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Why won’t the MHRA answer my questions? What are they trying to hide?

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THE TCW article of July 5, The MHRA, the watchdog covering up the truth about vaccine deaths and injuries was an excellent critique of that agency’s refusal to provide transparent information.

It echoes my own experience. More than a year ago I asked the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to provide detailed, anonymised, Yellow Card adverse reaction data in a format that might be used for analysis. My Freedom of Information request had asked for a full list of adverse event reports to be provided in a spreadsheet or similar format, including the various data collected for each incident (age, sex, vaccination date, etc) in separate columns. 

My request was refused on the grounds that they intended to publish the data in the future (section 22 of the FoI Act).

I appealed first to the MHRA directly and then to the Information Commissioner. This was a slow process mainly because the Information Commissioner took nearly nine months to consider my case. In the course of my appeal, the MHRA changed the grounds for refusal from section 22 (intention to publish the data in future) to section 12 (excessive work required to satisfy the request). During this period they confirmed, in a response to a separate FOI request, that they already share the requested information with the vaccine manufacturers and other agencies. I pointed out to the Information Commissioner that this rather undermined their claim that excessive work would be required to share the same information with the public. In response, the MHRA claimed that a large number of specific database queries would have to be written to extract the data and that each would require significant effort. They also stated that the data sharing with other organisations is possible because they provide direct access to their internal information systems and that the resultant reports cannot be downloaded. The Information Commissioner seems to have accepted these assertions at face value.

The genuine public and scientific interest in my FoI request was highlighted in a letter published in the BMJ. The writer is a friend who shares my conviction that the public should be provided with accurate information on the risks and benefits of Covid vaccination. 

The Information Commissioner’s adjudication acknowledged this clear public interest, but dismissed it on the grounds that there is no public interest test for the exemption claimed by the MHRA. It is hard to see the point in legislation that does not prioritise the public interest, but there we have it.

To summarise, the sequence of events was as follows:

June 8, 2021 – FoI 21/640 submitted to MHRA requesting data base extract for Yellow Card reports.

July 6, 2021 – Request rejected under section 22 exemption (intention to publish the data in future).

July 9, 2021 – Appeal submitted under section 22c providing a test of ‘reasonableness’.

July 16, 2021 – Response from MHRA upholding the original refusal, but citing a different exemption, section 12 (too much work).

July 20, 2021 – Appeal to Information Commissioner citing the public interest in the data and questioning the ‘pick and mix’ approach to exemptions.

March 1, 2022 – email from MHRA explaining that the original exemption under section 22 was claimed in error and that they are now relying on section 12.  

March 2, 2022 – email from Lead Case Officer at the Information Commissioner’s Office stating that he will consider the complaint under section 12 only. 

March 2, 2022 – Further information provided to Lead Case Officer regarding the admission from the MHRA that they are already sharing the requested information with other organisations and stressing the vital public interest in the information requested.

April 12, 2022 – Information Commissioner’s Office rejects my complaint.

This refusal of the MHRA to publish vaccine safety information in the same level of detail as that already shared with the vaccine manufacturers reinforces one of the themes of the TCW article: What do they have to hide? Even if we accept the estimates given by the MHRA of the work required to publish detailed Yellow Card information, surely the urgent public interest would justify investment in this work? After all, they seem to have invested in sharing the information with various other agencies. Why not the public who actually need to make informed decisions on vaccine acceptance? They claim to be preparing to publish this information by the end of 2022, but I am not holding my breath.

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