Cochrane Founder Warns Flu Vaccine Research Is Corrupted

Story at-a-glance

  • Professor Peter Gøtzsche is a Danish physician-researcher who co-founded the Cochrane Collaboration in 1993 and later launched the Nordic Cochrane Centre. He has been an outspoken critic of conflicts of interest and bias in research
  • After Gøtzsche co-wrote a scathing review of Cochrane’s 2018 review of HPV vaccine safety, Cochrane’s governing board expelled him and, in a February 9, 2020, tweet, Gøtzsche took aim at Cochrane’s review of influenza vaccine by alleging that a “financially conflicted” individual “rearranged” vaccine trial data to make it appear as though the influenza vaccine reduces mortality, when it doesn’t
  • In the 15 years prior to Gøtzsche’s expulsion, Cochrane had published several meta-reviews, showing flu vaccinations are ineffective for preventing influenza and influenza-like illness, and have no appreciable effect on hospitalizations and mortality
  • March 3, 2020, Maine residents will have the opportunity to go to the polls and repeal LD 798 to reinstate religious and philosophical vaccine exemptions by voting YES on ballot referendum Question 1
  • The “No on 1” ad campaign primarily financed by Big Pharma has already spent $476,000 on misleading television ads to defeat the ballot referendum that would restore vaccine exemptions in Maine. All but $56,000 for the ad campaign has been paid by vaccine manufacturers, which will profit from keeping the state’s “no exceptions” vaccine mandates (LD 798) in place

While the drug industry is quick to claim that anyone questioning its integrity is part of a “war against science,” the evidence of industry malfeasance is simply too great and too disturbing to ignore.

From my perspective, the drug industry itself is to blame for the public’s dwindling confidence in scientific findings. Loss of confidence is a natural result when lie after lie is unearthed, and there’s been no shortage of scientific scandals to shake public confidence in recent years.

One researcher who has helped expose industry bias in research is professor Peter Gøtzsche, a Danish physician-researcher who in 1993 co-founded the Cochrane Collaboration and later launched the Nordic Cochrane Centre.

Cochrane publishes hundreds of scientific reviews each year, looking at what works and what doesn’t, and was for decades considered the gold standard for independent scientific meta-reviews.

The organization’s reputation remained remarkably unblemished all the way up until 2018, when Gøtzsche and Cochrane-affiliated researchers Lars Jørgensen and Tom Jefferson published a scathing critique of Cochrane’s review of the HPV vaccine,1 pointing out methodological flaws and conflicts of interest.

Gøtzsche was subsequently expelled by the Cochrane governing board (although the board insists his removal from the board was due to “repeated misuse of official letterhead to espouse personal views” and had nothing to do with his criticism of Cochrane’s HPV review2). Four board members (Gerald Gartlehner, David Hammerstein Mintz, Joerg Meerpohl and Nancy Santesso) resigned in protest of Gotzsche’s removal from the Cochrane governing board.3

In a three-page letter4 to the Nordic Cochrane Centre, Gøtzsche addressed his expulsion and questioned the path Cochrane’s leadership has chosen in recent years, noting “the central executive team of Cochrane has failed to activate adequate safeguards … to assure sufficient policies in the fields of epistemology, ethics and morality.”

Cochrane Founder Highlights Corrupted Flu Vaccine Research

In a February 9, 2020, tweet, Gøtzsche wrote:5 “Cochrane corruption. A Cochrane review did not find that flu shots reduce deaths … ‘After invitation from Cochrane,’ a financially conflicted person ‘re-arranged’ the data and vaccines reduced deaths. They don’t …”

This information, he says, is included in his new book, “Vaccines: Truth, Lies and Controversy.” Indeed, in years’ past, Cochrane has repeatedly found flu vaccinations are ineffective and have no appreciable effect on influenza-related hospitalizations and mortality. For example:

Its 2006 systematic review6 of 51 studies involving 263,987 children, which sought to “appraise all comparative studies evaluating the effects of influenza vaccines in healthy children; assess vaccine efficacy (prevention of confirmed influenza) and effectiveness (prevention of influenza-like illness)” found:

“Live vaccines showed an efficacy of 79% and an effectiveness of 33% in children older than two years compared with placebo or no intervention. Inactivated vaccines had a lower efficacy of 59% than live vaccines but similar effectiveness: 36%. In children under two, the efficacy of inactivated vaccine was similar to placebo.”

Cochrane’s 2010 review7 of 50 influenza vaccine studies found that:

“In the relatively uncommon circumstance of vaccine matching the viral circulating strain and high circulation, 4% of unvaccinated people versus 1% of vaccinated people developed influenza symptoms …

Vaccination had a modest effect on time off work and had no effect on hospital admissions … Inactivated vaccines caused local harms and an estimated 1.6 additional cases of Guillain-Barré Syndrome per million vaccinations … There is no evidence that they affect complications, such as pneumonia, or transmission.”

This review also included the following notice:

“WARNING: This review includes 15 out of 36 trials funded by industry (four had no funding declaration). An earlier systematic review of 274 influenza vaccine studies published up to 2007 found industry funded studies were published in more prestigious journals and cited more than other studies independently from methodological quality and size.

Studies funded from public sources were significantly less likely to report conclusions favorable to the vaccines. The review showed that reliable evidence on influenza vaccines is thin but there is evidence of widespread manipulation of conclusions and spurious notoriety of the studies. The content and conclusions of this review should be interpreted in light of this finding.”

Cochrane’s 2010 review8 of 75 studies of vaccines for preventing influenza in the elderly concluded that:

“Due to the general low quality of non-RCTs and the likely presence of biases, which make interpretation of these data difficult and any firm conclusions potentially misleading, we were unable to reach clear conclusions about the effects of the vaccines in the elderly.”

Cochrane’s 2018 review9 of 52 clinical studies on vaccines for preventing influenza in adults, including pregnant women, found only 15% of the studies were well-designed and conducted. Based on 25 studies that looked at inactivated influenza vaccines, Cochrane concluded they have only a minor protective effect against influenza and influenza-like illness (ILI), noting:

“Inactivated influenza vaccines probably reduce influenza in healthy adults from 2.3% without vaccination to 0.9% and they probably reduce ILI from 21.5% to 18.1% … 71 healthy adults need to be vaccinated to prevent one of them experiencing influenza, and 29 healthy adults need to be vaccinated to prevent one of them experiencing an ILI …

We identified one RCT and one controlled clinical trial assessing the effects of vaccination in pregnant women. The efficacy of inactivated vaccine containing pH1N1 against influenza was 50% in mothers (NNV [number needed to vaccinate] 55), and 49% in infants up to 24 weeks (NNV 56).

No data were available on efficacy against seasonal influenza during pregnancy. Evidence from observational studies showed effectiveness of influenza vaccines against ILI in pregnant women to be 24% (NNV 94), and against influenza in newborns from vaccinated women to be 41%.”

In its 2018 review10 of 41 clinical trials on live and inactivated vaccines for preventing influenza in children, they found:

“Compared with placebo or do nothing, live attenuated influenza vaccines probably reduce the risk of influenza infection in children aged 3 to 16 years from 18% to 4%, and they may reduce ILI by a smaller degree, from 17% to 12% …

Seven children would need to be vaccinated to prevent one case of influenza, and 20 children would need to be vaccinated to prevent one child experiencing an ILI …

Compared with placebo or no vaccination, inactivated vaccines reduce the risk of influenza in children aged 2 to 16 years from 30% to 11%, and they probably reduce ILI from 28% to 20%.

Five children would need to be vaccinated to prevent one case of influenza, and 12 children would need to be vaccinated to avoid one case of ILI …

Adverse event data were not well described in the available studies. Standardized approaches to the definition, ascertainment, and reporting of adverse events are needed.”


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