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BBC response to my complaint about "Unvaccinated"

Updated: Aug 28, 2022

Two weeks ago I submitted a complaint to the BBC about it's "Unvaccinated" documentary based on the details in this critique. Today I received the following pathetic response.

Dear Prof Fenton, Thanks for contacting us about ‘Unvaccinated’, broadcast on 20 July. With UK Covid infections on the rise, this programme sought to understand why some people remain unvaccinated against Covid-19. To fully explore this debate a group of unvaccinated strangers, each with their own different reasons for not getting the vaccine, were brought together to discuss their views and the programme fairly represented what happened over the 6 days of filming. As the programme said, there are still around four million adults who remain unvaccinated - this is based on government figures and Office for National Statistics estimates. To assist with the science, the programme included Professor Finn of the University of Bristol and Professor Khalil of St George's University Hospital (University of London). In his capacity as an employee of the University, Professor Finn leads a research group within the Pfizer Vaccine Centre of Excellence - where his work in relation to Covid-19 vaccines is independent of Pfizer and he did not lead or conduct any trials of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine. Similarly, Prof Khalil is an employee of St George's Hospital and in that capacity is the Principal Investigator of Preg-CoV - the largest clinical trial in the UK, funded by the government, investigating the best gap between first and second COVID-19 vaccine doses for pregnant women. Professor Khalil has not conducted any independent paid consultancy work for Pfizer or any other pharma company relating to Covid-19 vaccines and her position at St George’s is not dependent on Pfizer funding. Professor Khalil receives no payment or benefit directly from Pfizer. The programme acknowledges that in some rare circumstances the vaccine has been shown to cause harm. Your feedback is valued and has been seen by the ‘Unvaccinated’ team. Thanks again for taking the time to contact us. Kind regards,

BBC Complaints Team

The response completely fails to address most of the points in my complaint, choosing to focus only on the concerns I raised about a) the undeclared conflicts of interest of Prof Finn and Prof Khalil and b) the accuracy of the "4 million unvaccinated adults" claim.

Note that they try to downplay Prof Finn's Pfizer association by saying he "leads a research group within the Pfizer Vaccine Centre of Excellence" whereas - as this announcement on his own University's website announced on 28/5/2021 - Finn leads the whole Centre which was set up then with an initial investment of £4.6 million from Pfizer.

As for Prof Khalil, they seem to be claiming no Pfizer association at all, but in the Nature article she co-authored she declares in "competing interests" that she is PI of the Pfizer COVID in pregnancy trial:

I already pointed out those details, so I am not sure why the BBC is trying to ignore and/or downplay these conflicts of interest.

Finally, regarding my complaint about the "4 million unvaccinated adults" claim - which amounts to just 8% of the adult population. They claim "this is based on government figures and Office for National Statistics estimates." Well I already pointed out to them that I knew this figure was based on ONS estimates, but we know they are wrong, not least because they are completely contradicted by data from another government agency - the UKHSA - which estimates 20% of adults are unvaccinated. If the BBC choose to ignore the "government figures" of UKHSA , then why do they at least not trust their own extensive survey of a representative sample of 2570 adults carried out explicitly for the programme. Of these 664 were unvaccinated, which is 26%. Based on that survey, there is essentially zero probability that the true population unvaccinated percentage is less than 20%. In fact, there is a 99.973% probability the proportion of unvaccinated is at least 23%.

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