Antivaccine nonsense Clinical trials Medicine

WTF happened to The BMJ?

The BMJ recently published an “exposé” by Paul Thacker alleging patient unblinding, data falsification, and other wrongdoing by a subcontractor. It was a highly biased story embraced by antivaxxers, with a deceptively framed narrative and claims not placed into proper context, leading me to look into the broader question: WTF happened to The BMJ? (Updated and revised from a week ago.)

The British Medical Journal (now The BMJ) is one of the oldest and most respected medical journals in the world that also has a history of publishing some excellent investigative journalism. For instance, over a decade ago, it was The BMJ that published investigative journalist Brian Deer’s articles recounting the strong evidence indicating that Wakefield’s case series published in The Lancet that linked the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine to autism was based on fraud. That study launched the modern iteration of the antivaccine movement and is, as I like to say, the study that launched a thousand quackeries directed at autistic children to “cure” them of their “vaccine-induced autism.” The headline of Deer’s accompanying commentary after his account of how the “case against the MMR was fixed” even referred to Wakefield’s study as “Piltdown medicine“, after the infamous Piltdown Man fraud

Unfortunately, more recently the investigative journalism coming from The BMJ has left a lot to be desired, and I say this even though The BMJ recently published a commentary co-authored by Gavin Yamey and me about the Great Barrington Declaration and the new “merchants of doubt“. Indeed, I almost felt a reluctance to write this post, as it felt a bit like biting the hand that feeds, but after seeing a recent article published by The BMJ, I felt that I had no choice. The article was by investigative journalist turned anti-GMO muckraking crank Paul Thacker and was titled “Covid-19: Researcher blows the whistle on data integrity issues in Pfizer’s vaccine trial.” It’s an article that has been widely cited and shared by a wide variety of antivaxxers in order to portray the clinical trial of the Pfizer vaccine that led to its emergency use authorization (EUA) in the US as hopelessly corrupt. Here are a couple of examples from Twitter:

Antivaxxers sure do love their “whistleblower” narratives, don’t they? In any event, that last Tweet comes from Dr. Joseph Ladapo, Gov. Ron DeSantis’ selection to head up the Florida Department of Health. He’s a member of “America’s Frontline Doctors” who, in addition to supporting a “natural herd immunity” approach to the pandemic, have openly opposed mask and vaccine mandates, while echoing antivax talking points and done a lot of grifting with ivermectin.

If you don’t believe me about how much antivaxxers have embraced Thacker’s work, take a look at Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.’s antivax Children’s Health Defense website, which republished Thacker’s report verbatim under the terms of the under the terms of the Creative Commons BY NC license used by The BMJ. Interestingly, Children’s Health Defense even features an “author page” for Thacker that, if you don’t look closely enough, could give the false impression that he had written the article for Children’s Health Defense. From this author’s page, one can see that Thacker wrote two other articles for The BMJ that were republished, both demonstrating that he clearly buys into the conspiracy theories surrounding the “lab leak” hypothesis for the origins of COVID-19. Perusing The BMJ‘s site itself, one can see that Thacker is a regular contributor and there are more articles about the “lab leak” hypothesis that Children’s Health Defense didn’t republish.

And then, of course, über-quack Joe Mercola is all over this. For example, just this morning:

Mercola touts Thacker
When antivaxxers prominently feature your “reporting” and one of your senior editors to spread fear, uncertainty, and doubt about vaccines, you are definitely doing it very wrong.

For this post, I’m going to focus primarily on the article about the Pfizer clinical trial because it is the one that most resembles actual journalism, albeit just barely given that its sourcing is a bit sketchy and its framing is relentlessly one-sided and clearly designed to leave the reader with exactly the sort of message that antivaxxers are taking from it, namely that Pfizer is corrupt and was careless about oversight of the massive clinical trial of its COVID-19 vaccine in 2020.

I will also preface the remainder of the post by emphasizing that, if Thacker’s report is accurate, there did appear to be some significant problems with the three sites in Texas managed by Ventavia, the company that ran the clinical trials. However, the overall impression given by the article is that the entire enterprise should now be questioned. It’s almost as though the report is custom-made to provide grist for antivax conspiracy theories, and it definitely succeeds at doing just that. Whatever good some of the report might do, that The BMJ commissioned this report and failed in its “fact checking” to realize that every good propagandist knows how to spin verified facts into deceptive narrative does not speak well of what has happened to the journal, particularly in light of other articles it has published.

Thacker’s whistleblower report on Ventavia and Pfizer

I will begin by discussing what Thacker reports in his article, starting with this framing right at the beginning of the report:

In autumn 2020 Pfizer’s chairman and chief executive, Albert Bourla, released an open letter to the billions of people around the world who were investing their hopes in a safe and effective covid-19 vaccine to end the pandemic. “As I’ve said before, we are operating at the speed of science,” Bourla wrote, explaining to the public when they could expect a Pfizer vaccine to be authorised in the United States.

But, for researchers who were testing Pfizer’s vaccine at several sites in Texas during that autumn, speed may have come at the cost of data integrity and patient safety. A regional director who was employed at the research organisation Ventavia Research Group has told The BMJ that the company falsified data, unblinded patients, employed inadequately trained vaccinators, and was slow to follow up on adverse events reported in Pfizer’s pivotal phase III trial. Staff who conducted quality control checks were overwhelmed by the volume of problems they were finding. After repeatedly notifying Ventavia of these problems, the regional director, Brook Jackson, emailed a complaint to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Ventavia fired her later the same day. Jackson has provided The BMJ with dozens of internal company documents, photos, audio recordings, and emails.

Notice the framing. Contrary to Bourla’s statement, the narrative goes, “several” (three, actually, as it turns out) sites in Texas run by Ventavia were supposedly flouting clinical trial safety and unblinding patients, but an intrepid whistleblower reported them. Whistleblower narratives can be valuable, but they can also be potentially misleading, particularly when used as grist for a report by someone like Thacker. After all, whistleblowers often have their own axes to grind. That characteristic in and of itself is not a reason to dismiss (or not to protect) whistleblowers, but it is a reason to be cautious about basing conclusions on their claims alone, particularly a whistleblower who was employed by the company for just two weeks, as was the case with Jackson.

Similarly, when evaluating reports of problems with the conduct of a clinical trial, it is important to consider the actual details and context of the reported violations, which matter a great deal. In this case, Thacker mixes reports from Jackson that might have impacted trial data and safety with reports that could not possibly have. More than that, Thacker gleefully mixes the two, starting thusly in the more detailed discussion of his findings:

Exasperated that Ventavia was not dealing with the problems, Jackson documented several matters late one night, taking photos on her mobile phone. One photo, provided to The BMJ, showed needles discarded in a plastic biohazard bag instead of a sharps container box.

So apparently Ventavia was careless about disposing of sharps. That’s definitely sloppy lab practice, if true, although I feel obligated to point out that we don’t know if this was one screwup or a common problem. Either way, this issue couldn’t possibly have affected the results of the clinical trial and is more a concern as a potential OSHA violation than anything else. It’s interesting to me that Thacker chose to lead with this tidbit in the section after his introduction, when he started to go into more detail about his more general charges listed in the introduction. I understand that he’s trying to frame the story as one of poor laboratory management, but, really, this accusation seems to have been inserted at the beginning in order to provide what I like to call a “Yuck!” factor, to get the reader to feel disgust on a visceral level towards the company, before going into the more mundane and difficult-to-explain issues of clinical trial management. It’s a very transparently manipulative framing tactic.

Thacker then continues:

Early and inadvertent unblinding may have occurred on a far wider scale. According to the trial’s design, unblinded staff were responsible for preparing and administering the study drug (Pfizer’s vaccine or a placebo). This was to be done to preserve the blinding of trial participants and all other site staff, including the principal investigator. However, at Ventavia, Jackson told The BMJ that drug assignment confirmation printouts were being left in participants’ charts, accessible to blinded personnel. As a corrective action taken in September, two months into trial recruitment and with around 1000 participants already enrolled, quality assurance checklists were updated with instructions for staff to remove drug assignments from charts.

Notice the contrast between what Thacker writes in the introduction, in which he claims that Ventavia unblinded patients, not that “inadvertent unblinding may have occurred”. There’s a huge difference between the two. Think about it. Leaving the printouts in patient’s charts might have compromised blinding in some cases and was definitely a sloppy practice (which was corrected), but Thacker quite noticeably presents zero evidence that unblinding ever actually occurred, despite stating unequivocally right at the beginning of the article that patients were “unblinded”. Which message do you think that readers will come away with?

I find it even more telling that the scope of problem is not mentioned until more than halfway into the report, where it’s revealed that Ventavia ran three sites in Texas out of the 153 total clinical sites participating in the Pfizer trial and signed up a small fraction (~1,000 by the time the whistleblower was fired) of the trial’s over ~44,000 subjects. Note again the framing, “Early and inadvertent blinding may have occurred on a far larger scale”. This is clearly meant to imply more than just the Ventavia sites, given the context. Of course, Thacker reports almost as an afterthought that appropriate corrective measures were eventually instituted at this one site. One could certainly question whether Ventavia took longer to institute these corrective policies than it should have, but, even if it did, when I looked at the details of the actual claims made I found that they do not support the insinuation that wide-scale inadvertent unblinding had occurred in the Pfizer trial.

Thacker does something even more deceptive as well. According to an anonymous source:

After Jackson left the company problems persisted at Ventavia, this employee said. In several cases Ventavia lacked enough employees to swab all trial participants who reported covid-like symptoms, to test for infection. Laboratory confirmed symptomatic covid-19 was the trial’s primary endpoint, the employee noted. (An FDA review memorandum released in August this year states that across the full trial swabs were not taken from 477 people with suspected cases of symptomatic covid-19.)

“I don’t think it was good clean data,” the employee said of the data Ventavia generated for the Pfizer trial. “It’s a crazy mess.”

Again, note the juxtaposition. These 477 patients who reported COVID-19 symptoms but never received nasal swabs were across the entire trial of well over 40,000 subjects, but the way it’s phrased, not put into context of the size of the entire trial, makes this sound like a huge number. As has been pointed out, though, this is deceptive framing that leaves out some very important information:

In other words, the FDA and Pfizer did the appropriate analysis and demonstrated that the missing PCR test results for SARS-CoV-2 were similar in both the control and experimental groups and that excluding them had minimal effect on the estimated vaccine efficiency found by the trial. One would think that this would be an incredibly important thing to mention in order to put the figure of 477 people with COVID-19 symptoms within seven days of a dose who were not tested into proper context. Thacker’s implication that these 477 cases had an impact on the results of the trial is a big nothingburger that Thacker tries to turn into a gourmet double-decker burger of doubt.

Let’s look at some of the additional charges from the whistleblower:

  • Participants placed in a hallway after injection and not being monitored by clinical staff
  • Lack of timely follow-up of patients who experienced adverse events
  • Protocol deviations not being reported
  • Vaccines not being stored at proper temperatures
  • Mislabelled laboratory specimens, and
  • Targeting of Ventavia staff for reporting these types of problems.

I’ll deal with the mislabeling of specimens first because it’s the easiest. This is the only place where Thacker makes this claim. A common theme you’ll be hearing from me is that details matter, and Thacker’s piece is notably lacking in details. How many specimens? What was the specific mislabeling? Without knowing these details, there is no way to determine how serious the problem was or if it could possibly have affected the clinical trial data significantly. There’s a huge difference between one or two (or a handful of) specimens being mislabeled and the error caught and corrected and large numbers of specimens mislabeled so that they became useless because there was insufficient information to allow the investigators to correct the mislabeling. Which happened? We don’t know. Thacker doesn’t tell us. He just tells us it was terrible.

Now, let’s move on to the first claim on the list (participants in the hallway). That is obviously less than ideal, even if it happened only once, but, again, details matter. Thacker never reports how often this happened or how many subjects were treated this way. He seems to imply that subjects were left standing in the hallway (or maybe I’m reading too much into this). Were there chairs? Again, this would have been less than ideal, particularly if monitoring was lax, but Thacker gives no details to let me as someone who’s dealt with clinical trials over his career come to a judgment. Again, even if this did happen, it would have been incredibly unlikely that it affected the results of the trial from these sites.

The next example is also curious. Thacker states that his whistleblower reported that Ventavia staff were “slow to follow up on adverse events”, but these are the only two examples that he could apparently find:

Ventavia was not keeping up with data entry queries, shows an email sent by ICON, the contract research organisation with which Pfizer partnered on the trial. ICON reminded Ventavia in a September 2020 email: “The expectation for this study is that all queries are addressed within 24hrs.” ICON then highlighted over 100 outstanding queries older than three days in yellow. Examples included two individuals for which “Subject has reported with Severe symptoms/reactions … Per protocol, subjects experiencing Grade 3 local reactions should be contacted. Please confirm if an UNPLANNED CONTACT was made and update the corresponding form as appropriate.” According to the trial protocol a telephone contact should have occurred “to ascertain further details and determine whether a site visit is clinically indicated.”

Again, coming back to my theme, details matter, and I bet that Thacker knows that a Grade 3 local reaction sounds horrible to the average reader, who won’t know what it is. In fact, a grade 3 local reaction is just that, local. Vaccine reaction grades, both local and systemic, are defined in this document, with a Grade 3 local reaction to the injection being a one that meets certain criteria; e.g., requiring the use of narcotics for pain, being greater than 10 cm in diameter, causing significant discomfort at rest that interferes with daily activities, association with a high fever or heart rate, and the like. These are not potentially life-threatening reactions and do not require hospitalization. (If they did require hospitalization or were life-threatening, that would automatically upgrade them to Grade 4.) While it’s obviously less than ideal that it took more than 24 hours to contact these patients, failure to do so for two patients is not such an incredible lapse that it invalidates the trial or endangered subjects.

Regarding Thacker’s report of protocol deviations not being reported, I’m a bit confused, given this passage:

Documents show that problems had been going on for weeks. In a list of “action items” circulated among Ventavia leaders in early August 2020, shortly after the trial began and before Jackson’s hiring, a Ventavia executive identified three site staff members with whom to “Go over e-diary issue/falsifying data, etc.” One of them was “verbally counseled for changing data and not noting late entry,” a note indicates.

At several points during the late September meeting Jackson and the Ventavia executives discussed the possibility of the FDA showing up for an inspection (box 1). “We’re going to get some kind of letter of information at least, when the FDA gets here . . . know it,” an executive stated.

It sounds as though protocol violations were reported to the company, which took corrective action. You can argue if it acted fast enough or was tough enough on the staff involved, but I’m getting mixed messages here.

I also note that, although Thacker claims that Ventavia “falsified data” in the very introduction of his report, this is the only mention of “falsifying data” that occurs anywhere else. There is no description of any specific incidents of “falsifying data” listed, only a memo mentioning three staff members, one of whom was apparently counseled about “changing data and not noting late entry.” One also notes that this memo comes from early August 2020, shortly after the trial began, which means that Ventavia intervened before that many patients could have been signed up. This is truly thin gruel to make sensationalistic claims about “falsifying data” in the introduction in such a way as to make it sound as though the practice was widespread.

Basically, we don’t know if falsification occurred, how often it occurred, or what the specific “falsifications” were. Indeed, the phrasing of the memo could have indicated that the changing of data, which could have been the correction of errors, and not noting a late entry could have been discussed in the context of how even minor violations like that without the appropriate audit trail could be interpreted as “falsifying data.” Again, we just don’t know, and Thacker doesn’t tell because he doesn’t have evidence. (If he did, you know he would have cited more than just a cherry picked quote from a memo, which is very thin gruel indeed to base a charge of “data falsification” on.)

As for vaccines not being stored at the appropriate temperature, details (of which Thacker provides none) really matter. How far off were the temperatures? For how long? How many doses of vaccine were affected? If, for example, a single vial of vaccine were left out on the bench at room temperature for several hours, that would be a rather trivial violation compared to the situation where a whole shipment was stored too warm for a long period of time. More importantly, Thacker doesn’t report whether the vaccines stored at an incorrect temperature were ever administered to clinical trial subjects or whether they were discarded, which matters a whole heck of a lot when it comes to vaccine trial safety and efficacy, particularly given that administering such vaccines would actually result in a lower apparent vaccine efficacy, because presumably they would lose potency the longer they were stored at too warm a temperature. Leave it to Thacker, though, to make it seem as though huge numbers of vaccine doses were messed up by being improperly stored without actually giving any details or providing evidence.

The last item in Thacker’s list, if true, is the most damning charge, that Ventavia targeted employees for speaking out. It’s hard to tell if this were truly the case with Brook Jackson, but I will concede that the optics aren’t great. On the other hand, Thacker reports that Ventavia fired her the same day that she sent a complaint to the FDA detailing her concerns. It’s unlikely that the FDA contacted the company the same day of a complaint. (The FDA generally doesn’t move that fast.) Yet, Thacker goes out of his way to imply that the reason she was fired is that she ratted out Ventavia to the FDA.

Someone else, did, though:

A spokesperson for Texas-based Ventavia Research Group wrote in a November 10, 2021, email to Lead Stories that BMJ did not seek comment in advance of the report. If it had, it would have been told the employee’s report was investigated but found wanting, the spokesperson said. Lauren Foreman, director of business development & communications, wrote:
The accuser was employed for approximately two weeks in September 2020, and no part of her job responsibilities concerned the clinical trials at issue. These same accusations were made a year ago, at which time Ventavia notified the appropriate parties. The allegations were investigated and determined to be unsubstantiated. Ventavia takes research compliance, data integrity, and participant safety very seriously, and we stand behind our work supporting the development of life-saving vaccines.

I’m not a journalist, but I do know that it’s generally standard journalistic practice to contact the subject of an investigation and ask for an interview or statement. Thacker didn’t do that, and, apparently, The BMJ didn’t insist that he do that, as MedPage Today indicates:

Asked for a response, Ventavia spokeswoman Lauren Foreman discredited The BMJ article, written by investigative journalist Paul Thacker. She said Thacker’s article did not include any of the evidence the accuser claims she had, and that he did not contact Ventavia for a response before publishing. (Attempts to reach Thacker were unsuccessful.)

“There’s more to this,” she said. “We have an attorney we’re working with. And this is due to the sensitivity of this issue.”

Foreman said the “accuser” Jackson was employed “for approximately 2 weeks in September 2020, and no part of her job responsibilities concerned the clinical trials at issue.”

After this article was published, Jackson reached out to MedPage Today, providing a copy of an email showing that she had been hired by Ventavia to be a regional director for the company and would be involved with two sites for the trial.

Nor did Thacker contact Pfizer:

In a statement, Pfizer said it was “disappointed by the recent article published by the British Medical Journal that failed to contact us prior to publication and selectively reported certain claims with the goal of undermining confidence in a vaccine that has been given to hundreds of millions of people worldwide.”

The Lead Stories article mentions that Brook Jackson has Tweeted a number of things that suggest she’s at least antivax-sympathetic, but her Twitter account has disappeared. In one Tweet in particular, she “agreed with anti-vaccine activist and COVID misinformation-spreader Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.’s criticism of Sesame Street’s storyline in which Big Bird’s encourages kids to get a COVID-19 vaccine, characterizing it as, “shocking, actually” in a November 9, 2021 response to an RFK Jr. Tweet:

Brook Jackson's Tweet (BMJ's source)
This is from, because Brook Jackson’s account no longer exists.

In the end, Thacker and The BMJ leave us with a lot of smoke, but no clear fire. There clearly were some problems with Ventavia, which ran three clinical trial sites and signed up a small fraction of the total clinical trial subjects for the entire trial. Again, that’s not good. We have Brook Jackson and an anonymous source claiming that the environment at Ventavia was beyond the pale compared to previous places where they’d worked, coupled vaguely described incidents and allegations without even good examples or estimates of how prevalent the problem was. It’s also reported that Pfizer did audit the company and was apparently sufficiently satisfied to use it again. Of course, to Thacker, Pfizer (or any other large pharmaceutical company) is pure evil; so you can’t trust that. I would counter that, if one site’s data were so unreliable due to problems of the sort that Thacker reported, then pure profit motive would provide a strong reason for a pharmaceutical company to cut that company loose, rather than risk the FDA ever finding out.

None of this is to say that nothing should be done. Assuming that Thacker’s allegations are not a huge exaggeration, at the very least an FDA audit would be a good idea. At the very worst, even though it’s standard practice to do sensitivity analyses to look for variation in results, protocol deviations, failure to do follow-up testing, etc., between sites in a large clinical trial like this, in the worst case scenario, the data from the subjects enrolled at Ventavia sites could be excluded and the rest of the subjects reanalyzed. My guess is that, even if this most extreme step were to be undertaken, it would make minimal difference in the results of the trial.

Basically, Thacker takes fairly uncontroversial observations (e.g., that the FDA is underfunded and doesn’t audit sites as often as it should, something I’ve noted multiple times in my posts for SBM about cancer quack Stanislaw Burzynski and his bogus clinical trials, for instance) and combines them with vague reports of what are probably mostly minor violations played up as huge, impactful violations:

Again, the most disturbing thing about the report is the question of whether Ventavia did, in fact, retaliate against Jackson for her having agitated about problems at the site, even if the timeline suggests that it’s probably impossible for her having reported her concerns to the FDA to have been the reason she was fired. If that’s the case, then there should be an investigation and harsh penalties applied to Ventavia. The rest of the report is just Thacker being Thacker, trying to turn a molehill into the proverbial mountain, as long as it fulfills his purpose of demonizing big pharma.

What the heck happened to The BMJ?

If Thacker’s muckraking (and not in a good way) report on Ventavia were the only example of The BMJ going wrong, it wouldn’t be such a big deal. Every publication makes missteps from time to time, and no editor’s judgment is perfect. Sometimes otherwise solid publications screw up. It happens. Unfortunately, this is part of a pattern, which includes Peter Doshi.

The first time I can recall ever having mentioned Doshi was in 2009, when he spoke at an antivaccine conference hosted by Barbara Loe Fisher’s National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) and, when contacted about it, responded with a transparent, “my speaking there does not imply endorsement”. (Remember that 2009 was the year when the H1N1 influenza pandemic was bearing down on us.) Since then, he’s been nothing if not consistent. While all the while claiming he’s “not antivaccine”, Doshi has parroted more than a few antivaccine talking points himself while trying to portray himself as an authority on influenza and the flu vaccine. Through it all, he’s played the “victim” card that people who are borderline antivaccine or antivaccine love to play, claiming that they are “just asking questions” and that anyone who “questions” vaccines is labeled, in a knee-jerk fashion, “antivaccine”. In fact, Doshi’s borderline antivaccine stylings go back further than 2009, when senior pseudonymous epidemiologist whose blog I used to read religiously back then chastised him for an “unhelpful” commentary in which Doshi had claimed that estimates for yearly influenza deaths were “grossly inflated.” That was 2006.

Since then, Peter Doshi somehow managed to become an associate editor of The BMJ. How this happened, I have no idea, but periodically he publishes posts for The BMJ that are—to put it kindly—far below the standards that a medical journal with the history of The BMJ should ever associate itself with. Early this year, for instance, he published one more such blog post entitled, Pfizer and Moderna’s “95% effective” vaccines—we need more details and the raw data. It was a post custom designed to try to claim that Pfizer and Moderna had exaggerated the efficacy of their vaccines through some statistical prestidigitation. (John Skylar and Skeptical Raptor also discussed the deception behind his articles.) Doshi once also bought into a truly risible conspiracy theory about the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) that I hadn’t even seen from antivaxxers. There was much mockery. More recently, Doshi published more misinformation in The BMJ about COVID-19 vaccines, claiming that there were “no biodistribution data” (even though such data exist nd biodistribution data aren’t required for vaccines) and insinuating that the trials had been unblinded earlier this year not out of ethical concerns about leaving the subjects in the placebo group susceptible to a potentially deadly pandemic disease, but rather to hide differences in adverse events between the groups and to facilitate the ability of businesses and local governments to mandate COVID-19 vaccines then not yet approved by the FDA. (I wrote about the issue of unblinding the Pfizer and Moderna clinical trials in April. Suffice to say that it’s a complex issue of clinical trial ethics and science, far more so than what Doshi implies.)

Doshi also has history of playing footsie with the antivaccine movementamplifying antivaccine conspiracy theoriesdownplaying the severity of influenza and thus feeding antivaccine narratives, using sleight-of-hand to downplay the effectiveness of flu vaccines, and generally playing the role of a false skeptic with respect to vaccines. At this point, I can’t help but note that Doshi also once signed a petition “questioning” whether HIV causes AIDS.

No surprise, Doshi has his own author page over at RFK Jr.’s Children’s Health Defense of articles republished from The BMJ under a Creative Commons license, his most recent “contribution” being an op-ed in which he laments calls for state medical boards and medical specialty boards to take action against the medical licenses and board certifications, respectively, of physicians spreading COVID-19 misinformation. Let’s just say that we at SBM disagree strongly and, if anything, think that state medical boards have not gone nearly far enough to protect the public.

It goes beyond that, though. Peter Doshi actively has actively allied himself with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. For instance, he served as one of the expert witnesses last year for the plaintiffs in Children’s Health Defense’s lawsuit against the University of California opposing its flu vaccine mandate:

More recently, it’s gotten even worse in terms of Doshi playing footsie with antivaxxers:

That’s right. Peter Doshi testified before Senator Ron Johnson’s panel on COVID-19 a week ago, ostensibly about “COVID-19 vaccine injuries and mandates.” We’ve met Sen. Johnson before in the context of his promotion of dangerous “right-to-try” legislation. Since the pandemic, he has, predictably and like so much of the rest of the Republican Party, pivoted to become a COVID-19 pandemic minimizer and an opponent of COVID-19 vaccine mandates to the point of parroting antivaccine talking points. In his testimony, Doshi denies that this is a “pandemic of the unvaccinated,” citing a report from July from the UK that most hospitalizations are among the fully vaccinated. It turns out that this report was in error, substituting “vaccinated” for “unvaccinated” and the majority of hospitalizations were among the unvaccinated, even though they made up only 31% of the population at the time. He even cites cherry-picked tables to claim that the vaccine doesn’t save lives in what is basically an updated rehash of the nonsense he peddled in May (also deconstructed by Dr. Hilda Bastian). In a truly risible moment, he even cites the Merriam-Webster definition of “antivaxxer” as opposed to those supposedly opposed to mandates to argue that he and his fellow COVID-19 contrarians are “not antivaccine” and that large numbers of people would qualify as “antivaccine”. He even parrots the antivaccine talking point that mRNA vaccines are not really vaccines and therefore shouldn’t be mandated like vaccines. I kid you not.

I was flabbergasted. I knew Doshi was bad. I’ve known it since 2009. However, until I saw this video clip even I never realized he was this bad. I used to say that Doshi was not antivaccine. I’m no longer so sure of that.

Paul Thacker is even worse, having published in The BMJ some doozies of conspiracy mongering articles about the “lab leak” hypothesis of SARS-CoV-2 origins.(He even bought into a narrative beloved of cranks that discussion of the origins of the pandemic has been “suppressed” by labeling any discussion of lab leak hypotheses as a “conspiracy theory”, referring to it as a “conspiracy to label critics as conspiracy theorists.” (Meanwhile, on his own Substack, he explicitly buys into the “Fauci lied” narrative spread by US Sen. Rand Paul and right wing media.) I don’t want to go into detail about these conspiracy theories, given that I’ve discussed them before, other than to say that, recent news reports of “gain of function” notwithstanding, it is still incredibly unlikely—arguably impossible, even—that SARS-CoV-2 was engineered in a laboratory, be it in Wuhan, China, where the pandemic appears to have originated or anywhere else. It is only slightly more likely than that that COVID-19 could have arisen due to the escape of a natural coronavirus being studied in a laboratory, but a natural origin due to a “spillover event” from an animal reservoir (most likely bats) remains far, far more likely than the incredibly unlikely possibility of a lab leak of a “gain-of-function” engineered coronavirus or a natural bat coronavirus being studied causing the pandemic.

Finally, before I conclude it is necessary to recount a bit of Paul Thacker’s history. Besides being known for promulgating anti-GMO conspiracy theories, this is a “journalist” who is known for using abusive Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests in order to harass scientists, in particular Kevin Folta. More recently, Steve Novella discussed how Thacker attacked him (and me) as “vaccine cheerleaders” based on our supposed denial and downplaying of potential complications due to the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines. Thacker was, as usual, peddling nonsense. I expect that I will soon be subjected to yet another article by Thacker smearing me. It’s coming. I’m willing to endure it, though, if this post forces Thacker to publish more of the evidence behind his article and provide at least some of the details enumerated above that were missing, so that I can at least have a shot at judging the actual severity of the allegations made by his whistleblower. Right now, I just can’t, and certainly I know not to take Thacker’s word for anything.

Too bad that The BMJ doesn’t know that.

Sadly, I can now see a bit more why The BMJ has fallen so far, at least in its reporting, if not the science it publishes. Its editor-in-chief, Fiona Godlee, recently echoed Thacker’s conspiracy mongering in an official editorial for The BMJ, calling for a “full and open independent investigation” into the origins of SARs-CoV-2:

But, as Paul Thacker explains (doi:10.1136/bmj.n1656), suppression of the lab leak theory was not based on any clear evaluation of the science. Indeed, it happened despite no good counter-evidence for the alternative: natural spillover from animals to humans. Instead the lab leak theory sank under the weight of a concerted campaign by heavily conflicted scientists, leading to a “year of biased, failed reporting” by science journalists and journals. Now, thanks to the seismic shift in US politics and some dogged and fearless journalism, the theory is emerging from the shadows into mainstream public debate. We don’t know which theory is right, but a lab leak is plausible and worthy of serious inquiry.

This paragraph could have been published verbatim by Fox News or on any number of websites run by COVID-19 contrarians, and the part about there being “no good counter-evidence” for natural spillover as an origin is just plain wrong, given everything that we know about previous pandemics and the nucleotide sequence of SARS-CoV-2. Indeed, it is irresponsible in the extreme to have written “we don’t know which theory is right” without providing the context of which one is more likely to be correct. (Also, it’s a hypothesis, not a “theory”. In science, the word “theory” implies a much higher level of confidence than is justifiable in this context.) I outright cringed as I read Godlee’s article, having discovered it when I wondered what else The BMJ had published by Thacker besides his most recent “exposé”. It was incredibly disappointing to me to see the editor of The BMJwrite something like this op-ed.

Unfortunately, Thacker’s most recent “bombshell” is yet another example of how The BMJ has gone astray, at least in terms of its news reporting and commentary, over the last several years. Peter Doshi, for instance, has now been with the journal for several years, despite many of us asking why the heck he’s still an editor, and Thacker is just the most recent symptom of the rot. I hate to do it, but I have to cite this. As she did with Thacker’s previous story amplifying the “lab leak” conspiracy theory, Fiona Godlee wrote an accompanying op-ed for Thacker’s report, Covid 19: A strong pandemic response relies on good data. It’s a perfect example of JAQing off based on Thacker’s dubious article:

Would we then be wrong to insist that the best standards of research integrity should nonetheless prevail (

Sadly, a picture is emerging, from one commercially contracted trial centre at least, of poor research conduct, lax data management, and a lack of regulatory oversight. Reports by a former employee of the contract research organisation that enrolled patients into Pfizer’s pivotal vaccine trial raise serious questions about the safety of participants and integrity of the data (doi:10.1136/bmj.n2635).2

We don’t yet know the impact of these problems on the trial as a whole. Were this company’s trial centres a single rotten apple, or do they represent a wider problem? Certainly the failures of regulatory oversight seem endemic: the FDA inspected only nine of the Pfizer trial’s 153 study sites, and, despite specific concerns being raised about this centre, it was not one of those inspected. We are right to ask how science fares when those who raise questions are fired.

That first reference is to Doshi’s misleading article discussed above (and here, by me). Meanwhile Doshi has defended Thacker’s story as having been “rigorously fact-checked.” Unfortunately, it’s not the individual “facts” that he uses to weave a deceptive narrative; rather, it’s how he weaves those “facts” together to tell a story while leaving out important context, something all skilled propagandists know. Reluctantly, as I’ve observed the descent of The BMJ‘s news reporting and commentary to the level of conspiracy theory and supporting antivaccine narratives, I must conclude that the rot must start at the top. It’s not as though the problems with The BMJ‘s reporting and having an editor like Peter Doshi haven’t been pointed out for a long time now.

Worse, after Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. touted Doshi’s appearance at Sen. Johnson’s antivax “roundtable,” another BMJ editor defended him with this transparent dodge:

When Peter Doshi lists his titles, including “editor at The BMJ,” before launching into his deceptive, misinformation-filled anti-COVID-19 vaccine testimony, Mr. Abbasi can’t disavow it. He is the face of The BMJ for this, and he implies that The BMJ supports him. The BMJ is thus now complicit with Doshi in spreading antivaccine disinformation.

And then:

One can’t help but admire Mr. Abbasi for refraining from saying that Peter Doshi’s critics are demanding that he be “canceled.” I just know he wanted to say that. Moreover, it’s more than “just a disagreement.” Basically, here an editor of The BMJ has misrepresented Doshi’s spreading of COVID-19 misinformation as a simple “disagreement.” Thus, The BMJ is actively complicit in spreading antivax misinformation.

Think about it this way. If one of your editors and one of the freelance reporters that you’ve been publishing have their own pages at an antivaccine website, which republishes their work enthusiastically to spread fear, uncertainty, and doubt about vaccines and COVID-19 public health interventions, you really are doing things very, very wrong and contributing to pandemic misinformation in a huge way, given The BMJ‘s status.

It gets even worse, though. David Robert Grimes and I wrote and submitted a BMJ Rapid Response to Paul Thacker’s deceptive report, in which we laid out how Thacker had woven a deceptive tale based on cherry-picked and vague “evidence.” The BMJ refused to publish it, citing it as “legally unsafe,” even as Fiona Godlee herself defended Thacker’s article thusly, “The article was commissioned by The BMJ to a tight brief and was closely edited and fact checked.” (I have the nauseating emails.) Whose Rapid Responses did The BMJ have no problem publishing? Take a look! UK antivaxxer John Stone has two Rapid Responses, while other antivaxxers are lauding The BMJ and Paul Thacker.

I think that says all you need to know about what has happened to The BMJ. How far it’s fallen since the days when it published Brian Deer’s articles revealing Andrew Wakefield’s deception. Given its embrace of Paul Thacker and his conspiracy mongering and its refusal to do anything about its editor Peter Doshi, I can’t help but conclude that The BMJ is now complicit in spreading COVID-19 and antivaccine disinformation. Worse, its editors do not know or, worse, do not care.

Note: This is an updated and significantly revised version of an article published a week ago.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

117 replies on “WTF happened to The BMJ?”

You mentioned that there’s “republican” opposition to vaccine mandates.

Could you explain why mandates even make sense? I haven’t heard one reasonable argument for mandating a vaccine that is freely available for those who want it.

The mandates increase vaccination rates thorough coercion, which does not benefit society in any way. You’re making enemies of your neighbors by forcing them to choose between not taking an experimental therapy with no liability except on the recipient, or lose their livelihood.

Vulnerable populations may choose to get the vaccine if they wish, which would protect them, so it makes no sense to force others.

Now you’ll say “but some vulnerable people can’t get the vaccine!” Odd, considering many locations aren’t permitting medical exemptions at all. But let’s look at that population…

How would other people getting the vaccine help those who can’t? Transmission among the vaccinated is equal to or higher than the unvaccinated. So once again, there is no benefit to others in forcing another person to get vaccinated.

@Lynx Higher vaccination rate does benefit society. Currently, unvaccinated COVID patients clog health services. With higher vaccination rate, for instance cancer patients could be served instead,


Transmission among the vaccinated is equal to or higher than the unvaccinated.

That is a straight up lie. The vaccinated have been shown to reduce not only severity, but also transmission.
Why did you recite such an easily proveable lie?

A. Nothing about that explanation makes sense because these vaccines do not prevent transmission. They literally do not relate to any other vaccine mandated onto children nor do they function as those vaccines do.

Pfizer’s trials were lackluster at best. Showing 1 covid infection in the vaccinated group and 2 in the unvaccinated. FDA then granted them approval to say it was 100% effective – which we know now is untrue. [I am sure Scott G. the guy who worked at FDA for 12 years then moved over to Pfizer’s board had nothing to do with that. You know, just like Curtis Wright “isn’t responsible” for influencing the FDA to label Oxy’s as less addictive…off….(sarcasm)]

The Pfizer trials never showed the vaccine prevented transmission, EVER. That was all bullshit they “hoped for” which never really existed. “Vaccines” or better yet, drugs of this nature have no business being mandated because they do not prevent anything but symptoms. Placing them in a category of yester-year’s vaccines that actually prevented illness is laughable.

These types of cookie cutter, substance-less responses make your arguments so utterly weak and unsustainable. Corporate press as a source is also weak because the vaccine companies pay them to advertise, thus they have significant conflicts and cannot be used as a neutral third party source. Additionally, their credibility as a whole is laughable at this point.

B. The Pfizer whistleblower has substantial experience in the field, has no history of bad acts, and is represented by a prominent attorney – all parties, including BMJ have verified her story through emails, pay stubs, and other verifiable evidence – hence why its a credible story the BMJ printed. Additionally, Pfizer has a history of committing such fraud and has been found guilty of violating false claims more than any other company. To think in this scenario it wouldn’t be capable of similar behavior when the company was determined to complete the contract under a strict deadline is not only naive, it’s down right ridiculous. Even a small child would be able to draw some skepticism given these facts…

In the last 20 years we have seen some of the worst behavior from Big Pharma and Pfizer along with the rest of the crew were just caught trying to prevent False Claims Act amendments from being passed. The legislation would make it easier for Contractor Whistleblowers to come forward. Isn’t that interesting Pfizer would be lobbying against such amendments at a time when they had that very issue? This article makes it apparent you don’t know much about the pharmaceutical industry at all and it appears the only reason you doubt the BMJ is because you don’t like the evidence backed report they have published.

I hate to break it to you lefties, but Big Pharma isn’t exactly trustworthy and I have no idea what traumatic brain injury you all suffered that caused such forgetfulness. We were on the same page for the last 30 years regarding their credibility…wtf happened? It’s like Covid-19 hit and you all became pharma lobbyists or worse, bow-tie republicans. Da fuq?…

Nothing about that explanation makes sense because these vaccines do not prevent transmission.

This is absolutely untrue. Vaccines do prevent transmission. They just aren’t perfect and don’t prevent it anywhere near 100%. That doesn’t make them useless. Moreover, the Pfizer trials weren’t designed to show if the vaccine could prevent transmission. They were designed to see if it could prevent severe disease, which it did, quite convincingly. That in and of itself is highly beneficial during a pandemic, even if the vaccines didn’t prevent transmission, which more recent evidence shows that they do.

The Pfizer whistleblower has substantial experience in the field, has no history of bad acts, and is represented by a prominent attorney – all parties, including BMJ have verified her story through emails, pay stubs, and other verifiable evidence – hence why its a credible story the BMJ printed.


If you accept that those vaccinated are less likely to catch the virus and spread it and are less likely to require hospitalisation with life changing conditions if they do catch the virus then it goes to:

Operational effectiveness of the organisation it is mandated for.
Reduction in the reproduction rate of the virus in order not to overload the healthcare system and allow a degree of normal interaction.
Less long time burden on society caring for those with long term or lifetime effects.

Of course if you do not accept these outcomes or believe putting your ‘self’ above society and your country then there is no reason. As I understand it the death toll in in the USA from CV is now roughly twice that of military action in WW2, this is a war, and yet people made less fuss about mass conscription and the loss of freedoms involved with military service and sending their sons to fight, than they do about getting a jab. The irony is those servicemen were jabbed too.

I don’t accept that “ those vaccinated are less likely to catch the virus and spread it and are less likely to require hospitalisation with life changing conditions if they do catch the virus” given the results of those states and counties with the highest vaccination rates.

Moreover, there are myriad treatments and lifestyle changes available which are proving to be better than the vaccines (e.g. monoclonal antibodies), reducing excess body fat, etc.

Why mandate something when better alternatives exist? Why mandate something experimental to begin with? That’s horrifying. Normalizing this behavior is a dangerous road. How long until mandated sterilization? Or mandated chemical castrations? It’s a short path.

Operational effectiveness of the organisation it is mandated for, such as mine, has not once been impacted by covid, but it HAS been impacted severely by the mandate. So that argument went out the window.

How, for example, would covid impact business more NOW than if did when it was truly novel last year? Or even earlier this year when the vaccination rate was much lower?

“Reduction in the reproduction rate of the virus in order not to overload the healthcare system and allow a degree of normal interaction.”

Again, per last year, given the % of the population already fully vaccinated, how would the healthcare system be MORE overwhelmed now than it was last year? Wouldn’t firing unaccounted employees cause a greater burden to the system? As for the long term affects, there have been studies coming out

“Of course if you do not accept these outcomes or believe putting your ‘self’ above society and your country then there is no reason.”

How is a person putting [themselves] above society by not getting vaccinated? Are you putting yourself above society when you drink a glass of wine, go for a drive, go skiing, fly in a plane, alter your diet? That makes no sense. A person choosing to be or not to be vaccinated has no meaningful effect on others that isn’t equally balanced by that other person making a similar choice to do so or not. It’s a wash at best.

“As I understand it the death toll in in the USA from CV is now roughly twice that of military action in WW2, this is a war, and yet people made less fuss about mass conscription and the loss of freedoms involved with military service and sending their sons to fight, than they do about getting a jab. The irony is those servicemen were jabbed too.”

You make a solid point supporting covid being an act of war by China.

So since it’s about forced (mandates) reactions to body counts by what kills more people each year in the U.S., let’s take a look at what kills more people… hmm, it looks like heart disease is big killer.

Okay then, following your aforementioned reasoning and comparison to military sacrifice, it’s time to mandate:
– how much people are allowed to eat (caloric restrictions)
– what people are allowed to eat (nutrition)
– resistance training programs
– cardio programs

Again, remember, we don’t want to burden the healthcare system and stuff. Don’t be selfish.

See you all at the mandatory daily 4:30am forced run and PT sessions. Be sure to walk to the track, since driving a care is a selfish act which props you up above society and results in unnecessary deaths.

Replying to Lynx’s guff:

I don’t accept that “ those vaccinated are less likely to catch the virus and spread it and are less likely to require hospitalisation with life changing conditions if they do catch the virus” given the results of those states and counties with the highest vaccination rates.

Citation needed that the counties and states with the highest vaccination rates show no benefit.

Moreover, there are myriad treatments and lifestyle changes available which are proving to be better than the vaccines (e.g. monoclonal antibodies), reducing excess body fat, etc.

Citation needed that lifestyle changes are proving more effective than the vaccine.

Why mandate something when better alternatives exist?

See above.

Why mandate something experimental to begin with?

The vaccines are NOT experimental. This falsity was already overcooked months ago.

That’s horrifying. Normalizing this behavior is a dangerous road. How long until mandated sterilization? Or mandated chemical castrations? It’s a short path.

Slippery slope fallacy.

Operational effectiveness of the organisation it is mandated for, such as mine, has not once been impacted by covid


How is a person putting [themselves] above society by not getting vaccinated? A person choosing to be or not to be vaccinated has no meaningful effect on others that isn’t equally balanced by that other person making a similar choice to do so or not.

Despite your false claims, getting vaccinated reduces your likelihood of passing COVID on to others if you get infected.

Your argument is one long antivaxx screed. Everyone here has seen all your claims before, multiple times. Many of us have refuted them, multiple times.

Comparing covid-19 deaths to WWII deaths makes no sense. You don’t compare WWII deaths to yearly deaths from heart attacks or cancer. Of course more Americans die from widespread diseases than from wars fought by a small minority of the population in foreign countries.

@Lynx You do not accept that non vaccinated go to hospital more often than vaccinated. Singapore check this, like many other goverments:
Do you think that Singapore shills for Pfizer ?
Eating too much is not a contagious disease. Neither is smoking, though there are restrictions here.

“Could you explain why mandates even make sense? I haven’t heard one reasonable argument for mandating a vaccine that is freely available for those who want it”

Hmmmm. Let’s say that you are part of a team climbing a rockface. Something big and dangerous. Maybe on the Eiger.

The mandate is the climbing rope that you are all harnessed to in order to protect anyone that falls.

Any member of the team could fall but the rope, pitons and securely belayed climbing partners should prevent that person from being smashed into a bloody mess on the jagged rocks below.

Now, let’s say that being roped up and following correct climbing protocol isn’t mandatory. Now you’ve got some people roped up and climbing one at a time. You’ve also got people free climbing on the same route. If one of the free climbers falls, there’s a chance that they’ll kill or dislodge others (roped or unroped) on the way down. That’s why you have a mandate.

Of course, in an ideal world, the unroped climbers are on a completely different route. In that case their deaths cause no problems for anyone else, so it’s a bit of a tragedy for the family but has no effect on the wider world.

The goal is to get to the point where each person infects fewer than one vulnerable person, then the virus gradually dies away.

Before the vaccines each person was infecting about 2.5 people on average. In practice it was more like zero or a whole lot, but 2.5 on average.

If 60% of the population were vaccinated then the average person infects only 40% * 2.5 people, which is one person. But if the vaccine is only 80% effective, then we have to vaccinate 75% of the population, which would mean the our sick person encounters 60% immune people, 80% of 75% being the magic 60% we are aiming for.

If you are unvaccinated not only do you put others at risk, you also make life even more miserable for exhausted health care workers. Everyone says they are willing to sign away their right to health care, but no one’s going to turn you down when you’re begging for help anyhow.

Even worse, the unvaccinated are responsible for variants like Delta. The successful new variants are the ones that spread easily and rapidly. But when everyone is vaccinated, the successful variants are the ones that spread easily and rapidly and are immune to the vaccines. Since not even a virus can have it all, the new variants will not spread as rapidly.

The reason we need mandates is that people aren’t getting the vaccine even though they can. Everyone thinks they should be the exception. Having mandates for health care workers and teachers is a no-brainer. For someone who works at Target, it’s maybe a little more problematic morally, but it’s too easy to spread the virus all over Target so Target should mandate vaccination.

@Lynx: “Could you explain why mandates even make sense?”

I dunno. Could you explain why laws against speeding even make sense? After all, I want to get to my destination as quickly as possible, and if I run into a wall while taking a corner it’s only me that is killed, right?

That would be an equivalent example if it were a law against speeding for someone who is alone on their own private highway.

Vaccinations have been proven, beyond a shadow of a doubt, to not prevent transmission.

Thus, their only possible benefit is for the individual who gets the vaccine.

You getting the vaccine does not benefit anytime but yourself.

Vaccinations have been proven, beyond a shadow of a doubt, to not prevent transmission.

Wrong. COVID-19 vaccines do decrease the rate of transmission. It’s just that they aren’t perfect and don’t decrease the rate of transmission by anywhere near 100%. That they are not perfect, though, does not make them useless.

Why is it that antivaxxers like you so frequently fall prey to the Nirvana fallacy, in which not being 100% effective is portrayed as meaning the vaccine is useless?

@Lynx: Incompetent liar.

Here’s a nice digestible lay explanation:

“More than 0% but less than 100%” is not the same thing as “0%”. Especially not at the higher end of the range.

We don’t need an R₀ of 0. We only need an R₀ less than 1. And for that a 100%-sterilizing vaccine is not necessary; it just needs to be “Good Enough”.

Orac questions why you antivaxxers so often fall for the Nirvana Fallacy. But you and I both know you jumped.


Me: “Vaccinations have been proven, beyond a shadow of a doubt, to not prevent transmission.”

You: “Wrong. COVID-19 vaccines do decrease the rate of transmission. It’s just that they aren’t perfect and don’t decrease the rate of transmission by anywhere near 100%. That they are not perfect, though, does not make them useless. Why is it that antivaxxers like you so frequently fall prey to the Nirvana fallacy, in which not being 100% effective is portrayed as meaning the vaccine is useless?”

So, as I stated initially, the vaccines have been proven to…. NOT (prevent transmission).

NOT (zero transmission) ==> transition is greater than zero.

Then you say “Wrong.” And proceed to tell me why NOT (100%) does not equal 0%. Strawman fallacy.

And as for the nirvana fallacy, the argument “antivaxxers” make is that the vaccine isn’t perfect, nor do they expect it to be. From what I read on here, you seem to suggest that they are the manifestation of the closest thing to perfection we can get. How close would you estimate them to be to perfection? What issues do you see them having?

As to their lack of perfection and ability to reduce transmission…

What’s going on in Gibraltar? Ireland. Iceland. Israel. Singapore, Vernont, Rhode Island, Connecticut, etc.

It would seem that the vaccines have not reduced transmission at all.

The current vaccines reduce transmission. They also reduce severity. Therefore they save lives when compared to allowing the virus to spread without check.

Mr Weasel called, he wants all the royalties that you owe him.

The fact is, vaccinated people are less likely to die and less likely to spread Covid to others which means that others are also less likely to die. What you ‘don’t accept’ is irrelevant. You could, instead, state that your political and moral opinion is that other people should die to uphold your beliefs.

To expand on what you have said. These neighbours you are talking about are shitting all over my lawn, apparently you think I should go out with some bog roll and wipe their arse afterwards.

@ Lynx Vaccines reduce infection rate by 90%, So they prevent 90% of infections, They prevent infection in 90% of cases. Stop silly word games.

The “payload” of a state mandated medical treatment is centralized, authoritarian control.

Orac and his collection of autistic sycophants on this forum are willfully blind to this fact and endlessly wring their hands about how sound the science is and how naughty the evil anti-vaxxers are.

In the real context of authoritarian control, this science vs antivax thing is a red herring.
(But is a very useful tool for demonizing the opponents of the social control measures)

It matters not whether the mandatory “treatment” involves
– sticking a vaccination syringe in your deltoid muscle
– catching a purple jellybean in your mouth
– or jigging a hornpipe

If the end result of not wishing to participate in these state mandated activities is
– losing your civil liberties
– losing your job
– a heavy fine
– having your teeth kicked out by the steel toecap of a state-sponsored thug (for the good of your health, of course)
It is coercion and social control.

Once you lose the agency to decide what medical treatments are carried out your own body – you are truly fucked.

When the state sees you as being compos mentis enough to decide to go horse racing, motorcycling, rock climbing etc, but NOT to make your OWN decision about your OWN medical treatment – it is clear something has gone badly wrong with the relationship between the citizenry and the state.

Anyone who would inflict a medical treatment on someone who has explicitly stated they do not want it – is a psychopath, so don’t entertain for one moment, their accusations of selfishness for your non-compliance.

To recap: The payload of a state mandated medical treatment is centralized, authoritarian control. This state response to a pandemic virus is a case of “never let a good crisis go to waste”.

Great post, It’s usually hard to get so many fallacies into one post. Very impressive. I especially liked how you mixed different things up, called everyone names, and then said that it doesn’t really matter anyway. Nice touch – makes it hard to correct your mistakes or to respond.

It was hard to follow, but if I understand you, your message is ‘I don’t want to, and you can’t make me’. Did I miss anything?

You’ll be pleased to hear I’m no anti-vaxxer: I feel sure that the vaccines are highly effective against the virus … because both prototype vaccine and virus were designed at the same time.

I think they have run into a few problems with this project they were not anticipating though. Nevertheless, I feel sure it will work out for them in the end.

But this is all crazed conspiracy theory.

From a personal perspective – I have already been infected a year since. It’s left me with the debilitating aftermath whereby minty flavoured shower gel smells a little weird. Still affects me now.

Re. Name calling: Yes – I too was initially astonished at the level of name-calling and rudeness in the comments section, here. But – when in Rome…

@Cthulhu: 2/10, v. disappoint. Expected more from a Great Old One than infantile wank fodder. Although the spooge effect was adequately horrible.

I probably shouldn’t, but I just have to: Who is ‘they’?

What do you want people to call you? If I understand, you’re pro-vaccine, and pro-‘conspiracy theory’? And anti-people telling you what to do.

Well … you say “conspiracy theorist”. I prefer “governmental and corporate corruption analyst”

Here’s my theory:
The powers that be (“they”) have determined that it would expedient to have the entire human race enrolled on an endless rolling program of mandatory vaccinations. This needs to become the “new normal”. The COVID thing is just the boot-up sequence to this endgame.

Why would they want this? Because they can. Because megalomaniacs are gonna megalomanize. Why does a heroin dealer want you take heroin?

You create the COVID monster, you spread the terror of the monster, then you defeat the monster and become the hero. This is why I think the vaccines are effective (although probably not as effective as they would have liked)

So the vaccine pushers are entirely correct: The risk of catching COVID and having a negative outcome is greater than the risk of an adverse reaction to the vaccine.

The whole theory hinges on whether the emergence of COVID was a random event or planned. (And when I say planned – I mean not an accidental leak from a lab, I mean genuinely planned)

I personally believe it was planned. There are too many co-incidences.

But this is obviously very difficult to prove – as random dangerous pathogen mutations do occur naturally, on a reasonably frequent basis. And therein lies the obfuscation.

But we do know for sure that various state-level actors have biological weapons programs.

Because I have had the virus and it was for me, fairly mild, I choose not to be vaccinated. It seems innate immunity is at least as good as vaccination, plus it appears that any adverse reactions to vaccination are more severe in those that have innate immunity.

I may choose to be vaccinated at some later date. We’ll see what happens.

A. In his article about medical boards, Dr. Doshi appears to have interviewed two doctors as expressing concerns: a doctor who is openly anti mask (and I suspect has good reason to worry about boards cracking down on misinformation, even if not about vaccines) and an anonymous blogger that is, allegedly, a pediatrician that doesn’t like COVID-19 vaccines. Thats his targets.

B. The rapid responses in BMJ have long been used by antivaccine activists that then cite them as articles in BMJ. Interesting that they allow that, but not yours. I think you should publish your draft here or elsewhere.

C. Mandates serve to protect those who cannot be vaccinated (like young children, or rare contraindications), those for whom the vaccines work less well, and offer an extra layer of protection against outbreaks by reducing the pool of hosts. Vaccines affect more than the individual.

@David: Let us guess, Thacker engages with absolutely everything except Dr Gorski’s actual arguments?

My current working hypothesis is that if you took all of the anti-vaxxers’ narc traits and stitched them end to end, you could easily make Human Centipede 4: Global Circumference with only a really long lens and an empty pail.

(The bucket is just so you’ve somewhere to puke as you film it, obvs.)


Thanks for that link. It’s hilarious.

The entire blog post boils down to:

Gorski once called the AMSA names and he calls some people anti vaxxers on Twitter.

That’s the entirety of his article. No evidence. No explanation. No argument.

Heck, he isn’t even claiming Gorski is wrong.

He’s just claiming that Gorski has made these claims.

I guess subtly hinting at stuff without providing any evidence or directly claiming it (I guess to avoid culpability) permeates his writing in the BMJ so why wouldn’t it be the entire post he has written on his blog.

There’s some other weirdness in the Thack hack. If the twitter account of “IamBrookJackson” was the real whistleblower (and it did show the supposed documents), in the LeadStories piece she claimed to be using a fake name. But the documents she showed as evidence used the fake name. One of those two things can’t be true. And if Brook Jackson is a pseudonym to protect her–that’s fine. But BMJ should indicate that.

If it’s not a fake name, then the twitter account was not trustworthy as a source of documents. So it’s not clear those are the real documents that the person was peddling. When I asked if the name was fake or not, the account disappeared immediately.

I have copies of the CBER report tweet and her “welcome to Ventavia” tweet if anyone needs copies.

There are other typically Thack-distortion-field stuff though. I don’t know if it was the case elsewhere, but at our early vaccine clinics one of the health directors was complaining that should couldn’t get large sharps containers (because of pandemic, ironically). At our early vax clinics, the rooms we had were too small to properly distance people, so our monitoring period was also in hallways, properly spaces, with chairs.

It also sounds very similar to other half-assed unsupported claims Thacker makes–that’s his oeuvre. BMJ better be very sure they saw legit documents that say what he claims they said. I know personally in the past he plays loose with his claims. He’s not trustworthy.

Maybe The BMJ should change it’s name to JJAQ (Journal of Just Asking Questions). As Jonathon Howard pointed out, the clinical trials are largely irrelevant now, given that hundreds of millions of doses have been given out to great effect and safety. The only purpose of these types of opinion pieces is to fuel FUD and the side effect is to drive business to the grifting crowd. Or maybe it is not a side effect…

A parallel antivax argument: that clinical HPV vaccine trials were inadequate to demonstrate safety and effectiveness.

Reality: HPV vaccines have proved very safe over many millions of doses, there’s abundant evidence showing major declines in HPV infection and high grade dysplasias (precancers) among the vaccinated, and early findings indicating a marked drop in HPV-induced cancers.

“But the clinical trials were defective/rigged! That proves the vaccines are bad!”

No and no.

It’s what I have come to think of as the nit-picking fallacy. If they can find any small detail of the evidence or analysis that is wrong or looks wrong to them, they can ignore all of the much broader body of evidence that is still right. We see it over and over again from our antivax trolls, but they get their talking points from the broader antivax community.

It’s sort of based on the legalistic maneuver where if you can find a technical error in the approval or collection process for a key piece of evidence against your client, you can get that thrown out and your client goes free. The new CSI show apparently pulled something like that on a large scale to kick their new series in the same city as the original series (???), but I haven’t bothered watching an episode to figure it out.

A cousin of that is the paradigm shift fallacy. A real paradigm shift has to explain all the previous data as well as the anomalous data not explained by the previous paradigm. But they think that some little bit of data will lead to a paradigm shift where all the previous data showing vaccines are safe and effective and quackery doesn’t work will be invalidated and their world view will suddenly be accepted.

squirrelelite is absolutely right: they fixate on a single detail and disregard the overwhelming mass of SB evidence.
Interestingly, many of them are lawyers or use lawyers in their quest.

They display an inability to consolidate information which often includes using exceptions, showing how the majority turn out and going beyond one’s own experience to consult other sources:
that’s why we use words like most, some, sometimes or usually. If a study showed that 90% of subjects had no side effects, they would probably dismiss that and focus upon the 10%, especially the 1% who had more serious outcomes. They have trouble weighing benefits vs risks.

Today, Ann Dachel ( AoA) discusses the need for sensory rooms and other expenses associated with ASD in schools. She says something to the effect that neuro-diverse students are the new average. She was trained as a teacher. Although she’s older than I am she seems to be unaware of what conditions were and the history of special education. I went to a progressive city primary school that had extra science, math and literature classes for the more advanced students but in the basement were a group of older ( teenaged) boys who were taught wood working and basic language and math skills. There was a county school for more severely disabled students. My friend studied special education and speech correction at a large university that greatly expanded these majors as money became available for remedial and special education.

But Ann didn’t know about such things although they were news stories.SHE didn’t see them so they didn’t exist I suppose.
Recent studies show us that anti-vaxxers and CT believers may dismiss the concept of expertise/ experts altogether and think themselves the last word.
Trolls at RI dismiss hundreds of neurological studies that show how autism develops.
Anyone see a trend?

@Denice: “SHE didn’t see them so they didn’t exist I suppose.”

I really need a meme: “I’m not saying it’s Narcissists. But it’s Narcissists.” (I worry I sound like a monomaniac how often I bring it up… and that’s not even my actual monomania!)

But honestly, even back when I were in school we all knew that “Specials” existed, although little idea of what they were like or how even many there were (they were always kept totally separate from us “normals”). But you and I can do things like abstract thought and counting beyond One, so what do we know. Ann Daschel blogs, honey.

“Anyone see a trend?”

( ಠ 益 ಠ ‘ )

Interestingly, many of them are lawyers or use lawyers in their quest.

I don’t think it is necessary to overy complicate the process. The whole shebang is built on motivated reasoning. This describes all the behaviour from cherry picking to nit-picking to making things up out of whole cloth.

@ Dangerous Bacon,

The clinical trials for the HPV vaccine were inadequate for assessing safety, not efficacy.

As far as efficacy goes, HPV incidence dropped from 9 in 100,000 in 1999 to 7 in 100,000 in 2015. Underwhelming.

Not even close to being an advantage, when compared to the risks. Risks:

Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), which is reported as having manifested in it’s most debilitating severity following the HPV vaccination; has increased in incidence from 2 in 100,000 in 2002, to 14 in 100,000 in 2012.


Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), which is reported as having manifested in it’s most debilitating severity following the HPV vaccination; has increased in incidence from 2 in 100,000 in 2002, to 14 in 100,000 in 2012.

You just scuppered your own argument. 2012 was when HPV Vaccination begun. The increase was before vaccination began.

@cochrsit Cancer cases did drop. Point is that developing cancer takes long time. We see now the fastest developing cases. More relevant are precancer lesions, that develop faster. Check these.

Wow, BMJ has certainly come a long way since it published “Anti-vaccinationists past and present” in 2002.

“Box A: Anti-vaccination arguments, past and present
Cover up
1878—Vaccine partisans are afraid of the “search after truth,” and they fear the unveiling of error. Therefore do they close their eyes to facts and their ears to enquiry.
2001—The cover-up of immune system failure following vaccination is reminiscent of the tobacco industry’s continuous denial and misinformation campaign about the dangers of cigarettes. (

Vaccines are ineffective
1878—The universal belief and hope of the early enthusiasts that the cow-pox would stamp out small-pox, is probably now held by no man of sense or discernment. Epidemics still continue to break out, and the sternest compulsory laws neither reduce their number nor their intensity.
2001—VACCINATION TRUTH #2: “Epidemiological studies have shown that vaccination has been unreliable as a means of preventing disease.” (

Unholy alliance for profit
1878 — Medical despotism, founded in a wicked desire to rule over others … has given birth to the Vaccination Acts, which deny to parents the right to keep their own children in health …Friends, this medical despotism is a hard, materialistic, infidel thing … But it could have had no influence except through Parliament. It is by its unholy alliance with Parliament that it has been able to bring forth its dangerous brood.
2001—With an ACIP [Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices [US Government]] recommendation in hand, vaccine manufacturers use the government to say “you must buy my product and inject it into your body, even if it kills you or causes brain damage.” (

Ooooh. Sorry, that’s like referencing the Beano in a serious discussion about inheritance tax.

PS caught small pox recently?

“Sorry, that’s like referencing the Beano in a serious discussion about inheritance tax.”

I think that was the point of quoting an example from that antivax arguments in 2001 are hardly changed from those of 1878.

And normally I’d laugh “Plus ça change…” and move along. But 20 years later and the BMJ is now publishing borderline-Scudamore articles itself, so may I instead recommend that the BMA sees a proctologist as soon as poss as something inside is deeply wrong.

Unless, of course, you are saying that the BMJ was always a hive of unscientific ranting?

Probably I was unclear. I’m trying to say that in 2002 they illustrated how antivax talking points are 100+ years old. Now they appear to be using some of these talking points

This is exactly the sort of article that alties will use to illustrate that “orthodox”/ standard sources are now crossing over to their side. It engenders doubt about vaccines and SB methods of testing as well as the truthfulness of SBM sources.
Sloppy reporting like that outlined can do that.
Doshi is often described as an expert at an elite periodical as if he represents consensus : he doesn’t and hasn’t for more than a decade.

Some of the loons I survey laud “MD/ PhDs” or ” orthodox” scientists with sterling credentials who now agree with their woo as if the tide were turning and the old regime ( SBM) were being overthrown just as they predicted. As usual, they focus upon outliers, not the whole picture.

FDA posted the summary basis of approval documents for the Pfizer vaccine, on 08Nov2021. These include the report of the data integrity investigations. To find this, on the FDA website, go to vaccines, select approved vaccines, and select Comirnaty from the list. Then scroll down to “Approval History, Letters, Reviews…” and download the folder. Within the folder, there’s a document titled “Bioresearch Monitoring Discipline Review…”. They audited 9 sites within the US, and in the summary statement they report: “The inspections did not reveal findings that impact the Biologics License Application (BLA).”

David, nice damage control, but the fact remains that the trial arm was described as a “crazy mess” by one of the employees who ran it… other arms may have been managed better … or even worse … and by the way, isn’t it time to get your fourth booster shot, David? Cheers, Michael

By an employee who worked for the company for two weeks and probably didn’t actually “run” the trial at the three sites, with no specifics reported. Nice try at damage control for Thacker. Cheers.

I’ll be honest, that was a weak reply. The “crazy mess” comment wasn’t even by Jackson, but by another employee who continued to work there (please read the BMJ piece again). And Jackson was there for only two weeks because she got terminated when she reported the issues (a huge red flag in itself). And yes she worked for the company that ran these sites. So that really wasn’t one of your best pieces.

One notes that you can’t refute a single thing I wrote about why Thacker’s piece is hackwork. Your criticism bothers me not at all, because there’s nothing really substantive to it. Details matter, as I pointed out, and Thacker provides none. Can you do better? Can you provide the details Thacker didn’t bother to report, free of the obviously highly selective cherry picked quote-mined passages?

“And Jackson was there for only two weeks because she got terminated when she reported the issues”

Correlation or causation? What’s your evidence that it was the latter? As Orac noted, and Thacker overlooked, were the “red flags” in her background and ongoing public behavior. You also seem to have overlooked all the problems with Thacker’s reportage that, again, Orac noted in detail.

“that really wasn’t one of your best pieces”

What, in your opinion, is an example of one of Orac’s best pieces? A URL to the article and your reasoning would be helpful to determine your ability to judge quality. I ask because in your two comments you appear to demonstrate poor judgement.

David, the points you try to raise are irrelevant, because you can’t refute the “crazy mess” without going ad hominem. And now check today’s update by Berenson: turns out Pfizer misreported all-cause deaths. The kind of thing that happens when your trial is a “crazy mess”. Damage control will get even harder now. Booster time?

@rs: Causality has never been disputed in this point.

Do you know whistleblower protection ? If Jackson was really fired for reporting misconduct, she could sue for unjust termination. Have she done this ?

Michael, are you saying that every single CRO involved in the Pfizer study was a “crazy mess”? And what do you mean by “trial arm”? Trials have many arms (at minimum at test and control, but often several test arms for things like dosages), but all arms are carried out at all sites. That’s how you avoid site-to-site variability confounding the results.

What was presented in the BMJ is at most, three sites by a single CRO, snapshotted over two weeks. That is simply not enough data to invalidate an entire study, nor all the Phase 4 data that is still coming in.

Nor does it say anything about any of the other trials for other vaccines all over the world.

“check today’s update by Berenson”


Alex Berenson, has been described as “the wrongest man during the pandemic”.
He has falsely claimed that:

The United States would not reach 500,000 deaths.
Presently, there have been over 780,000 recorded deaths due to COVID-19 in the USA.
Cloth and surgical masks can’t protect against the coronavirus.
This is false as meta-analyses of clinical trials has demonstrated.
The vaccines will increase cases of COVID-related illness and death in the U.S.
The data show that the opposite occurred. Also countries like the UK with a greater vaccination rate (67.5% vs 57.6%) have a third of the death rate from COVID-19 infection per 100,000 population.
The vaccines for causing spikes in severe illness.
He pointed to data that actually demonstrated their safety and effectiveness.
The vaccines suppress our immune systems.
He misrepresented normal immune-system behavior that indicates the immune system is actually responding to the vaccine.
Countries such as Israel have suffered from their early vaccine rollout.
The data actually show that deaths and hospitalizations among vaccinated groups in Israel have plummeted and that the vast majority of those who died were not vaccinated.
For most non-seniors, the side effects of the vaccines are worse than having COVID-19 itself.
Again the data clearly show the opposite.
In country after country, cases rise after vaccination campaigns begin.
Again the data clearly show the opposite.
He counted negative cases as positive cases because he misunderstood the meaning phrase “suspected but unconfirmed”.
It actually means that the patients were “suspected” of having COVID-19 because of the symptoms they displayed but were then found to be “not infected” as a result of a negative PCR test for the infection.
Healthy people under 70 shouldn’t get a vaccine and for most healthy people under 50, and certainly under 35, the side effects from the shots are likely to be worse than a case of Covid.
This is false. In all age groups, including children, complications of the infection are far more likely and far more serious that the side-effects of the vaccine.

Very nice to see all the trolls showing up, attacking both the Pfizer whistleblower and Berenson ad hominem, while lacking arguments. Folks it really doesn’t look good for your valiant damage control efforts, the “crazy mess” Pfizer trial misreported all-cause deaths.

We also already know that Pfizer and other manufacturers misreported or wrongly excluded severe side effects (e.g. paralyzed Maddie DeGaray was reported as “stomach pain”, J&J said a CSVT was “unrelated” and so on).

I guess it really is booster time for many of you.

Ad hominem arguments are only fallacious if the ad hominem has no bearing on the accuracy of the point. In this case Berenson has been consistently wrong about every aspect of the pandemic. He is not an authority in any area of science or medicine. As a result there is no point taking any notice of anything he writes about coronavirus.

LOL. Except nobody here is saying there wasn’t any problems in the trial. What they’re saying is Thacker’s account should not be taken at face value either. And then quite fairly pointing out all the ways in which Thacker’s piece smacks of malignant Chicken Littleism.

That is not denying or minimizing any real trial problems—which we know can and does happen for a myriad of reasons and severity—but which we are not in a position to independently assess ourselves; hence the qualification: “FDA needs to look into that”. But it does explain how and why Thacker cooked the books to serve his own hidden agenda. Because what’s good for the goose is good for the gander; and only a hypocrite or fraud demands a double-standard when it’s one of their own that is doing it.

And now here you are doing exactly the same as Thacker. So GFY, you turkey, and take your attacks of the vapors somewhere else.

@Chris Preston: “Ad hominem arguments are only fallacious if the ad hominem has no bearing on the accuracy of the point.”

Indeed. Pointing out someone has a known track record for incompetence or malice is not an ad hom. It is providing important contextual information in which their new claims should be assessed.

If Berenson didn’t want to smell of shit, he shouldn’t have soiled himself in the first place. So it’s wholly his own fault if his credibility is in the crapper now, not ours. Honestly, if he wants to fight for the cause, his best tactic now would be to STFU. But hey, if he wants to spread his well-aged stink to fresh young up-and-coming liars, then that just makes it easy for the rest of us to smell them early as well. He that lieth down with pigs, etc, etc…

You really are very silly. We’re not so much attacking the “whistleblower” as the deceptive spin placed on the story by Paul Thacker. Basically, he provides fear mongering reports that are long on insinuation and very short on details, and the details really do matter. Without them, it is impossible to tell if these are minor lapses that didn’t affect data collection significantly (most probable) or real problems that compromised the trial (far less likely).

Maddie DeGray had, as per doctor diagnosis, functional nervous disorder. There were and are lots of follow up studies. They reported reported remarkably similar effectiviness.

Even before you got to the bit about Brook Jackson’s previous tweets and red flags, the idea that somebody who had only worked there for two weeks already had a laundry list of complaints they were bringing to management of varying degrees of reliability and actual problem level practically screamed ‘this is someone who was planning on being a sh!t-disturber even before they got hired’.

@Jenora: Could be. It’s entirely possible that the newcomer is the toxic individual who immediately enacts a site-wide meltdown the moment they overstep and get put in their place.

Just as it’s possible that they were the first new set of eyes to arrive on site in ages, where ingrained malpractices were so egregous they could be spotted straight away by anyone who hadn’t already fully normalized them. That can and does happen too.

But yeah, if I was a betting man I would certainly hedge, and not make my provisional call until I had spent at least a little time assessing both.

However, what’s really telling is that all the anti-vaxxers skip straight over #1 and embrace #2 without hesitation. Because they have zero interest in caveats and uncertainty, and fairly and equally considering both sides. Which is fantastic for us, because that behavior tells us everything we need to know about their side of the argument, and we don’t need to spend any more time on processing their screaming inchoate malicious rot.

Antivaxxers constantly complain that we don’t fairly consider both sides. But we do: they just make it ridiculously quick and easy for us to consider theirs. Even as they simultaneously refuse to consider both sides themselves. But self-awareness and self-criticism were never their skill set; and since it is not part of their own experience, it is inconceivable to them that it would be a core part of ours. So it goes.

Oh, the ‘first new set of eyes’ possibility definitely exists; I didn’t mention it in part because it was very obviously the narrative already being spun by Thacker and the employee in question, and in part because I don’t consider it very likely.

I don’t consider it very likely because someone who really wanted to make changes rather than make complaints would probably take longer than two weeks assembling data and getting a clearer idea of what was policy, what was general sloppiness, and what was a one-time mistake. The list of complaints given here sounds scattershot and just smells like somebody looking for whatever they can find to cause a fuss about. Granted, how much of that is the original employee and how much is Thaker’s own spin is difficult to tell.

Orac, of course, has his own spin as well, but his spin is mostly ‘somebody is showing blurry photographs of a molehill and trying to claim it’s a mountain without giving enough details to be able to see anything useful, and the person doing so has a history of doing this’.

@Jenora: “I don’t consider it very likely”

Neither do I. (Remembering l’affaire du Thompson for a start.) But I do subscribe to Feynman’s honesty-in-communications dictum that you should bend over backwards to show how you could be wrong. In addition to being a healthy mental exercise for yourself, it signals that you have already considered the issue from both sides and that you are willing to entertain the opposition’s view if they will put up the evidence to back it.

And then I just put my feet up and wait to see if they fall into the trap. Which they frequently do: demonstrating that they have no interest in anyone’s perspective but their own, and that they only seek to confirm their pre-determined conclusion, not to challenge it themselves nor allow anyone else to do so. You do not have to comprehend the science in detail to detect when someone is acting in a way that is fundamentally incompatible with it. It cannot detect all of the fraudsters (since any sufficiently advanced mimicry is indistinguishable from the real thing to all but actual experts), nor can it tell you if what the experts are saying is right; but it does filter out the large bottom percentage that is the world’s most egregious bullshitters which is no bad start.

Certainly, my own life has gotten more usefully productive since I learned how to say “I am wrong.” And my bullshit detector is much improved too.

Perhaps controversial authors, contrarians and other alties/ misfits may soon find a home at the new University of Austin ** a “liberal arts” school being proposed that is “anti-cancel culture” and “anti-woke” now gathering funding and seeking accreditation ( Katelin Burns, MSNBC). Conservative and disgraced academics are welcome. They will provide graduate courses in business, liberal studies and will eventually expand into the natural sciences. Consider the possibilities.

** not to be confused with the University of Texas at Austin

Pfizer’s pill is almost an exact replica of Ivermectin. They both are protease inhibitors focusing on the 3CL protein, and, if anything, Ivermectin is better against more viruses/proteins than the Pfizer pill.

but one is 50 cents the other is 500 dollars.

You seem to be commenting on the wrong article. But you are also completely wrong for a very obvious reason.

The difference between ivermectin and the new drug is that it is not possible to safely achieve the required concentrations of ivermectin in the body to inhibit the protease.

For PF-07321332 it is. The concentration required to inhibit the protease is 7,000 times less for PF-07321332 than it is for ivermectin.

This is certainly the reason why ivermectin RCTs have failed to demonstrate efficacy at preventing serious disease and hospitalisation whereas Paxlovid is showing significsnt promise.

@Chris Preston: “The difference between ivermectin and the new drug is that it is not possible to safely achieve the required concentrations of ivermectin in the body to inhibit the protease.”

Yeah, but mind you’re explaining this stuff to the sort of people who think it a good idea to drink industrial bleach. What matters to them is not whether it has the claimed effect but how strongly they believe that it does. The idea of a negative therapeutic window doesn’t even enter into that equation.

I mean, you could try saying “Poisonings Baaaaaad!”, but then the witless spuds would only cry “Aha! What Cure is Big Pharma trying to hide from us now?!?!?11!” So at this point I’m pretty well for taking all of the safety labels off household products and accepting that Nature must run its course.

I suggest you listen to Susan Collin’s discussion of that exact claim starting at about 3 minutes into this video.

Ivermectin requires about 7000 times the concentration of Pfizer’s drug to destroy half the virus. That concentration is just not achievable in humans without poisoning the patient.

Pfizer’s drug has demonstrated effectiveness in Phase 3 trials (as has Merck’s). No one has demonstrated a significant reduction in hospitalization or deaths in a randomized trial for ivermectin.

@squirrelelite: “No one has demonstrated a significant reduction in hospitalization or deaths in a randomized trial for ivermectin.”

The Egypt trial did. And then was retracted due to serious problems in how they conducted it. (Errors, if not outright malfeasance, far outstripping anything Ventavia might have done.) While other trials have returned a negative.

And which of these do antivaxxers and antimaskers immediately embrace, and which do they summarily reject? Right.

But, hey, who cares about the little things like selective toxicity and therapeutic windows when big egos and personal profits are dangerously on the line?

Now if only we could find a vaccine for gullibility and cultish behavior…

Unfortunately, it’s all false. Some epidemiologists and reporters were able to obtain the raw data (it was password-protected, but the password was “1234”)

just for fun

1. The aliens are hostile, so I don’t trust them no matter how smart they are

2. If the aliens are so smart, why did they get their last few predictions wrong?

3. I can’t even begin to understand the aliens’ argument…what is a “quantum memetic plague”? Why would brain implants treat it? What are the statistical concepts that can’t be explained in human language, and why would they only affect these studies and no others?

4. I have no idea what you can and can’t do with cybernetic implants, and it seems totally possible they could mind control me or something.


I sort of implicitly ignored the Elgazzar paper but yes.

There are a couple other dodgy papers that even ivmmeta took off their list.

If people are gung-ho to get a protease inhibitor, why not use the one that is 7000 times more effective?

Most people can’t demonstrate their lack of knowledge about chemistry or pharmacology, not to mention showing us the quality of the sources you read. I subject that you stop doing ‘your own research’, as you definitely don’t have the skills.
I’m sure you know what Mark Twain said about keeping your mouth closed…
But a nice try anyway

‘Pfizer’s pill is almost an exact replica of Ivermectin.’ Did you even look at the two compounds?

You can’t make this stuff up……

So a Merck lab in Philadelphia has ‘small pox” vials. The same Merck that has a pill to combat Covid, which is in competition with Pfizer with its’ pill to combat Covid and all with in the context of “bill gates” saying that small pox, was going to be the next health crisis.

‘there are no coincidences, only the illusion of coincidences” V

It takes some effort to add up 2 + 2 + 2 and get 17.

Rather than starting a new conspiracy theory, how about defending the old one.
So how much ivermectin do you need to inhibit 3CLPro by 50%?
Is this achievable in vivo?

How does a 40% of a professional hockey team that is fully vaccinated get Covid? I thought on the UN vaccinated passed the Covid.

Adding to the mystery of the small pox being found in a Merck lab in Philadelphia, I believe by international agreement that only two places in the whole world are suppose to retain small pox , the CDC in Atlanta Georgia and Vector Research Center in Koltsovo Siberia.

And to add to the mystery Bill Gates’s foundation gave money to Merck to study the small pox vaccine.

These are not conspiracy theories just facts, again ‘coincidences’

The Pfizer mention was jarring. If it was just Merck and Bill Gates then I can see BGs mention of bio terrorism using smallpox being a threat against true patriots utilising Mercks secret stock. At least it has conspiracy theory legs. Maybe Pfizer has a secret stock too? Maybe Bill is telling Merck and Pfizer to put smallpox in covid anti-virals?

Whatever. It doesn’t have to make sense. As long as it panders to those who think they are important enough to be conspired against.

@Tony Can you tell us where do you get data about this hockey team ? Natural news, perhaps ?

Here’s an example of how articles might incite anti-vaxxers:

CNBC, Holly Ellyat, just in:
She describes how Germany is experiencing a fourth wave of Covid infections, giving numbers and plans to use more draconian measures in various locales, including some that affect Christmas markets.
THEN, paragraphs later, we read that “.. new infections are rocketing among the unvaccinated, particularly among younger children, Covid vaccination among adults helped to keep infections, hospitalizations and deaths far lower than in previous Covid waves”
Other material about EU countries in similar straits.

We at RI KNOW how this article will be quoted by anti-vaxxers. Sometimes it seems as if headlines and openings are constructed without much thought especially when misinformation has become a widespread concern.

The Problem with articles like that is the falsehoods or manipulation.

I read something similarly about Vermont — spike in cases but mostly among unvaccinated. Then I looked at the health departments own reports, and the data did not support the claim made by the article.

I’d venture to guess that the data in Germany suggests the same.

But we don’t need to look at the data to know the vaccines are failing and vaccinated people are getting hospitalized and dying at signification rates. We’re given than answer with the push for boosters. Why boost when the vaccine is working?

And lynx continues with the dishonest rhetorical devices.

Why boost when the vaccine is working?

Why use seatbelts and airbags when modern cars have crumple zones and ABS?
While even a single dose of the vaccine reduces susceptibility and tranmission, a second dose reduces both even more so.
Orac was right. You are engaging in the Nirvana Fallacy so beloved of your ilk. Incidentally, that healthy living that you punt as a defence against COVID? That’s far less effective than the vaccine.

But we don’t need to look at the data

Antivax in a nutshell.

See also: Argument from Personal Experience, Nirvana Fallacy, YouCantTellMeWhatToDoooooo!

Meanwhile, out here in the real world, where stuff is complicated and imperfect and the polar opposite of you, we learn by hypothesizing, testing, and doing what works best. And if that experience, and the formal research that grows from it, determines that COVID immunity wanes over time requiring annual top-up vaccinations to provide continued protection for everyone, you leeches included, I’m sure you will manage to slime that effort too.

Must be nice to sit on those fat comfy buttocks with only an echo chamber betwixt the ears, never lifting one finger to help. Just don’t whine that your verbal dropping are weighted accordingly, you self-absorbing torpid slug.

you self-absorbing torpid slug

I would have run with “flaccid” slug. Each to their own, I guess.

@Unvaccinated are dying in much greater scale, so vaccination woulld reduce problem. 19/20 change to win is better than zero chahnge, would youn agree ?

Haven’t followed the whole mess about the whistleblower. My uninformed 2 cents.

Whistleblowers on data integrity of trials should be carefully recorded. Of course antivaxxers will make a mess of such incidents. But that’s not a valid reason IMO not to record people raising flags on data integrity of trials. Especially if they have insider knowledge of how things happened.

Now, I haven’t followed this story, so I may be (and am, honestly) completely uninformed.

But, I mean, there are other vaccine manufacturers than Pfizer and western “Big Pharma”.

In the end, if such whistleblowing, no matter how poorly informed, were not raised in the BMJ, it would look even worse in the long run. All the more if things ended up being not so ballooney in the long run.

I got the info about this data integrity issue from indian media (Times Now, Rahul Shivshankar) which I tend to follow quite a bit to keep up to date with central asian political issues. And I just love the hubris of indian media, honestly (it’s kind of a soap opera of raving right wingers and raving left wingers… I love it.)

They got the story running for a few days. And it did play in their national pride, as they have vaccine manufacturers too over there.

It would have looked much worse if such media got hold of the info that a would-be whistleblower was silenced by the BMJ.

I do not think it’s possible nor wise not to report that event in the modern information world.

On such data integrity issues, we should not feel obliged to care about whether or not antivaxxers will instrumentalise it. Of course they will. But there are other stakeholders than antivaxxers, and its not wise to stiffle such information. That would be a way to lend credence to the conspiracy theory well beyond the world of antivaxxers.

Bottom line: good idea to publish data integrity FUD. Then jump on the chests of antivaxxers with your two feets. That’s quite a lot of effort, I know. But I feel the alternative is worse.

And I get it that Orac is more attacking the spin than the whistleblowing. I get it…

@F68.10: 100:1 that m[a]tague = another Tim sock = abusive bipolar bellend = not worth the waste of electrons.

To my ABSOLUTELY TRUE FACT that the vaccines do not prevent transmission –
“This is absolutely untrue. Vaccines do prevent transmission. They just aren’t perfect and don’t prevent it anywhere near 100%. That doesn’t make them useless. Moreover, the Pfizer trials weren’t designed to show if the vaccine could prevent transmission. They were designed to see if it could prevent severe disease, which it did, quite convincingly. That in and of itself is highly beneficial during a pandemic, even if the vaccines didn’t prevent transmission, which more recent evidence shows that they do.”

The trials never proved this nor did they even study it. You fully admit that when you explain how they were “designed’ – did you not notice that you contradicted your assertion? LOL. ALL of the data shows that highly vaccinated areas are swimming in COVID infections. The line “they aren’t perfect” is LAUGHABLE. How much corporate media propaganda have you been consuming? Because that is their line, like exactly. You can always tell who is thinking and who is parroting propaganda pretending to be using their brain by the lines they use, and you sir are the latter. Their imperfection is an UNDERSTATEMENT, and its an EXCUSE for their utter failure. Vermont, Maine, New York, Israel, Gibralter, Scottland, UK, should I go on? Have you bothered to look those up? Have you bothered to compare their vaccination and case rates? It literally looks like the vaccine causes illness…I am not making that claim but that is what it looks like due to the overwhelming correlation between vaccine uptake and case rates. ALL of the data counters your tired, played out narrative from CNN. That data is the most recent evidence we have, so your broad reference to “the most recent evidence we have” makes no sense and doesn’t exist. There was one small study in October that tried to argue this and has been obliterated by other scientists. Additionally, it lacks peer review. In fact all the “studies” that assert your weird religious belief that they work are not peer reviewed and many have been highly criticized by prominent scientists for small representative samples, design flaws and blatant data misrepresentation by manipulation statistical practices. Early in the pandemic your cult disregarded any study that didn’t follow the double blind peer review standards anyway…you don’t get to use it now, especially since the studies you claim exist now are hysterically bad…..The “anti vaxxers” are not a bunch of hillbillies or moms on Facebook, it is literally THOUSANDS of scientists and doctors who produce actual evidence and data to back up their claims. They don’t make comments such as “well its not perfect”…..THAT is a USELESS, purposely obtuse response you heard on the news. It means nothing and lacks any substantive information what-so-ever.

The line “they aren’t perfect” is best suited for the Hep B vaccine…which works but is known to wear off after about 10 years. IN FACT all vaccines except for the COVID (and excluding the lackluster flu shot of course – which they fully admit only lasts for a few months), may need a booster after 10-25 years for about 10% or less of the population. NOT EVERYONE 6 months later LOLOLOLOLOLOL. What planet are you living on???? Do you look up any research before writing? Jesus dude.

Then your main point that the woman who blew the whistle on Pfizer wasn’t a well experienced person in the filed was “NOPE” with a link that doesn’t provide any evidence to negate her credentials. Again She has an attorney, a resume and proof of all her experience lol. She has photos of the trials, she has emails. Basically, she has the receipts, hence BMJ wrote the article. Now you assume something is wrong with BMJ because your cult doesn’t want to accept the evidence. You are absolutely part of a cult…because you cannot accept all of the OVERWHELMING evidence these vaccines are god awful and barely work. They worked in March and April of 2021, maybe. That’s it. Then they started failing and you can look that up on google or any state health care page. You also deny the overwhelming rate of heart and blood clot issues. It is BIZARRE.

Have you bothered to ask yourself why your so dedicated to this? To proving it works? Its something emotional within you that is the issue. The vaccines are not great and to be clear they never were. The trial showed 1 covid infection for the vaccinated and 2 for the placebo and the FDA allowed Pfizer to say that meant they were 100% effective. AND that information has been released. They were never that great this time around, but for the last 20 years. We haven’t been able to ever produce an effective Corona virus vaccine. HIV/AIDs is a corona virus and we still don’t have a vaccine. That is reality, You are living in a fantasy world created by corp. press.

Turn off the news. Look up the data. Compare the cases and deaths when vaccination starts in any area or state of your choice. You will see deaths sky rocket and cases go up slightly…then a lull period (the 2-3 months they were effective), then cases and deaths go up again.
You don’t have to be a scientist. You literally just look at the line graph. It proves everything your saying is FALSE…

Robert Barnes, Esq. is representing the whistleblower. He is filing a case on her behalf with proof of the documents I have mentioned attached. Look it up. She’s not lying. She literally took photos LOL. You are lying, to yourself.

Oh and Disallowing responses under your weak response…pathetic.

Of course 477 people with Covid symptoms and NOT tested is a very BIG deal.
If the unvaccinated group got 162 positive cases and the vaccinated got only 8, those 477, if split evenly, would have to around 400 for the control group and 240 for the vaccinated group. This is A VERY BIG DEAL.

No. It’s not. It doesn’t change the results of the study, and even Doshi doesn’t really argue that. For the reasons I described. Nice try, though.

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