Before this programme was screened on July 20th 2022, promotional material from the BBC and in newspaper articles such as this suggested it was going to be extremely biased and inaccurate.
Based on this publicity material we already wrote articles first criticising the claim that only 8% of the U.K. adult population was unvaccinated and then highlighting the fact that the publicity material failed to reveal the blatant conflicts of interest of the key ‘experts’ used in the programme to convince the seven unvaccinated participants to get vaccinated.
Our pre-screening articles and tweets about the forthcoming programme were very widely read and one of the participants, Nazarin, contacted us to express her serious concerns about the way the programme was made – and how it might be edited – and to confirm that the participants were indeed not informed of the experts’ conflicts of interest (this is covered well in this article by threadsirish). Her subsequent tweets, such as the following, made clear her extreme concerns about the programme even before it was screened.
The programme turned out to be every bit as bad and biased as feared.
Many of the problems have been highlighted by the especially vocal participants Nazarin and Vicky (see their interviews with Dan Wooton and Sonia Poulton). Below we summarise our key concerns and what was missing.
- Claim of 4 million U.K. adults unvaccinated: Despite us alerting the BBC to this error (which led it to change its website description) this claim (i.e., that only 8% of adults were unvaccinated) was right up front. It set the context suggesting that this was only a tiny crazed minority. But what was really interesting is that the presenter Hannah Fry stated that, as part of the programme research, they did a survey of 2,500 people about their views on vaccination and she was surprised to discover that 600 were unvaccinated. If the sample was representative of U.K. adults (and there was no suggestion it was not) then that means 24% of U.K. adults are unvaccinated, which is even higher than the figure we estimate, and blows apart the BBC’s ludicrous 8% claim. (UPDATE: @NakedEmperorUK points out that the survey was indeed representative of the population and that the actual number never vaccinated was 664 out of 2,570 – i.e., 26%. This provides further evidence of what we have claimed for a long time: the ONS is massively underestimating the proportion of unvaccinated.)
- Failure to disclose the Pfizer links of the two key experts (Finn and Khalil) on the programme: As feared, the programme did not inform either the participants or the viewers of the major conflicts of interest of the key experts. Professor Adam Finn (Bristol University) was the expert chosen to explain what the vaccines were and why they were safe; but he is the leader of the Pfizer Centre of Excellence for Epidemiology of Vaccine-preventable Diseases – set up with an initial £4.6 million investment in May 2021. He even implied he was independent when he said, about the U.S. pharma companies Pfizer and Moderna, that he “acted as a buffer between them and the public”. Asma Khalil was the expert chosen to explain why it was important for pregnant women to get the vaccination. But Asma Khalil is the Principal Investigator of the Pfizer Covid vaccination in pregnancy trial. Another expert, psychologist Clarissa Simas has had many Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) grants.
- Failure to disclose background to FullFact.org: The CEO Will Moy was brought in to claim that vaccine hesitancy was all due to online ‘misinformation’. But Full Fact has received massive funding by organisations like Google and Facebook to present precisely the biased narrative that all the Covid ‘misinformation’ is coming from ‘antivaxxers and conspiracy theorists’ and it has shown no interest in pointing out the far greater volume of misinformation put out by governments, the pharmaceutical companies and their supporters. They only ‘fact check’ information that counters the ‘standard narrative’ and avoid checking obvious misinformation claims of vaccine efficacy and safety. For some background on how bad Full Fact are see this article.
- No challenge to the many explicit false claims made: Among the most outrageous and demonstrably false claims that went unchallenged were: 1) Adam Finn claimed that people had stronger immunity from the vaccination than from having been infected; 2) Asma Khalil claimed the vaccination was not only completely safe for pregnant women but actually reduced the risk of miscarriage by 15% (but look at what was in the Pfizer trial with more here).
- The jellybeans game: Hannah Fry tried to create the impression that only one in 33,000 had a serious adverse reaction by mischievously picking that number as the incidence of myocarditis, which she claims was the most common serious adverse reaction. Showing what 33,000 jellybeans looked like – only one of which was ‘bad’ – was supposed to show how ‘rare’ adverse reactions to the vaccines were. But the most recent relevant data (from the German Government) actually suggest as many as one in 300 serious adverse reactions per dose after the vaccine. Assuming independence between doses this means that a triple vaccinated person has an approximate probability of one in a 100 of getting a serious adverse reaction and for a person doubled boosted this rises to one in 75. And, as somebody on Twitter said: “What if all the bad jelly beans were in one big batch and all the others weren’t ‘good jelly beans’ – we just didn’t know yet?”
- No mention of the failure of the vaccination to stop infection or transmission of Covid.
- Failure to humanise any actual vaccination victims. The programme spoke about actual unvaccinated people dying from Covid, but used the bad jelly beans to represent vaccination victims. Why didn’t they mention actual victims like the BBC’s own Lisa Shaw or Vicky Spit’s husband Zion?
- The ludicrous and misleading MMR vaccination anecdote: In response to the nine-page Pfizer report of adverse reactions, Hannah Fry used a bizarre anecdote to downplay its impact. This imagined a doctor about to give the MMR jab to a child when the phone rings; there is a 50:50 chance he picks up the phone before giving the jab. He picks up the phone and during the call the child has a fit. Saying there was a 50:50 chance the doctor picks up the phone or gives the jab deliberately creates the false impression that there is also a 50:50 chance any adverse reaction after a vaccination is purely coincidental.
- No challenge to the powerful claim that 20 out of 21 ICU patients at St. Georges’s hospital in Dec 2021 were unvaccinated: All evidence of national ICU data suggests vaccinated are now disproportionally hospitalised with Covid, so this claim was either false/exaggerated or an unbelievable outlier. Much more likely, the ‘unvaccinated’ were defined as ‘not fully boosted’ rather than ‘never vaccinated’ as was implied.
- Failure to mention reported data on adverse reactions: Systems like VAERS in the U.S. and Yellow Card in the U.K. make it difficult to report adverse reactions and so are widely believed to massively underestimate true numbers. Yet, in VAERS alone (mainly U.S.) as of July 8th there were 1,341,605 Covid vaccine adverse reactions, of which 29,460 were deaths. In all 32 years of VAERS reporting a total of only 9,754 deaths (and 878,053 adverse events) were recorded for all other vaccines combined. So, in just 18 months, three times as many deaths for Covid vaccines have been recorded than in 32 years combined for all other vaccines.
- No mention of the true risk of Covid based on world wide data: Except for those with multiple comorbidities (who are not given appropriate early treatments) Covid poses very little risk of hospitalisation and death. Young people are at essentially zero risk of dying due to Covid.
- No mention of the way Covid data are by definition fixed to exaggerate cases numbers, hospitalisations, deaths as well as vaccine efficacy and safety. Specifically: any person admitted to hospital who had a PCR positive within 14 days prior – or who tests PCR positive after hospitalisation – is classified as a Covid hospitalisation even if the reason for hospitalisation was unrelated to Covid; any person who dies within 28 days of a PCR positive test is classified as a Covid death irrespective of the true cause of death; any person who contracts Covid or who suffers adverse reaction inside 14 days of vaccination is classified as ‘unvaccinated’.
- No mention of lack of long-term safety data: In particular, the failure of the Pfizer trial to provide this was glossed over, suggesting that their people were so dedicated that they worked much faster than for any previous vaccine to ensure a high quality and safe product.
- No mention of all the protocol violations now known in the main Pfizer trial. Even with the violations, Pfizer’s own data showed more deaths in the vaccine arm than placebo arm and the risk of serious adverse event in the vaccinated was greater than the risk of Covid hospitalisation in the unvaccinated.
- No mention of international data showing strong evidence the vaccine is neither effective nor safe: Countries with the lowest vaccination rates have the lowest Covid death rates; spikes in all-cause deaths happen after vaccination dose rollouts; countries with the highest vaccination rates have the highest Covid rates and are experiencing non-Covid excess death increases; and falling birth rates. There is no reliable evidence anywhere in world that vaccinated people have lower all-cause mortality than unvaccinated.
- What was Hannah Fry’s involvement in the stat/maths modelling: Near the start of the programme Hannah stated that she had been involved in the stats/maths modelling that “helped get us out of lockdown”. This was a surprising claim. It’s the first we had heard that such modelling was formally used to get us out of lockdown. If she was involved in such modelling, she was presumably also involved in the modelling that took us into lockdown (curiously nobody wants to be associated with that any more given we know it was so wrong with disastrous consequences). What exactly was her involvement in this modelling – are there papers describing it other than this one?
Norman Fenton is Professor in Risk Information Management at Queen Mary University of London. Martin Neil is Professor in Computer Science and Statistics at Queen Mary University of London. This article first appeared on their website, Probability and Risk.
Stop Press: Watch Nick Dixon, host of our podcast the Weekly Sceptic, discuss the “fair and balanced” documentary on the latest episode of the Lotus Eaters podcast.
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