RESPONSE: SMH | Anti-vaxxers live in an online bubble this scientist wants to burst

By the Vaccination Media Watch team

Are social media echo chambers that reinforce previously held ideas?

On August 4 2019 the Sydney Morning Herald published this article aimed at modifying “anti-vaxxer” opinions.

Sydney Morning Herald article

Original article:

The core argument is that both the “pro-vaccine” and “anti-vaccine” social media sites become echo chambers prone to confirmation bias. The thesis suffers from its focus on Twitter, which does not lend itself to in-depth discussion, but there are many other websites and other social media. One of the major activities undertaken in these sites is analysis and review of relevant scientific theories and testing and clarifying arguments. In fact most of us visit the pro-vax sites quite frequently, as we need to be clear as to the arguments that we need to respond to.

Professor Alonso tackles this problem of our intellectual independence from the unstated, arrogant assumption that he is right and we are wrong. Now there are number of underlying propositions that need to be clarified:

Proposition 1

We can accept the core idea that doctors know what is best for everyone and us consumers should just accept what we are told by our elders and betters.

Proposition 2

That there is a precedent for accepting any product of the pharmaceutical industry as being safe by default. There is not: the precedents of Vioxx/rofecoxib, Avandia, and numerous other blockbuster drugs, and old drugs repackaged for new profit (look up the enormous profit that Mylan made by rebranding Loraxepam, a drug which is biologically perilously close to the famously cheap and profitless diazepam).

The following is a small sample of the improper behaviour that has been pinned on:

  • US Pharmaceutical Company Merck Sharp & Dohme to Pay Nearly One Billion Dollars Over Promotion of Vioxx®, Fierce Pharma, Nov 23, 2011 [1].
  • Merck ordered to pay $321 mln in criminal Vioxx probe, Reuters, April 20, 2012 [2].
  • Anti-inflammatory pills tied to heart failure risk, Reuters, October 21, 2016 [3].
  • SCOTUS silence means GSK really does have to face claims that its Avandia marketing violated RICO, Fierce Pharma, Uun 8, 2016 [4].
  • FDA advisory panel to reconsider Avandia safety, Reuters, April 13, 2013 [5].

We should also add the accidental introduction in to the human population of Simian cancer viruses through the Salk Polio vaccine [6].

Proposition 3

That the consumer can accept the drug industry’s assessment of risk. This one is frankly absurd.

We are expected to accept that there is no risk attached to these treatments when by their own admission there are a large range of adverse effects associated with these medications (read the inserts to the vaccines), when even industry sources admit that the rate of adverse effects declared to our national watchdogs is 1% – 10% of the real rate; and when we all know that despite the drug industry’s attempt to avoid liability for the adverse reactions, the legal system in the US has paid out over 4 billion dollars of awards to children damaged by vaccines and, furthermore, has declared these vaccines as unavoidably unsafe.

These payouts have occurred despite the systematic under-reporting of vaccine side effects, and despite an arduous and tightly contested legal system that presents serious barriers to any complainants [7].

Let’s be serious here, when ever has there been an occasion when any industry has had legislated protection against its stuff ups, and why on earth would anyone spend a single red cent on buying the products of an industry that will not stand by its products without a guarantee from government? What is wrong with people?

Proposition 4

That none of us consumers recognise the fact that there is no proper scrutiny of vaccines and that the lack of scrutiny in the US has been so severe that the vaccine industry is in breach of the commitments it made when it was attempting to get legislated protection against the adverse effects of its products.

Not only this, but there have never been double-blind, placebo-controlled prospective studies done on either the safety or efficacy of vaccines, not even when a new vaccine is introduced.

Proposition 5

There have been numerous cases of graft affecting the drug reflation industry at all levels. (This especially includes the over-close relationship between the upper levels of the FDA in the USA, and the drug companies who usually provide a safe haven for tired FDA executives who need a profitable nest in which to land and mature their profits.

Proposition 6

There have been serious concerns raised (with ample scientific backing) about questions such as excipients like aluminium in vaccines. Despite those concerns and a solid base of science to support them, there have not been any steps taken by the pharmaceutical industry or by our regulatory bodies to reassure us [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13].

So here is the problem:

We keep on raising scientifically plausible and legitimate concerns about the safety of vaccines, but nobody will do us the courtesy of engaging in an appropriate and mature discussion to properly process and consider the concerns that we raise.

We would be very pleased to see Prof Mark Alfano stop acting like an apologist for the vaccine industry, to stop looking for ways to manipulate public opinion, and to start making the more mature step of looking for a direct rapprochement with the “anti” side of this argument.

Very few of us are “anti-vax” in all situations. Far more of us simply have legitimate concerns about the science, concerns that the “pro-vax lobby” refuse to consider. If our concerns were heeded rather than just swept under the carpet, then we might see some progress.


  8. Link to the ICAN white paper on vaccine safety:
  9. Reference ICAN white paper on aluminium adjuvant causing autism
  10. James Lyons Weiler webpage on biological mechanisms of vaccine injury:
  11. Pubmed search on aluminum neurotoxicity:
  12. A previous article of mine on aluminium adjuvants and informed consent.