Suppressing Scientific Discourse on Vaccines? Self-perceptions of researchers and practitioners

Ety Elisha*, Josh Guetzkow, Yaffa Shir-Raz, Natti Ronel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The controversy over vaccines has recently intensified in the wake of the global COVID-19 pandemic, with calls from politicians, health professionals, journalists, and citizens to take harsh measures against so-called “anti-vaxxers,” while accusing them of spreading “fake news” and as such, of endangering public health. However, the issue of suppression of vaccine dissenters has rarely been studied from the point of view of those who raise concerns about vaccine safety. The purpose of the present study was to examine the subjective perceptions of professionals (physicians, nurses, researchers) involved with vaccines through practice and/or research and who take a critical view on vaccines, about what they perceive as the suppression of dissent in the field of vaccines, their response to it, and its potential implications on science and medicine. Respondents reported being subjected to a variety of censorship and suppression tactics, including the retraction of papers pointing to vaccine safety problems, negative publicity, difficulty in obtaining research funding, calls for dismissal, summonses to official hearings, suspension of medical licenses, and self-censorship. Respondents also reported on what has been termed a “backfire effect” – a counter-reaction that draws more attention to the opponents’ position. Suppression of dissent impairs scientific discourse and research practice while creating the false impression of scientific consensus.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)71-89
Number of pages19
JournalHEC Forum
Issue number1
Early online date19 May 2022
StatePublished - Mar 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature B.V.


  • Censorship
  • Public health
  • Scientific ethics
  • Suppression of dissent
  • Vaccine


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