Parliamentarians challenge ethics of Covid-19 jab roll-out
Last week UK MPs debated Covid-19 vaccine safety. The issues raised deserve airtime.
Article first appeared on Brownstone.org
On Monday, there was a debate in the UK Parliament on Covid vaccine safety. Cast into shadow by a storm of reporting on the appointment of the UK’s latest Prime Minister, it received virtually no mainstream press attention. This is unfortunate as the issues it raises - about the scale of adverse vaccine reactions, excess death trends, potential breaches of medical ethics, and regulatory capture - are deserving of both airtime and investigation.
In the UK as elsewhere the scale of adverse reactions from the Covid-19 vaccine is bitterly contested. The Parliamentary debate was no different - on the one hand Elliot Colburn MP repeated the othodoxy that serious adverse events were “incredibly rare” and that such events as are reported are “typically mild, with individuals usually recovering within a short time…”; whilst others cited evidence which casts doubt on that official narrative.
Sir Christopher Chope MP pointed out that other data sets have put risks much higher than the “12 reports per 1 million doses” pinpointed by Colburn as the Pfizer suspected myocarditis reporting rate - “The Paul Ehrlich Institute is the German regulator responsible for vaccine safety”, he explained, before noting that on 20 July 2022, “…the institute confirmed that one in 5,000 people was seriously affected after a vaccination”. These concerns were echoed by Andrew Bridgen MP noting that “…[a] study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, included 7,806 children aged five or younger who were followed for an average of 91.4 days after their first Pfizer vaccination. The study showed that one in 500 children under five years of age who received a Pfizer mRNA…covid vaccine were hospitalised with a vaccine injury, and one in 200 had symptoms ongoing for weeks or months afterwards.”
One does not have to subscribe to a particular view of which of these data sets are more accurate to recognise that there are now at the very least serious questions to be asked and answered about the scale of adverse reactions. As Chope noted in relation to the German data, it “is serious information coming from the regulator of a country that is highly respected for the quality of its healthcare”. The same could be said of the well-documented analysis carried out by the Floridian health department indicating an 84% increase in the relative incidence of cardiac-related death among males aged 18 to 39 within 28 days following mRNA vaccination. These are not baseless concerns from a radical fringe; they are significant issues raised by respectable scientific and health authorities.
Other credible papers, too, have called attention to concerns - for instance Peter Doshi (an associate editor of the BMJ)'s reanalysis of serious adverse events of Pfizer and Moderna's phase 3 trials. This found that "the excess risk of AESIs surpassed the risk reduction for Covid-19 hospitalisations relative to the placebo group in both trials” and concluded that their analysis "points to the need for formal harm-benefit analyses, especially in individuals at low risk of COVID-19 hospitalization or death”.
Against this backdrop, the continued refusal of the UK Government and the arms of the State to countenance let alone embrace a transparent review of the Covid vaccine roll-out feels increasingly illegitimate, as too does the failure to discuss let alone investigate the cause of the well-documented rise in excess deaths.
As Bridgen asked, “what is the Government’s analysis of the excess deaths that we are suffering in this country, across Europe and in the Americas? Even a casual glance at the data shows a strong correlation between vaccine uptake and the excess deaths in those regions. Surely we must have an investigation. Tens of thousands more people than expected are dying. This is really important, and if we do not get it right, no one will believe us, and trust in politicians, in medicine and in our medical system will be lost.”
The other key thread running through the debate was that, however many lives the vaccine roll-out saved, there are unanswered questions from a medical ethics perspective. “Why was vaccination extended to the whole population? I do not think we have ever had a completely satisfactory answer to that question”, asked Danny Kruger MP, before adding “I ask it again, because my concern is that extending the vaccination programme became an operation in public persuasion—an operation in which dissent was unhelpful or even immoral, and an operation that justified the suppression and even vilification of those who raised concerns.”
Likewise, said Kruger, “I worry about whether we can say that consent was fully informed in all cases”, before adding “Throughout, there has been misinformation in favour of the vaccine”, referencing the now highly discredited official line that the vaccine was 95% effective, and that it would stop transmission.
Nowhere are the ethics of the vaccine roll-out murkier than in relation to children, where the perceived lack of benefit relative to risk is most pronounced. Again Kruger stuck his neck out in a valiant attempt to shine light: “…we had the notorious claim by Professor Chris Whitty that even though the vaccine brought no benefit to children, children should be vaccinated to protect wider society…again, [this] feels like a profound break with medical ethics.”
The significance of these comments cannot be over-stated: Parliamentarians from the governing Conservative party are now expressly acknowledging that the Government’s authoritarian policy on the Covid vaccine roll-out, combatting of vaccine hesitancy and supression of legitimate dissenting voices may have breached key tenets of medical ethics.
One of the consistent features of the last two years has been the tendency of vaccine evangelicals to dismiss anyone questioning the roll-out as fringe anti-vaxxers - a lazy, vicious slur, designed to delegitimise serious debate. And yet during this week’s Parlimantary debate, elected representatives appeared guilty of the same ideological laziness, Elliot Colburn MP dismissing out of hand Sir Christopher Chope’s question as to whether he had seen Oracle Film’s “Safe and Effective: A Second Opinion.” Many would maintain that in the context of a debate specifically on vaccine safety Chope's was an eminently reasonable question, and yet Colburn’s answer -
“I have not seen that publication, although I have read a lot of the significant amounts of material that have been shoved through my constituency office door by a large number of anti-vax protesters, who have flyposted my office on no less than a dozen occasions, and intimidated my 18-year-old apprentice and the people who live above my constituency office. Given that the content of that literature includes climate change denial, moon landing denial and so on, I am inclined to ignore it completely.”
This is an astonishing dismissal coming from an elected Parliamentarian - disrespectful to those who have suffered serious adverse reactions as a result of the vaccine and outright dangerous in its presumed intent of stifling debate in, of all places, the debating chambers of the UK Parliament.
At many points during the debate the degree of Establishment disinterest, bordering on wilful blindness, underlined: “The Government seem to be in denial about the risks of these vaccines”, noted Chope, with Kruger adding, “I am a member of the all-party parliamentary group on covid-19 vaccine damage…The APPG looks at vaccine injuries, and we had what I think was our first meeting last week in a Committee room in Portcullis House. I am afraid there were only a tiny handful of colleagues there, but well over a hundred members of the public attended, which is not the usual story for an APPG.”
Both the lack of any mainstream reporting of this debate - arguably an abject failure to hold the Government to account as should be a core role of a free press - and the refusal to investigate the underlying concerns are deeply regrettable. The Covid Public Inquiry in the UK will consider the vaccine roll-out process, but it is not apparent that it will question vaccine safety - this seems unlikely in the current climate of suppression - and in any case the timescales for that inquiry run into years. This is far too long in the context of a medical intervention which continues to be marketed and rolled-out nationwide.
In all of this there are unanswered questions about the role and independence of key regulatory bodies in the UK. As Danny Kruger MP summed it up, “I mentioned that the MHRA is funded by the pharmaceutical companies that produce the drugs and vaccines that it regulates. There might be some universe in which that makes sense, but this is not it”. That sentiment will be shared by the many of us who have watched, aghast, as foundational rubicons of medical ethics have been crossed, seemingly in pursuit of nothing more noble than the Prime Minister’s vaccine roll-out ‘success’ statistics and Pfizer’s bottom line.
One does not have to agree with all of the points made by the MPs and one does not have to dispute the fact that the vaccine roll-out saved lives, to understand that questions raised by elected politicians in this debate - around the scale of adverse events, potential breaches of medical ethics and regulatory capture - are serious. They are all the more so given the context: far from being solely a historical event, the booster programme and roll-out continues, including to children whom parents, medical professionals, and indeed Government Ministers, owe a special duty of care.
In the UK Parliamentary system Select Committes of MPs play an important role in holding both the private and public sector accountable to Parliament and thus, in some small way, to the people of the UK. With powers to call witnesses to attend and to require difficult questions to be answered, and with legal protection from retaliatory actions and political pressures, a Select Committee hearing may be the forum of last resort for this controversial politically-charged issue to be probed.
The last Select Committee hearing for the pharmaceutical industry took place in 2005. It concluded that lax regulatory oversight had contributed to an industry whose influence was out of control and plagued by practices “which act against the public interest.” Another hearing is overdue.