playing Russian roulette with the health of these children is illegal and immoral.
And thank you editor for modelling for us how true journalism works in service of democracy, by telling us about a "person who privately urged" you to stifle any discussion on vaccine safety, based on their unsubstantiated claims. They are afraid of informed parents. They don't want them to watch any movie or read any book or hear any anti-vaccine doctor or be subjected to any rational discussion that may show the faulty logic behind vaccines. And again, I agree with you, "misinformation should be countered with accurate information". That is what a lot of doctors and researchers are doing to expose the misinformation regarding vaccine safety, as much as it may hurt coffers of big Pharma! Let's hear them and enable parents to make informed decisions. Again, I agree with you: "Freedom of speech is vital for a democratic society to function well, but it does come with responsibilities". Citing an unnamed person and their opinion is not a good reason to shut down a legitimate debate that affects the health of our children.

Richard - 1 month ago
I absolutely concur.

Richard - 1 month ago
The editor of The Herald has given the AntiVaxer community, and you in particular SW, more than plenty of column inch space to last this "Opinion" community a lifetime. Generous text to promote your cause, and sufficient liberal licence to allow you to communicate your steadfast position.
Contra that with the media space the AntiVaxers permit for open debate on their global websites and printed media to the voice of the pro-vaccination community. The space permitted is none. The Antivax movement control their media in the same fashion that Putin controls all of the media in Russia and the Chinese Communist Party control that nation's media. Dissent from the party theme is simply not permitted to be aired.
To suggest that the editor has not acted fairly in the coverage of your viewpoint SW, or to suggest he has initiated censorship, highlights the AntiVaxers well worn global strategy of always wishing to appear as the injured party.
Now clearly these observations will naturally attract yet another rancorous expostulation from you SW. Nonetheless, is does not matter how many weblinks you publish, how many admonishments you issue and how many denials you continue to make, the vast global community of health care professionals and parents reject your claims as pure pseudoscience, nonsense and grossly irresponsible. No more to be said on this "freedom of speech" subject.

S. Williams - 1 month ago
I am reminded of Friedrich von Schiller's observation "Against stupidity, even the gods contend in vain."

Tony - 1 month ago
Thanks ed. Well balanced and factual giving the anti-vaccine lobby the credit deserved. Having now given this group the opportunity to reply with reputable research, I urge you to now prevent them using your newspaper as a vehicle to harm public health.