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A critique of the BBC2 documentary “Unvaccinated”

Updated: Aug 3, 2022

Before this programme was screened on 20 July 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 criticizing the claim that only 8% of the UK 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). (Note: see update below on the thoughts of another participant who contacted us). 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 UK adults unvaccinated: Despite us alerting the BBC to this error (which led them to change their 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 UK adults (and there was no suggestion it was not) then that means 24% of UK 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 2570 - 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. Prof Adam Finn (Bristol University) was the expert chosen to explained 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 US 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 PI of the Pfizer covid vaccination in pregnancy trial. Another expert, psychologist Clarissa Simas has had many Bill and Malinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) grants.

  • Failure to disclose background to The CEO Will Moy was brought in to claim that vaccine hesitancy was all due to online ‘misinformation’. But fullfact have 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 they have shown no interest in pointing out the far greater volume of misinformation put out by governments, the pharma 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 fullfact 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).

  • The jellybeans game: Hannah Fry tried to create the impression that only 1 in 33,000 had a serious adverse reaction by mischievously picking that number as the incidence of myocarditis, which she claims was by 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 1 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 1 in a 100 of getting a serious adverse reaction and for a person doubled boosted this rises to 1 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 humanize 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 9-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