Why can’t media outlets like MedPage Today do some reporting on vaccine clinical trials instead of resorting to silly “debunking” articles?

By Paul Thacker ~ Originally Published November 30, 2021 in The Disinformation Chronicle

This article by the well regarded freelance journalist Paul D. Thacker is concerning.     Here is Thacker’s partial bio from Wikpedia:

Paul D. Thacker is an American journalist who reports on science, medicine, and the environment.[1][2] He was a lead investigator of the United States Senate Committee on Finance for Senator Chuck Grassley, where he examined financial links between physicians and pharmaceutical companies.[3]

After 2000, Thacker wrote for publications such as The New Republic and Salon and was a staff writer with Environmental Science & Technology, a journal of the American Chemical Society (ACS). Here he published a series of exposés that a senior ACS official claimed showed an anti-industry bias, culminating in an article on the Weinberg Group that resulted in him being fired by the journal in 2006.[4][7][8] In Thacker’s Weinberg Group story he wrote about a letter that group sent to DuPont outlining a plan to protect DuPont from litigation and regulation over Teflon.[9] The Weinberg Group had done similar work for Big Tobacco and then began working in Europe to defeat alcohol regulations.[10] ACS editor Rudy Baum called the Weinberg article a “hatchet job”.[11][8] In 2006, the Weinberg article won a second place prize in annual awards presented by the US Society of Environmental Journalists.[12] Later that year, Thacker’s work was profiled on Exposé: America’s Investigative Reports.[13]

In 2007, Thacker joined the United States Senate Committee on Finance for Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, investigating medical research conflicts of interest.[4][14] Among his work he identified several physicians who had failed to disclose payments from drug and medical companies, including psychiatrist Charles Nemeroff.[15] He also led the committee’s investigation of the drug Avandia,[16] which included a report that a medical journal had published a ghostwritten article promoting the drug.[5] He left the committee in 2010 to join the Project on Government Oversight, a nonprofit watchdog organization.[15][5][17]

In November 2021, The BMJ published a piece by Thacker alleging there has been “poor practice” at Ventavia, one of the companies involved in the phase III evaluation trials of the Pfizer vaccine.[18] The report was enthusiastically embraced by anti-vaccination activists. Questioning Thacker’s work in Science-Based Medicine, David Gorski wrote that his article presented facts without necessary context to misleading effect, playing up the seriousness of the noted problems.[19] Some experts have expressed skepticism over the allegations made in the report. Prominent vaccination expert Paul Offit has criticized the issues outlined in the report as being vague and has cautioned against assuming the claims made in it are true.[20] Thacker received a 2021 British Journalism Award in Specialist Journalism from Press Gazette for a series of articles in The BMJ investigating undisclosed financial interests among medical experts advising US and UK vaccine advisory boards.[21][22]

Michael Lerner with excerpt from Wikipedia

A few weeks back The BMJ published my investigation of documents provided by whistleblower Brook Jackson regarding data integrity issues in Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial, “Covid-19: Researcher blows the whistle on data integrity issues in Pfizer’s vaccine trial.” This investigation has been picked up by over 91 media outlets and has an Altmetric score of over 45,000, making it the most viewed article published in any science journal for 2021. (At least, according to Altmetric.)

Besides The BMJ, Jackson has been sending these documents to multiple reporters around the world and she will soon be appearing in various investigative TV programs describing her experience at Ventavia, a research contractor hired by Pfizer for their pivotal COVID-19 vaccine trial. For example, see this short but brilliant investigative documentary on Pfizergate that just appeared on Italian TV.

About a week after The BMJ published the story on Ventavia and Pfizer’s clinical trial, The BMJ updated readers about what we know thus far.

In September, Brook Jackson contacted The BMJ about problems she had encountered while employed at Ventavia Research Group. The BMJ commissioned freelance investigative reporter Paul Thacker to write up the story. The resulting article was subject to The BMJ’s usual high level editorial oversight and review. After publication, The BMJ wrote to Ventavia, Pfizer and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to better clarify the scope and implications of the problems identified at Ventavia, as well as what corrective measures were taken.

To date, Ventavia has not responded to The BMJ’s repeated requests for information. However, in statements to other media outlets, Ventavia has claimed that its former employee Jackson did not work on Pfizer’s covid-19 vaccine clinical trial. This claim is not true. Jackson has contacted media organisations that have published these false allegations, sharing documentation that shows her work on the trial, and asking for corrections. At the time of writing, MedPage Today has updated its article.

During the course of this investigation, Jackson has provided The BMJ with dozens of documents, photos, audio recordings, and emails. These include evidence of her involvement in the clinical trial, and communications in which senior Ventavia employees discuss concerns that the FDA might show up at their clinical sites. These records were reviewed by The BMJ’s editors, and the story was externally peer reviewed before publication.

Because many other publications plan to publish the documents Jackson gave to me and The BMJ, and to counter false claims by Ventavia that she did not work on Pfizer’s clinical trial, I am publishing some of those documents here. Unfortunately, the media outlet MedPage Today has republished Ventavia’s defamatory statement.

New Documents

Several documents show that Jackson worked on Pfizer’s clinical trial. One is an email with Jackson thanking Pfizer’s Dr. Arturo Alfaro for giving her access to the COVID-19 clinical trial software. In a second email, Ventavia’s Mercedes Livingston invites Jackson and other staff to a “clean up call” on Pfizer’s clinical trial.

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