MHRA and BBC fail to meet their own deadline for responding to complaints about "Unvaccinated"
23 November 2022 UPDATE:
Jeremy Hayes The BBC Complaints Director has finally provided their response (8 pages pdf file). Unsurprisingly it's a complete whitewash. He fails to properly address the complaint that the "8% unvaccinated" was a massive underestimate and argue (without any explanation for the discrepancy) that the highly representative survey they used (which unfortunately for them showed 26% unvacinated) "was not intended to estimate the take-up of the vaccine across the population of the UK."
Regarding the fact that the programme failed to mention that Prof Finn was the leader of the Pfizer Centre of Excellence for Epidemiology of Vaccine-preventable Diseases at Bristol University, Hayes says he does "not think that his position at the University of Bristol in a research centre on epidemiology sponsored by a company which produces a Covid vaccine itself was information which could have materially altered the perception of his observations".
Regarding the fact that the programme failed to mention that Prof Khalil was the Principal Investigator of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine trial in healthy pregnant women, Hayes says: "The fact that the trial was sponsored by the manufacturer is not a reason in my judgment to question Professor Khalil’s expertise in maternal vaccinations or require disclosure in the context of her contribution".
All the other defences he uses against the misinformation presented in the programme are based on simply cherry-picking flawed studies that support what was said while ignoring the overwhelming evidence of the contrary. But what was particularly amusing was the defence of the ludicrous claim by Dr Patel that 20 out of 21 ICU patients at St George’s hospital in Dec 2021 were unvaccinated. He says: "I have approached the programme makers for information about the data which were quoted by Dr Patel. I have been advised that the figures were compiled by Dr Patel himself for the purposes of research".
5 November 2022 UPDATE
Both the MHRA and BBC have now 'replied' to the follow-up complaints described in the orginal posting here below.
This is the MHRA response (pdf) to Dr Black. As Dr Black says:
Unsurprisingly the MHRA have doubled down on their initial decision and refused to engage with any of the details of the complaint because they continue to assert that the programme was not promotion. They originally said it was not promotion because it did not contain any product claims. So I sent them a list of product claims made in the programme and this was their latest response:
“We consider the examples listed in your follow-up letter about “vaccine” are factual statements, not product claims.” This is of course a risable response and begs the retort “When is a product claim not a product claim ? Answer: When it’s made by the BBC, then it becomes a ‘factual statement’ !"
Their other reason for continuing to deny that the programme promoted the use of the vaccines was “ the documentary cannot have led members of the public to request a prescription-only medicine because the decision of which product(s) to deploy is one made by public health officials.” This so ridiculous a response that it’s difficult to know where to start.
They do appear to be so desperate to get this out of their in-tray that they are now volunteering to send it to the ASA on our behalf. In my opinion, I think it would be a mistake to accept this offer. I doubt the ASA are geared up to deal with a complaint with such potentially serious PH implications. We have insisted that this is a job for the MHRA and I think we should stick to our guns. Their decision not to investigate our complaint is now on the record and hopefully they will be held to account for it one day.
The BBC, having promised on 26 August 2022 "to respond within 35 days", sent the following on 21 October 2022:
From: BBC ECU <email@example.com> Sent: 21 October 2022 14:09 To: Norman Fenton
Dear Professor Fenton
I am writing to apologise for the delay in responding to your complaint about "Unvaccinated". There has been a delay in access to relevant data to allow me to complete my investigation, and I am afraid it will take longer than expected.
Complaints Director BBC Executive Complaints Unit BBC Wogan House, Level 1, 99 Great Portland Street, London W1A 1AA
Clearly neither the MHRA or the BBC are not fit for purpose any more.
5 October 2022
I have written extensively about the serious problems with the BBC2 documentary "Unvaccinated" and the many complaints made about it. In this article I reproduced (with their permission) the complaint sent by a group of scientists and clinicians to MHRA about how the programme likely breached regulations governing advertising of prescription medicines. The article also reproduced the ludicrous response from MHRA dismissing the complaint.
On 4 Sept 2022 the same group of scientists and clinicians sent this appeal of the initial MHRA response . Despite the MHRA 20-day response time they like to quote there has been no response. They wrote to the MHRA again last week to ask when they could expect a response to their appeal but have yet to receive a response to that email either.
Interestingly, the BBC has also failed to meet its own response deadline to my follow-up complaint of 26 August to them about the programme; note that follow-up complaints have to be made to the Executive Complaints Unit (ECU) and you have to go through quite a few hoops for them to even allow such a follow-up complaint. Here is the acknowledgement they sent on 27 August:
From: BBC ECU Sent: 27 August 2022 13:42 To: Norman Fenton Subject: ECU Confirmation
Dear Norman Fenton
The ECU will investigate your complaint and aim to reply within 20 working days of receiving it, though some complaints take longer than others to investigate. A target of 35 working days applies to those complaints that require longer or more complex investigation.
Here are the details of your Complaint:
My original complaint was detailed fully in my blog posting here:
In summary the key points (see the article for details) were:
• Claim of (only) 4 million UK adults unvaccinated is a massive underestimate
• Failure to disclose the Pfizer links of the two key experts (Finn and Khalil) on the programme:
• Failure to disclose background to FullFact.org
• No challenge to the many explicit false claims made
• The jellybeans game sequence was not only offensive, but it totally underestimates the known rate of serious adverse reactions
• No mention of the failure of the vaccination to stop infection or transmission of covid
• Failure to humanize any actual vaccination victims.
• The ludicrous and misleading MMR vaccination anecdote
• No challenge to the powerful claim that 20 out of 21 ICU patients at St Georges’s hospital in Dec 2021 were unvaccinated:
• Failure to mention reported data on adverse reactions:
• No mention of the true risk of covid based on world wide data:
• No mention of the way covid data are by definition fixed to exaggerate cases numbers, hospitalizations, deaths as well as vaccine efficacy and safety.
• No mention of lack of long-term safety data:
• No mention of all the protocol violations now known in the main Pfizer trial.
• No mention of international data showing strong evidence the vaccine is neither effective nor safe:
The BBC responses have focused on the first two points (the number of unvaccinated and the failure to disclose Pfizer links of Finn and Khalil). Even if we ignore the fact that the BBC has not addressed the other complaints, the BBC response to the first 2 points is totally inadequate and flawed.
The BBC is quoting ONS data for the estimate of adult unvaccinated (they estimate 8%) but fails to acknowledge that this is just one (extremely biased) estimate. Another UK Government agency UKHSA estimates 20% adult unvaccinated (see
https://www.normanfenton.com/post/bbc-wants-to-understand-why-8-of-the-population-remains-unvaccinated-against-covid) and as I made clear in my complaint the large representative ICM survey commissioned for the programme itself revealed 26% adult unvaccinated. This is explained in detail in this video I made:
To continually quote the obviously flawed ONS figure as 'the truth' is contemptible but fits the biased narrative that the documentary wished to create, namely that while a ‘large’ number of adults remained unvaccinated they still only represent a tiny fringe minority.
Regarding the BBC response on the failure to disclose the Pfizer links of Finn and Khalil, this is also laughable. To claim that there was no need to disclose any links because they are not directly paid by Pfizer is more ludicrous than claiming a season ticket holder of a Premiership Football Club can give an unbiased opinion of their Club’s ability as they are not paid by the Club. The fact is – as you must be well aware – being the LEADER of the Pfizer Centre of Excellence for Epidemiology of Vaccine-preventable Diseases (set up with an initial £4.6 million investment by Pfizer in May 2021) - means that Finn cannot possibly be assumed to provide an unbiased opinion on the Pfizer vaccines. Similarly, Khalil being the PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR of the Pfizer funded vaccination in pregnancy trial, means she cannot possibly be assumed to provide an unbiased opinion on the Pfizer vaccines. Irrespective of whether the claims made by Finn and Khalil were correct or not, the failure by the BBC to inform both the participants and the public of their Pfizer associations is a disgrace.
Thank you again for contacting us,
BBC Complaints Team
41 days on there has still been no response by the BBC.