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Friday, 30 June 2017

Vaccines - the Truth as a Belief system

On 21 June 2017, a ruling on vaccines by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) caused worldwide attention. Pharmaceutical firms were disappointed because of potential lawsuits. The ruling has also been accused of undermining national vaccination programmes (eg, Telegraph). The CJEU ruling was an overdue victory for the French man who was vaccinated against hepatitis B in 1998, developed multiple sclerosis a year later, and died in 2011 (eg, CNN).

When I was born in 1960, my parents must have had little doubt in vaccination programmes as I received all of the recommended voluntary ones for children (eg, chickenpox, measles). As an adult, I renewed certain vaccinations considering my foreign travelling (eg, DTP, Hepatitis A, yellow fever). I did read about the risks and/or side effects. I made a conscious choice.

Vaccinations are generic while each human is unique. From a statistical point of view, it makes sense that on a population of billions of people, some people will suffer from severe side-effects. During my 2 visits to Kenya, I used the anti-malaria pill Malarone. Unfortunately, I belonged to the group of 5% with expected side-effects. Would I prefer running the risk of malaria? Not really.

Both sides of the debate claim that their truth is the Truth. Nobody accepts the ugly truth that both sides are right: many lives are saved and a few people could/will be killed. The Greater Good theory would know the answer: the morality - good or bad - is defined by the end result. Hence, many is better than a few. Utilitarianism would agree: 'the greatest amount of good for the greatest number'.

The CJEU ruling uses a statistical approach: if a significant number of healthy people - with a lack of history of the disease in their family - developed a disease shortly after receiving a vaccine then that would serve as enough proof to bring a claim (without a need for further scientific proof). However, this ruling makes a major flaw in its reasoning on cause and effect.

The CJEU ruling only blames the "defect" vaccine in certain exceptional cases. The alternative is not being considered: a "defect" human being. Once again, vaccinations are generic while each human is unique. A generic drug could never be tested, approved and marketed with a 100% reliability. An "expected performance of 99.98%" might be their best (eg, FDA).

Until the CRISPR-Cas9 technology optimizes our DNA, there is always a risk of a shoddy immune system and an inappropriate generic vaccine. I had no shadow of a doubt when my children were up for recommended voluntary vaccination. It's an easy choice between running the risk of 0.02% side effects and - increasingly - a 100% risk of (future) contamination. 

The bitter irony is that people refusing vaccines on matters of principle, were once quite safe because of the high rate of vaccination. Now that this rate is falling, they suddenly become the victim of people who also refuse vaccinations but based on ignorance (eg, Germany, Italy). 

The Greater Good (2010) by José James - AllMusicartist, FBlyrics, video, Wiki