Tom Jefferson (epidemiologist)

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Tom Jefferson
Scientific career

Tom Jefferson is a British epidemiologist, based in Rome, Italy,[1] who works for the Cochrane Collaboration. Jefferson is an author and editor of the Cochrane Collaboration's acute respiratory infections group, as well as part of four other Cochrane groups.[2] He is also an advisor to the Italian National Agency for Regional Health Services.[2]

In 1999, Jefferson was one of the founding members of the Brighton Collaboration along with Harald Heijbel, Ulrich Heininger, and Elisabeth Loupi.[3] He has worked on Cochrane reviews examining the effectiveness of the anti-viral oseltamivir and the influenza vaccine.[4]

Notable work[edit]

In 2009, Jefferson was hired by the governments of Britain and Australia to update a systematic review of oseltamivir.[4] Initially he had a great deal of trouble getting results of the original trials.[4] Previous researchers had published trials without seeing the underlying data and it appeared that some of the published papers used ghost writers.[4] As the company, Roche, that did the trials refused to provide data for independent analysis, their conclusions in 2009 were that benefits could not be shown.[4]

In 2011, Jefferson's team was provided 22,000 pages of data from the European Medicines Agency and Roche eventually provided 3,000 pages of data.[4] In 2012, Jefferson was the lead author of another Cochrane review of this data which concluded that oseltamivir did not reduce the number of hospitalizations caused by influenza. Jefferson said that this review also found no evidence that oseltamivir stopped complications from the disease.[5]

His views about the effectiveness of influenza vaccines and his outspokenness about them are also controversial; at a 2007 meeting on pandemic preparedness he was shunned by other vaccine researchers and ate alone.[1] Reviews led by Jefferson have concluded that there is insufficient evidence to show that influenza vaccines reduce mortality or infection rates.[6] He has said that the studies claiming large reductions in mortality rates as a result of the influenza vaccine are "rubbish",[1] and that "influenza vaccines are about marketing and not science".[7] He has called repeatedly for placebo-controlled randomized clinical trials to prove the efficacy of flu vaccines, a position that most in the field hold as unethical.[1] His views on flu vaccines are opposed by the medical establishment.[1]

On 5 July 2020, Jefferson claimed in an interview with The Telegraph that the COVID-19 coronavirus may not have originated in China.[8][9] His theory was that a virus may simply lie dormant for years before suddenly emerging. As an example of this possibility, he pointed to the isolation of Western Samoa, which lost 22% of its population to Spanish flu in 1918, and claimed the islands had no contact with the outside world. However, it is well documented that Spanish flu arrived on board the SS Talune on 7 November, 1918, when six infected passengers from New Zealand were allowed ashore.[10][11]


  • Jefferson, T; Alderson, P; Wager, E; Davidoff, F (5 June 2002). "Effects of editorial peer review: a systematic review". JAMA. 287 (21): 2784–6. doi:10.1001/jama.287.21.2784. PMID 12038911.
  • Jefferson, T; Wager, E; Davidoff, F (5 June 2002). "Measuring the quality of editorial peer review". JAMA. 287 (21): 2786–90. doi:10.1001/jama.287.21.2786. PMID 12038912.
  • Jefferson, T; Di Pietrantonj, C; Debalini, MG; Rivetti, A; Demicheli, V (July 2009). "Inactivated influenza vaccines: methods, policies, and politics". Journal of Clinical Epidemiology. 62 (7): 677–86. doi:10.1016/j.jclinepi.2008.07.001. PMID 19124222.
  • Jefferson, T.; Del Mar, C.; Dooley, L.; Ferroni, E.; Al-Ansary, L. A; Bawazeer, G. A; van Driel, M. L; Foxlee, R.; Rivetti, A. (22 September 2009). "Physical interventions to interrupt or reduce the spread of respiratory viruses: systematic review". BMJ. 339 (sep21 1): b3675–b3675. doi:10.1136/bmj.b3675. PMC 2190272.
  • Chan, An-Wen; Song, Fujian; Vickers, Andrew; Jefferson, Tom; Dickersin, Kay; Gøtzsche, Peter C; Harlan Krumholz; Ghersi, Davina; van der Worp, H Bart (January 2014). "Increasing value and reducing waste: addressing inaccessible research". The Lancet. 383 (9913): 257–266. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(13)62296-5. PMC 4533904. PMID 24411650.
  • Doshi, P.; Jefferson, T. (2 March 2015). "The evidence base for new drugs". BMJ. 350 (mar02 6): h952–h952. doi:10.1136/bmj.h952.


  1. ^ a b c d e Brownlee, Shannon (1 November 2009). "Does the Vaccine Matter?". The Atlantic. Retrieved 8 December 2014.
  2. ^ a b "Spotlight on the Cochrane Acute Respiratory Infections Review Group". Cochrane Collaboration. 17 August 2011. Retrieved 8 December 2014.
  3. ^ "History of Brighton Collaboration". Brighton Collaboration. Retrieved 6 July 2020.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Thomas, Katie (30 June 2013). "Breaking the Seal on Drug Research". New York Times. Retrieved 8 December 2014.
  5. ^ Grush, Loren (18 January 2012). "Researchers claim inadequate research to support anti-influenza drug". Fox News. Retrieved 8 December 2014.
  6. ^ Harrell, Eben (27 February 2010). "Do Flu Vaccines Really Work? A Skeptic's View". Time. Retrieved 8 December 2014.
  7. ^ Dillner, Luisa (5 October 2014). "Is the government wrong about giving children the nasal spray flu vaccine?". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 January 2015.
  8. ^ "The coronavirus may not have originated in China, says Oxford professor". BBC Science Focus Magazine.
  9. ^ "Exclusive: Covid-19 may not have originated in China, Oxford Universi…". 2020-07-05. Retrieved 2020-07-14.
  10. ^ "Influenza hits Samoa | NZHistory, New Zealand history online".
  11. ^ "Influenza in Samoa - The 1918 influenza pandemic | NZHistory, New Zealand history online".