Suppressing Scientific Discourse on Vaccines? Self-perceptions of Researchers and Practitioners

Ety Elisha, Josh Guetzkow, Yaffa Shir-Raz, Natti Ronel

The controversy over vaccines has recently intensi ed in the wake of the global COVID-19 pandemic, with calls from politicians, health professionals, journalists, and citizens to take harsh measures against so-called “anti-vaxxers,” while accusing them of spreading “fake news” and as such, of endangering public health. However, the issue of suppression of vaccine dissenters has rarely been studied from the point of view of those who raise concerns about vaccine safety.

The purpose of the present study was to examine the subjective perceptions of professionals (physicians, nurses, researchers) involved with vaccines through practice and/or research and who take a critical view on vaccines, about what they perceive as the suppression of dissent in the eld of vaccines, their response to it, and its potential implications on science and medicine. Respondents reported being subjected to a variety of censorship and suppression tactics, including the retraction of papers pointing to vaccine safety problems, negative publicity, difficulty in obtaining research funding, calls for dismissal, summonses to official hearings, suspension of medical licenses, and self-censorship. Respondents also reported on what has been termed a “backfire effect” – a counter-reaction that draws more attention to the opponents’ position. Suppression of dissent impairs scientific discourse and research practice while creating the false impression of scientific consensus.

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