Science scepticism may be reinforced by UK rush to approve vaccines

COVID-19: Science scepticism may be reinforced by UK rush to approve vaccines: Former director of public health Professor John Ashton has said that scientific scepticism may be reinforced by the UK’s rush to approve COVID vaccines for public use and the apparent political desire to be the first out of the blocks in contrast to our European neighbours.

Writing in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, Prof Ashton says that to risk the trust of the public for the sake of a couple of weeks propaganda advantage could prove to be unforgivable should vaccine uptake fall below that required for the ubiquitous ‘herd immunity’ as a result of giving oxygen to the sceptics.

“In this age of scientific rationality, superstition and anti-science still run deep,” he writes. “When an overwhelming majority of the public welcomes the arrival of COVID vaccination, it is salutary to remind ourselves of the main arguments deployed against its value and use.”

As well as the readily understood fear of injections, Prof Ashton writes that other objections have included that vaccination is ‘unchristian’, that it is an infringement of personal liberty and that it is part of a more general suspicion of scientific medicine.

In his paper, Prof Ashton draws on the experience of the Victorian anti-vaccination leagues which were set up in the 19th century to campaign against smallpox vaccination and which offer a history lesson on the breakdown of trust between the government and the public.

COVID-19 and the anti-vaxxers (DOI: 10.1177/0141076820986065) by John Ashton:

Professor John Ashton CBE, formerly North West Regional Director of Public Health and Regional Medical Officer from 1993 – 2006 and Director of Public Health and County medical Officer for Cumbria from 2006- 2013 has been elected President of the Faculty of Public Health of the Royal Colleges of Physicians from 2013 – 2016 was born in Liverpool in 1947.

He was educated at Quarry Bank High School in Liverpool, the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne Medical School and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. He specialised in psychiatry, general practice, family planning and reproductive medicine before entering Public Health in 1976.

John worked in Newcastle and Northumberland, Hampshire and London before returning to Liverpool and the North West in 1983. For two years he was a councillor on Hampshire County Council.

John Ashton is well known for his work on Planned Parenthood and healthy cities and for his personal advocacy for Public Health. He was a member of the British delegation to Macedonia during the Kosovo emergency and played a prominent role in resolving the fuel dispute. He has been prominent in the fight for justice for the 96 victims of the Hillsborough football disaster.

John holds chairs in the Liverpool medical School, Liverpool John Moore’s University, the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Manchester Medical School, the Valencia Institute of Public Health in Spain, the Universities of Central Lancashire, Lancaster and Cumbria.

He is the author of many scientific papers: articles and chapters in books and of several books including “The New Public Health” which has been the standard textbook on Public Health.

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1 month ago

“In this age of scientific rationality, superstition and anti-science still run deep,” he writes.  John Ashton completely misses the point. The rational position is to research the reality of the Covid threat, which is not much at all for most people; research the vaccines invented to counter the minimal threat, and make a decision as to whether the acknowledged risks of the vaccine are worth it in the face of a virus which is little risk. The scientific position is not about rationality but evidence and that comes from across the spectrum. There are scientists and doctors who support and… Read more »

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