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HomeCOVID-19The AZ vaccine victims – so much for Freedom of Information

The AZ vaccine victims – so much for Freedom of Information

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ONE year ago PJH Law, on behalf of HART, made a Freedom of Information request to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), requiring all the data that was submitted by AstraZeneca in the application for licence of their Covid-19 vaccine (AZD1222/Vaxzevria) and relied upon in granting a Conditional Marketing Authorisation for its use. Specifically, the following was requested:

1.    Pre- and post-authorisation safety and efficacy data for this product;

2.    All information that allowed a ‘rigorous scientific assessment’ of all the available evidence of quality, safety and effectiveness by the UK Regulator, the MHRA;

3.    All information and full data set that the MHRA stated their expert scientists and clinicians reviewed from the laboratory preclinical studies, clinical trials, manufacturing and quality controls, product sampling and testing of the final vaccine and the conditions for its safe supply and distribution;

4.    Anonymised data from their clinical trials.


I wrote about the background to this at the time on TCW. The AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine had all but disappeared from use. We needed to know why, and whether troubling evidence from its trials was ignored by the regulators or withheld from the public; why in short HART, the independent Health Advisory and Recovery Team, had demanded a ‘Pfizer files’ style data release from the MHRA. For, within weeks of AZ’s rollout, concerns about the vaccine (trials of which had been paused twice, see here and here) were being flagged. In a short time successive European governments followed Denmark’s lead in suspending its use. Yet the UK’s advisory body, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) continued to insist it was safe. Then in May 2021 it advised it should not be given to anyone under 40. By that stage millions of doses had been administered. Furthermore, from the start, the vaccine was disproportionately associated with adverse reactions, yet it was administered to children. At the time of writing my article in November 2022, some 11,500 children had received first doses and 8,700 second doses and ‘extremely limited boosters’. At that point these had resulted in 266 Yellow Cards at an adverse reaction reporting rate of 1 in 43 children. 

To date, one year later, 248,834 people are reported on the Yellow card system to have experienced adverse events in reaction to the AZ vaccine, 192,823 of which are classified as serious.* The total number of adverse events is much higher and stands at 882,871 for the AZ vaccine as of November 2023. To date 1,417 deaths associated with AZ vaccine have been reported.

The full Freedom of Information letter sent to the MHRA is available here.

So what has been happening since?

Perhaps not surprisingly, the first response from the MHRA was: ‘This information request in its current format would be exempt under S12 or S14.’ They advised that we narrowed our request. 

Things hung fire at our end for a while as discussions occurred around reducing the request, but in the end we decided to push ahead, and in April 2023 we notified the MHRA accordingly: ‘Considering that this peer review needs to be conducted on all material submitted for licence, the request cannot be narrowed in scope.’

The MHRA issued a further response to our request on June 1,  confirming that section 14(1) applied to the request.  

We then submitted a request for an internal review, the result of which was received in August. The full reply is linked here, but in a nutshell: ‘This request falls to be considered “vexatious” due to the scope of the request and the disproportionate burden that compliance would create. S14(1) of the FOIA states that “Section 1(1) does not oblige a public authority to comply with a request for information if the request is vexatious”.’

They further stated: ‘Downloading the dossier of the vaccine is a relatively straightforward task, although it does require time. Due to the voluminous size of the file packages, when downloading the full package of data, the database software may be more prone to freeze. However, the time required to read through the dossiers, to identify exempt information and to consider and make redactions we expect would take many weeks, if not months to complete, as the dossier encompasses gigabytes of data. To meet the request our staff would need to read the dossier in full, in order to identify where redactions need to be made. We appreciate that there remains a strong public interest in COVID-19 vaccines, however, we do not feel that the public interest outweighs the resource burden required to meet your request.’

So the next step was an appeal to the Information Commissioner, linked here.

We challenge both parts of this decision:  
A. The disproportionate burden.
B. The public interest does not outweigh the resource burden.’

It is puzzling that this information is so hard to produce – the reader might be forgiven for thinking that there was too much to review and analyse in the time taken for authorisation in the first place! And there is the small matter of a £1million grant for new AI software at the beginning of rollout, which surely could be used to search the documents for items to redact.

It is also hard to see what greater public interest there could be than the security of the nation’s health. More adverse drug reactions (ADRs) have been reported on the Covid-19 vaccines than the total ADRs reported from all vaccines over 40 years. Moreover 58 per cent of all Yellow Card reports of ADRs and deaths were reported from recipients of the AZ vaccine.

As the House of Commons Health Committee pointed out in 2005:

·         Pharmaceutical funding would lead the MHRA to ’lose sight of the need to protect and promote public health above all else as it seeks to win fee income from the companies’.

·         The committee also criticised the MHRA, saying that it‘failed to adequately scrutinise licensing data and its post-marketing surveillance is inadequate’. 

·         ‘Greater transparency is also fundamental to the medicines regulatory system. There has to be better public access to materials considered by the MHRA prior to licensing.’

An interview last year with Neil Oliver regarding this FOI ended with a promise to let him know when we heard anything, but at present we are still waiting . . .

STOP PRESS

The Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine has been branded ‘defective’ in a multi-million-pound landmark legal action which will suggest claims over its efficacy were ‘vastly overstated’.  This legal challenge is covered by both the Telegraph and the Mail. Please support the CrowdJustice funding if you can. AstraZeneca is denying liability. 

In another Telegraph piece on November 8, 2023, health editor Sarah Knapton noted that they had in fact published an article about the blood clotting risks in March 2021. She added this damning snippet: ‘On the day we published the story we received a threatening phone call from a senior official at the MHRA warning that the Telegraph would be banned from future briefings and press notices if we did not soften the news.’ So what did they do? They joined the rest of the legacy media and stopped reporting anything remotely critical of the vaccines until now. 

This article first appeared on HART on November 8, 2023, and is republished by kind permission. 

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Dr Ros Jones
Dr Ros Jones
Dr Ros Jones MD FRCPCH is a retired consultant paediatrician, grandparent and member of HART.

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