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Issue 1792 (PDF)
The student newspaper of Imperial College London

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Imperial Professor goes viral for anti-vax rebuke

Imperial Professor Robin Shattock told an audience member of the BBC's Question Time that what they were saying was "nonsense".

200611 Shattock Lab Covid19 Coronavirus 020 Photo: Imperial College London


in Issue 1792

In a rare case of double virality, an Imperial professor has made the rounds on social media after decrying an anti- vaxer in the Question Time audience for talking “nonsense”. The Times described the clip in question as “going viral”.

Professor Robin Shattock is Head of Mucosal Infection and Immunity in the department of Medicine at Imperial College. His work focuses on mechanisms of mucosal infection, and the development of preventative strategies for a developing world setting.

Professor Shattock was a guest on Question Time on Tuesday 3rd Febuary. The producers of the show had previously put out a call on Twitter for people who had decided not to get vaccinated to attend the show as audience members.

Shattock said he wanted to differentiate between vaccines for the general population and vaccines for healthcare workers, as healthcare workers have a duty of care which “first of all is to do no harm”. He said he can “see no logical answer” for someone in the healthcare profession not to get the vaccine, as it is known to reduce harm of the virus and to reduce the spread. He added that the way to achieve this was probably not to introduce a vaccine mandate.

The audience member who asked the question in the “viral” clip drew comparison between Covid vaccine side effects and side effects from a Swine Flu vaccine rolled out during the Swine Flu epidemic, which he stated had caused up to 800 cases of narcolepsy in children.

He said he has “great respect” for people who have questioned the evidence. “Science is all about questioning the evidence... I spend my life looking at evidence and questioning it.” “First of all, one thing is really important to recognise, is that there are a range of vaccines out there. They don’t all have the same side effects.”

Shattock then addressed the Swine Flu vaccine comparison, stating that the cases of narcolepsy were not as related to the vaccine as had originally been thought. “We have far more safety data based on the current vaccines because they have now been in billions of people, and the evidence is there and accessible so if you want to do a data analysis and look at the risk ratio and hazard ratios, you can get those numbers, there’s no secrecy around it. So if we talk about serious adverse events they are are extremely rare.

“the two main vaccines currently used in the UK are the two RNA vaccines Moderna and Pfizer. The rarest events of any serious concern is inflammation of the heart which happens mainly in young men and teenagers, it’s extremely rare, very unlikely to happen, and no one has actually had a long term consequence”.

“Most people who have some adverse event [have] mild injection site reactions and maybe a day of feeling slightly unwell. The evidence and the facts are there. They’re indisputable”.

The audience member cited his degree in Philosophy and stated that an appeal to authority is not an automatic win of an argument. He then went on to discuss Dr Robert Malone, who the audience member claimed incorrectly had invented “the vaccine” and suggests that young people don’t take it.

To this, Shattock replied “it’s nonsense. He didn’t invent mRNA vaccines. The people who developed the vaccines, the two RNA vaccines, are BioNTech the company... and the other group are Moderna. It’s based on their research. It’s not based on an individual”. After conversational doyenne Fiona Bruce had switched the topic and was asking another panel member a question, Shattock can be heard saying “you’re wrong” to the audience member.

Robert Malone has recently been a player in the dispute between musicians and Spotify over Covid misinformation on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast, to which Spotify has the sole rights. Malone has appeared on the podcast and espoused covid misinformation, including that Covid death figures shouldn’t be trusted as hospitals receive bonus payments for patients with a Covid infection.

Professor Shattock also voiced discontent with the government’s current plans to ease the cost of living crisis, saying that the schemes need to be more targeted and that relief from higher energy bills should not have to be paid back in the future.

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