The random thoughts of a sceptical activist

Jeni Barnett does vaccines (again)

It looks like Jeni Barnett is going to be ‘discussing’ vaccines again sometime soon. There were 190 complaints to OfCom about her last outing on this and their decision is clinically taken apart by the inimitable Jack of Kent in his blog post: Jack of Kent: Jeni Barnett and MMR: Analysis of the Ofcom Decision.

Now Jeni wants to talk about swine ‘flu and vaccines. On her blog, she says:

Alls Well That Ends well [Jeni Barnett] First things first, lets not go down the route of bullying each other again. Scientists have a place, natural practitioners have a place, parents have a say in what they do with their children. I have a say in what I want – or dont [sic] want – put into my body. As a democratic Nation we should all be allowed to think what we want to think, say what we want to say, and live as we wish to live without offending anybody else. So no more nasty sniping please.

Despite her protestations of ‘bullying’, most of the bullying came from her bullying of an informed nurse who had the temerity to contradict the nonsense Jeni was spouting on her show. The vast majority of the comments on her blog were forceful but polite, pointing out her lack of medical and scientific knowledge.

Yes, scientists certainly have a place. But it is debatable what place ‘natural practitioners’ have or should have: certainly they have no place in a discussion of a serious public health issue.

Yes, parents have a say in what they do with their children, but they have to be informed decisions, based on the best available scientific evidence.

She goes on to construct a straw man: who has said anything about not allowing people to think what they want to think? But she has to realise that her voice is heard by a large number over London and she and LBC (London’s Biggest Conversation, apparently) have a duty to ensure that her program gives a balance to any such serious subject and does not pander to anti-scientific or pseudo-scientific fears and mis-information.

She had better also realise that providing a balance does not mean giving each side 50% of the air time. It has to be balanced according to the evidence.

I don’t yet know when this show will be, but I sent her the following message:

Jeni

I sincerely hope that you will have some *informed* opinion on your show about the ‘flu and vaccines. It is a serious public health subject, deserving of serious – and balanced – discussion.

Best regards.

You can send her a message here.

Let’s see what happens, but be assured that those of us who are a bit more skeptical than she is are listening.

Update: Beacon Schuler has also sent her a message.

7 Responses to Jeni Barnett does vaccines (again)

  • I think she meant, "As a Radio Presenter with my Own Show, I should be allowed to say what I want to say and anyone who is offended by it should STFU."

  • If the date is forthcoming and the broadcast can be live-blogged, live-tweeted or followed with something like Cover It Live (if there are other tools, please speak up) then this might be an interesting exercise.

  • I see Richard Lanigan disagrees with you…

    "I have always considered myself a sceptical person. So when I was asked to vaccinated my children I asked to see evidence that vaccinated children were healthier than unvaccinated. No one could produce this evidence and we declined the invitation."

    It looks to me like he's saying, "ever since we locked the gate, no horses have bolted, so we obviously don't need to keep it locked."

    Herd immunity be damned.

  • As someone who has been vaccinated and had my children vaccinated recently I was hoping to have a vaccine for swine flu when it became available. I thought I would look into the efficacy of the influenza vaccine. I have to say I was surprised that the research was at best inconclusive for efficacy, perhaps being no more effective than placebo, and there was virtually nothing on it's safety. This piece in the BMJ neatly summarises the situation:

    http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/333/7574/912

    Surely we should require this, which is after all given to our most vulnerable population including children, to be subject to the same standards that we want to apply to say, Osteopathy?

  • Good stuff Zeno. I've written a sort-of follow-up to this piece.

  • Jeni B discussing swine 'flu. Hmm.

    Be afraid. Be very afraid.

    I wonder if we can expect lots of natural health mums banging on about swine 'flu parties for Max and Tamsin?

  • Still, though. It can't be much worse than the recent discussion of swine flu on, um, Loose Women. They started banging on about swine flu parties (making it seem as if these are actually taking place – we don't know if they are at this time) and one of the Loose Women was very anti- the idea of a swine flu vaccine.

    (I can't believe I just admitted to watching an episode of Loose Women.)

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