Catholic Medical Quarterly Volune 70(4) November 2020
Response to UK Government Consultation: Distributing vaccines and treatments for COVID-19 and flu
This is an individual response to the consultation
submitted by one of our members.
Response was made to four key points
Temporary authorization of the supply of unlicensed products
We are bound to be concerned about the temporary authorisation of unlicensed products. while we will be firmly told that they are safe, many will question that strongly.
Perhaps we should note that in 1976 President Gerald Ford authorised
rapid release of an H1N1 flu vaccine, as a result of concerns about that
pandemic, with resultant 450 cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome.
We may well need to save lives, but risking lives to save lives is not wise.
There is another issue here as well. There are many people, who generally dare not speak out as they fear censorship, who object to the use of cell lines derived from aborted babies in vaccines. Out of respect for human life they protest and ask for vaccines made on cells lines that do not derive from aborted babies. They generally do this, out of a deep, and compassionate resect for the value of Human Life.
You should be careful to make provision for these people to receive vaccines from non- aborted cell lines. If you do agree to allow unlicensed vaccines to be used, it may well be that you should allow them to choose an unlicensed vaccine from another country if that is ethically acceptable to them. That said, I suspect that you are creating great risks if you proceed with unlicensed vaccines.
I fear that strongly promoting unlicensed vaccines will fuel the strength of the anti-vacc movement. The American experience of that in H1N1 can hardly have helped.
Please therefore consider those who have a strong ethical objection to aborted baby’s cell lines being used to make a vaccine and also be very reluctant to given unlicensed products.
Civil liability and immunity
You are bound to be civilly liable for any injuries caused by a non-licensed product. Especially if any coercion is used to promote it.
Expansion to the workforce eligible to administer vaccinations
Consent, informed consent and diligent careful practice are all essential component of a robust and safe healthcare system. Sadly, during this pandemic we have been repeated tools that the NHS is a world class organisation, and while it has done well in many areas, things have hardly been prefect. NHS data systems struggled to reconcile themselves and the "World Class" NHS tracing app moreorless disappeared without trace. The UK has the highest death toll in Europe.
Is it truly wise and safe (and is it World Class?) to use people with no medical and no nursing training to administer vaccines which are unlicensed and without the skills to discuss and consent with people who attend seeking vaccination? It really does seem very risky.
You may feel the need to rush the approval and delivery of this vaccine, but there do seem to be enormous risks attached.
I fully recognise the worth, value and usefulness of effective vaccines. I have previously written about ethical objections to the use of the MMR vaccine as a result of my awareness of the concern is of a substantial group of people about that vaccine. (http://www.cmq.org.uk/CMQ/2019/Aug/Ethics-of-MMR.html). I concluded that parents have real duty to protect their own offspring and unborn children throughout their communities from rubella. But persuading parents of that is not easy and the issue has not gone away over the last 30 years.
I truly fear that if this vaccine is promoted, and especially if it is promoted by non-doctors and non-nurses in an unlicensed preparation, then much harm will be done to the overall cause of vaccine promotion. The aborted cell line issue will merely add to that problem. While I do not have the figures to prove this, I suspect that if the Covid vaccine harms the promotion of established childhood vaccinations, then far more children will be harmed by those childhood illness that will be protected by the Covid vaccine.
We should promote safe, effective and necessary vaccines. By the time we have this vaccine, it may well be that the pandemic is largely over and that mortality rates remain far below their peak in April 2020. Which would mean that the utility of the vaccine is greatly reduced. I would suggest that if the vaccine is to be used, then perhaps start with people over 70 on a voluntary basis. Then, after 3 months if all is well include everyone over 60 and then make it available more widely. Such an approach might be criticised for risking the lives of younger people, but they are also the ones who may be most at risk from this vaccine.