LETTER TO DR. SUE SHERMAN OF KEELE UNIVERSITY, 28/01/16
Dear Dr. Sherman,
I attended your lecture on the 27th January, 2016, regarding the HPV vaccination.
I have been working in this field myself for some time, researching and raising awareness of the adverse effects associated with this vaccine. The HPV vaccines (Gardasil and the now-discontinued Cervarix) have the worst safety profiles of any vaccine to date, with far more serious adverse events reported than any other vaccine ever produced. These facts were omitted from your lecture.
Further, there is no evidence the HPV vaccination has or ever will prevent a single case of cancer. This fact was also omitted from your lecture; you stated that the HPV "prevents" cancer. As I stated, there is no evidence it has prevented a single case.
At the end of your lecture, a male member of the audience raised some very valid concerns about the HPV vaccination, which I have briefly laid out above. Rather than engage with him in an appropriate manner, I feel that you behaved extremely unprofessionally by beginning to "rant" about so-called "anti-vaxxers", and then stated your extraordinary (and completely irrelevant to a debate on HPV) belief that "because of anti-vaxxers, whooping cough has come back".
As an academic psychologist, you have a responsibility to maintain professional standards, which include the ability to appropriately entertain and engage with ideas that don't match your own. Your tirade against "anti-vaxxers" was not only emotionally driven and unprofessional, it was extremely intolerant and discriminatory, and could have caused great trauma and offence to members of the audience. You do not know what their personal beliefs on vaccination are, or whether a close family member of theirs may have been injured or killed by a vaccine.
It is clear you are not well educated on the dangers of vaccines generally nor the HPV vaccine specifically (which you stated falsely has not caused any deaths), and that is your choice. But as an academic, you have a responsibility to encourage, support and respect debate, disagreement and diversity of ideas. Instead, I am of the view that your lecture was akin to indoctrination and "brainwashing", giving students none of the full facts, and aggressively attacking and mocking anyone who attempted to offer an alternative or fuller perspective.
I feel that your conduct was in breach of the university's anti-discrimination policy, whose first priority in a higher education setting should be protecting from discrimination those who have different ideas.
A very large number of scientists, doctors, researchers and activists have expressed grave concerns about both the safety and the efficacy of the HPV vaccine, including Dr. Sin Hang Lee, MD, who recently wrote an open letter to the WHO accusing them of fraud and misconduct regarding this vaccination.
I do not know whether Dr. Lee is, as you call it, an "anti-vaxxer". He may be; he may not be. But as a medical doctor, I am sure you will agree he is an eminently qualified authority to opine on the subject.
Equally, anybody who raises concerns about the HPV vaccine may be fully in favour of every other vaccine, or they may not. These are their personal beliefs, to which they are fully entitled. These beliefs are not illegal, nor are they without considerable scientific evidence to back them up. So for you to use a public lecture as an opportunity to mock, ridicule and dismiss people who hold a different view to yours, is simply unacceptable.
I am most disappointed and concerned to have had this experience at Keele, a university with which I have warm and long-standing ties (my name may look familiar to you; my father John Sloboda lectured at the university for 34 years, and it was in his namesake laboratory that you gave your lecture).
I would like to seek your assurance that my concerns about your conduct will be taken very seriously.
(Dr. Sherman passed the letter on to her Head of Department, Professor Michael Murray, who issued a brief reply.)
Dear Professor Murray,
Thank you for your letter. I am pleased to hear that both you and Dr. Sherman took my concerns seriously, and that Dr. Sherman will continue to consider them as her work progresses.
A further piece of information, of which you may both be unaware, is that the gentleman in the audience who challenged Dr. Sherman was Professor Chris Exley. I wanted to draw your attention to this to underline the fact that very highly qualified scientists have grave concerns about the HPV vaccine, even within Keele itself. I am keen to ensure that vaccine safety issues are not mischaracterised as only a concern of unqualified "anti-vaxxers", and also feel it crucially important to challenge the oft-repeated fallacy that "where it comes to vaccinations, the science is settled". It most certainly is not, as the debate between Dr. Sherman and Professor Exley illustrated.
It may be of further interest to you to know that I am in the process of putting together an information website about vaccinations, specifically targeted at college and university students. You can visit the website here:
I am currently seeking contributions for my website from experts in the field, particularly regarding the HPV vaccine. Perhaps Dr. Sherman might consider contributing something to my site?
CC: Dr. Sue Sherman
(I received no reply.)