Fact Check: The Lancet Did NOT Say 'Stigmatising The Unvaccinated Is Unjustified' -- It's An Opinion Letter From A Reader

Fact Check

  • by: Dean Miller
Fact Check: The Lancet Did NOT Say 'Stigmatising The Unvaccinated Is Unjustified' -- It's An Opinion Letter From A Reader It's Opinion

Did one of the world's leading medical journals declare that stigmatizing the unvaccinated is "unjustified" and that government public health officials are bullying by "suggesting that people who have been vaccinated are not relevant in the epidemiology of COVID-19"? No, that's not true: Those are opinions of one reader of The Lancet, shared in a letter to the "Correspondence" section of The Lancet. A correct description would be: "Prof. Guenther Kampf says stigmatizing the unvaccinated is unjustified, in his letter to the editor of The Lancet."

Claims that The Lancet had criticized public health officials have circulated widely on social media, including this November 24, 2021, article on Irish news website GRIPT titled "THE LANCET: STIGMATIZING THE 'UNVACCINATED' NOT JUSTIFIED" (archived here) which opened:

The Lancet, one of the world's oldest and best-known medical journals, has published an article asserting that there is no reason to bully people into getting vaccinated.

Users on GRIPT's Facebook page only saw this title, description and thumbnail:

Written by a German professor of hygiene and environmental health, Dr. Guenther Kampf, the letter to The Lancet is not a peer-reviewed study or research report and is not the official position of the 198-year-old journal of medical science. Kampf teaches hygiene and environmental medicine at the University of Greifswald medical school in Germany.

The Lancet clearly distinguishes the differences between various types of items it publishes, to help readers hang onto the distinction between what letter writers say and what The Lancet says as an institution.

Here is how The Lancet describes letters, which is how Kampf's item was labelled on The Lancet.com:

Correspondence: Our readers' reflections on content published in the Lancet journals or on other topics of general interest to our readers. These letters are not normally externally peer reviewed.

Here's a screenshot, with arrow added by Lead Stories to direct readers' attention to the "Correspondence" section title:


Note the difference between The Lancet's descriptions of letters containing readers' reflections on contents of The Lancet, and the in-house "Editorials" expressing the professional view of The Lancet's staff, which are described as:

... written in-house by the journal's editorial team and are signed by the journal (eg, The Lancet weekly signs "The Lancet").

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Lead Stories is working with the CoronaVirusFacts/DatosCoronaVirus Alliance, a coalition of more than 100 fact-checkers who are fighting misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about the alliance here.

  Dean Miller

Lead Stories Managing Editor Dean Miller has edited daily and weekly newspapers, worked as a reporter for more than a decade and is co-author of two non-fiction books. After a Harvard Nieman Fellowship, he served as Director of Stony Brook University's Center for News Literacy for six years, then as Senior Vice President/Content at Connecticut Public Broadcasting. Most recently, he wrote the twice-weekly "Save the Free Press" column for The Seattle Times. 

Read more about or contact Dean Miller

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