Is “The Conversation” Biased?

Editor’s Note: The “No jab, no pay” policy being developed at Australian Government level has brought many vaccine policy activists to the forefront, with polarisation to extreme levels between pro-vaxers and anti-vaxers and a range of other perspectives in between.
i2P prefers to support the perspective of “safe-vaxing” as it is definitely not against the principle of vaccination, but it is definitely not a blanket “pro” for all vaccinations.
It is an issue that affects pharmacy directly and i2P is trying to shine a light on the underlying and often hidden agendas within the vaccination industry.
The Conversation has to this point been an informative and respected publication, funded and supported by Australian Universities.
It has continued to build influence globally, and i2P has either republished material or used The Conversation as a reference point when our writers needed some authoritative information.
We hope that the balance identified by Elizabeth Hart can be restored.

Executive Director and Editor
The Conversation

Mr Jaspan

I suggest there are serious problems of bias and censorship at The Conversation and I question whether you are fulfilling your charter.

The Conversation is very ‘pro-vaccination’, there is little in the way of critical analysis of vaccine products. For example The Conversation has helped promote HPV vaccination.  I suggest HPV vaccination is controversial, see for example my summary which discusses the questionable way HPV vaccination was initiated in Australia when Tony Abbott was Health Minister in 2006.

The Conversation should be mindful that it has conflicts of interest in that it receives funding from universities that receive funding from the pharmaceutical industry for vaccine research.
It seems to me that The Conversation is a marketing arm for the university and research sector.

Today comments were closed down on The Conversation article“Forget ‘no jab, no pay’ schemes, there are better ways to boost vaccination”.

Comments were also recently closed down on Want to boost vaccination? Don’t punish parents, build their trust” and “’No jab, no pay’ policy has a serious ethical sting”.

I had posted detailed and referenced comments on these articles relevant to vaccine policy and practice, with some still awaiting a response. I had planned to post more comments, but I have now been thwarted in this regard, as ‘the conversation’ has been closed down.  Opportunities for serious discussion on vaccination policy and practice are limited in the current hostile climate, and The Conversation does not help by curtailing debate.

Mr Jaspan, Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s announcement that vaccination will be compulsory to obtain family tax benefits is a very serious matter.  We are on a slippery slope when governments mandate medical interventions such as vaccination.

There are serious problems with transparency and accountability for vaccination policy in Australia, and I have recently raised this matter with Prime Minister Abbott, see my letter dated 21 January 2015.  There is a serious problem of potential conflicts of interest and lack of disclosure by people influencing vaccination policy.

Tony Abbott, and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, have reacted to the crude “No Jab, No Play” campaign by News Corp Australia media, e.g. The Sunday Telegraph.

It appears the vigilante pro-vaccination group SAVN (Stop the Australian (Anti) Vaccination Network) was also instrumental in this campaign.  It also appears The Conversation is a supporter of SAVN, as evidenced by its publishing articles by self-avowed SAVN members, e.g. Rachael Dunlop and Patrick Stokes.  It is notable that Patrick Stokes’ membership of SAVN is not included in the Disclosure Statement on his article “No, you’re not entitled to your opinion”.

I have tried to raise serious discussion about vaccination and individual vaccine products on The Conversation as my ‘activity’ illustrates, but I have often been impeded by followers of the SAVN who colonise comments threads on vaccination articles on The Conversation.

I was astonished today to discover that SAVN member Patrick Stokes has the ability to ‘hide’ (i.e. censor) comments on articles on vaccination on The Conversation, (see discussion between Patrick Stokes and Adam Bonner on “Forget ‘no jab, no pay’ schemes, there are better ways to boost vaccination”).  Patrick Stokes is hardly an impartial arbiter, on what basis have you given him this power?

I also suggest there are serious problems at The Conversation in regards to proper disclosure of authors’ potential conflicts of interest.  In this regard see my discussion with Professor C Raina MacIntyre on the “Want to boost vaccination? Don’t punish parents, build their trust” comments thread.

It is also ironic that experts on vaccination such as Professor MacIntyre and A/Professor Kristine Macartney do not appear to understand the difference between ‘vaccination’ and ‘immunisation’, and incorrectly use these words interchangeably, another point I raised on their articles.  If ‘experts’ are so careless with the basics, what else are they getting wrong?

Mr Jaspan, compulsory vaccination is at odds with the requirement for ‘valid consent’ before vaccination, see Section 2.1.3 of The Australian Immunisation Handbook.

I suggest there should be an investigation into the aggressive campaign to make vaccination compulsory in Australia, and the tactics used by News Corp Australia, SAVN, and The Conversation.

Yours sincerely

Elizabeth Hart


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