The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union states clearly: 'Free and informed consent must be respected in the fields of medicine and biology'. To mandate vaccinations is to deny this fundamental freedom.
In 2009 I helped organize a protest outside the Houses of Parliament. Swine Flu was then a considered threat and there was a chance that the WHO might enact the law to mandate vaccination of citizens during an epidemic.
As you may recall, this did not happen but many people were concerned that vaccination could have been forced.
Six million British people, mostly children, received the vaccine but tragically, 60 people in the UK suffered side effects, committing them to an incurable and lifelong condition (1).
They are about to receive a multi-million-pound payout from the government as compensation for their swine flu vaccine-induced brain damage (narcolepsy and cataplexy). Over 800 children across Europe suffered similar damage from the swine flu vaccine but many will never receive any compensation.
More recently there have been protests in Poland, Serbia and other European countries where childhood vaccination is mandatory: in March in Belgrade, Serbia, and this month demonstrations are planned for the Czech Republic and Bulgaria.
In fact just under 40% of EU member countries have some vaccines mandated, (2) from only Polio in Belgium, to 17 doses against 10 diseases in Hungary and 22 doses against 10 diseases in Serbia (non-EU member).
For example, parents in Belgium face jail if they refuse to vaccinate their children with polio. (3) In Serbia parents who refuse vaccination are fined around a month's wages or face losing their children after a court hearing.
In some countries medical exemptions to vaccination do not apply
In some countries (Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia and others), medical or religious exemptions do not even apply. The parents there are also seeing vaccine damage but they do not even have reporting systems, let alone a damage fund as we do in the UK. In Poland the organization Stop NOP is campaigning for a vaccine adverse effect reporting system (4).
Here in the UK MPs are debating amendments to a 36-year-old piece of legislation which Jackie Fletcher of JABS (Justice Awareness and Basic Support), mother of a severely-disabled MMR victim, described as "grossly unfair" and a major factor in skewing national statistics about vaccine safety (5).
Her son Robert did receive a modest payout in 2010 but it took 20 years. He is now age 23 with the mental age of a 3-year-old, doubly incontinent and can't walk, talk or feed himself. Jackie and Robert's lives were changed forever by the MMR, and they are not alone. (6)
If vaccines have the potential to cause serious harm and even death, then mandating them for every child is not only Russian Roulette but totally unethical - all the more so as the state does not look after the injured or cover all the costs.
Not only do vaccinated children risk very serious side effects but certain vaccines (e.g. the MMR and Rotovirus) can actually cause the disease(s) vaccinated against as a result of live virus shedding (7) and many vaccines do not work for all recipients.
Mandating a procedure that may spread disease or may not 'protect' from disease therefore needs serious re-thinking. Surely informed choice by the main carer is the best option.
The EFVV is a forum of 20 European countries
I am part of a European group called the European Forum for Vaccine Vigilance, EFVV (8). It was founded in 1999 by a group of French and Spanish doctors, homeopaths and vaccine risk awareness group organisers concerned about the number of vaccine injuries they were seeing.
By 2006, the group had expanded considerably and completed a report containing a statistical analysis of more than 1,000 cases of injury from six EU countries. The report was presented to the European Parliament and a press conference was held in Brussels but little notice was taken.
Every year we meet and can't believe the stories of fines, threats and legal action from our neighbours in Hungary and Slovenia. This year attendance will nearly double with representatives from at least 20 European countries at our AGM: doctors, lawyers, campaigners and parents. Given recent trends in both the US and Europe, the main focus will be mandatory vaccination.
We have recently launched a petition to the European Parliament, the European Commission and the Council of the European Union, entitled 'Respect, promote and protect freedom of informed vaccination consent throughout Europe'. (9)
The goal is to present it to the European Parliament, Commission and Council in Brussels with a report from each country on the practice that is experienced. And great news - just today it received its first 10,000 signatures!
The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union states clearly: "Free and informed consent must be respected in the fields of medicine and biology" (10) and this is only one of many human rights documents affirming the right to informed consent. To mandate vaccinations is to deny this fundamental freedom and as such, it is a breach of our Universal Human Rights.
In 2011, the US Supreme Court ruled that vaccines are "unavoidably unsafe". (11) Under such circumstances, how can we possibly accept the risks of compulsory vaccination? I understand the claimed Public Health issues around high vaccination rates but Scotland has 97% vaccine uptake with free choice, so it is clearly possible to achieve high levels of vaccination without mandates.
I am very concerned that vaccination policy may become mandatory in the UK as it is trending in the US, Australia and in Europe. Not only are there well documented unwanted side effects, some severe, live virus can shed from newly vaccinated recipients during the first few weeks and outbreaks have been started by fully vaccinated people.
So would we really want to mandate vaccination for the health of our children? Or should we be focusing on other ways to reduce disease and increase health? Consider the situation in the US where the greatest number of vaccines in the developed world are given, yet they have the highest level of child mortality. (12) There is clearly more to health than vaccination.
Vaccination may have come a long way in safety since the 1800s - but we still do not test them with benign placebo, or with a control group and we don't test them for BSE and can't filter out the animal DNA or viruses as they are too small. (13) Download any vaccine insert and you will see the disclaimer they all bear, "This vaccine has not been tested for carcinogenic properties ... ".
Mandating vaccines goes against the Nuremberg Code
The EFVV petition is however not about vaccines and their worth per se, but about human rights. It is important to remind ourselves that all medicine comes with serious potential harms and vaccination is no exception.
Informed choice is vital in a democracy. Mandating vaccines actually goes against at least a dozen European ethical documents, including the Nuremberg Code. (14)
Please don't become caught up in the frenzy to remove parental rights and mandate medicine on otherwise healthy children, as some of our European neighbours are doing. Or removing benefits as Australia has done. As Professor David M. Salisbury, ex-Director of Immunisation, wrote in the BMJ 2012, (15)
"Mandatory vaccination in the UK was attempted first in the 19th century. The legislation was ineffective, discriminated in favour of those able to use the exemptions, and was divisive; it fostered substantial anti-vaccine sentiment and was counterproductive. Attempts to impose compulsion today would undoubtedly be challenged in terms of autonomy, inappropriate intrusion of the state, availability of choice, and parental rights and responsibilities. Bolstered by access to information, its unacceptability to the public would be likely to have the same consequences."
However, there is a new Director of Immunisation - Dr Andrew Pollard - who may have a very different view.
I urge you therefore not be become desensitized to the issues around vaccine damage, long term child health and human rights, and sign this important petition.
Anna Watson is co-Secretary of the European Forum for Vaccine Vigilance (EFVV) as well as a mother and Primary school teacher with an interest in ethics and patient involvement. She sat for 3 years on her local PCT and then CCG board as the patient representative, and founded a Arnica, a grass roots network for parents and health practitioners that now meets in nearly 100 towns. She is UK representative to EFVV.
10. http://www.europarl.europa.eu/charter/pdf/text_en.pdf, Article 3, page 9
11 Bruesewitz v. Wyeth LLC, 131 S. Ct. 1068, 179 L.Ed.2d 1 (2011), http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/10pdf/09-152.pdf
13. J. Roberts/Medical Veritas 5 (2008) 1897-1905 1897 The dangerous impurities of vaccines, Janine Roberts http://homeoint.ru/pdfs/Janine.pdf