The Rt Hon. Boris Johnson MP
10 Downing Street
16 October 2020
Dear Prime Minister
As doctors and registered health professionals, we wish to express our serious concern and objection to any proposals being contemplated1 for compulsory or coerced vaccination against COVID-19.
Fundamentally, we are not anti-vaccines but support safe vaccination as an important preventative measure where benefit is established. However, trials to demonstrate safety and benefits of the proposed vaccines for COVID-19 are not designed adequately to do either .
Do no harm
The medical profession has a duty to first do no harm. Implicit in that fundamental principle is the requirement for rational, evidence based, balancing of benefit and harm. Without evidence of significant benefit from a vaccine, we cannot justify the risk of causing harm.
Coerced vaccination will undermine trust in both the government and the medical profession. As was demonstrated by MMR, the trust of the public on vaccination is fragile and the consequences of reducing that trust has real world effects, particularly for children.
A person does not have to be physically constrained for vaccination to be described as compulsory. Persuasion and coercion by withholding access, for example, to travel, to premises and to work – euphemistically referred to as “Taking the UK’s Testing Strategy to the Next Level”2, a paper published by Tony Blair’s Institute for Global Change as “conditioning social privileges on cooperation” – is no less a form of compulsion.
Compulsory vaccination violates the right to informed consent, one of the most fundamental ethics in medicine and a human right recognized under international law and several internationally recognized agreements.
Covid-19 vaccination is being mis-sold to the public
When the public is being encouraged to think that the proposed vaccine will eradicate Covid-19 or provide them with long term immunity, they are being misled.
No senior scientists working on vaccines in trials suggest the virus will be eradicated in the UK or anywhere in the world.
Given that patients who became critically ill were harmed by a hyper-immune inflammatory response, the assumed benefit of stimulating an immune reaction to this pathogen must be questioned. The current vaccine trials are designed to assess only the potential mitigation of symptoms in the population3. They are not designed to establish whether they may reduce deaths from Covid-19 or even reduce transmissibility. Even when current trials are completed, there will remain no evidence4 that vaccination is likely to have any meaningful benefit, and certainly no benefit which justifies the considerable currently unquantified harms that may result.
Safety standards must not be reduced
Government intends to pass a law to bypass licencing requirements and provide manufacturers with legal immunity from claims arising from harmful effects. Governments may change, but the taxpayer and the medical profession will take full responsibility for any harm that results. This alone may have the dual effect of undermining public confidence in the vaccine and leaving medical professionals with inadequate safety data.
Although vaccine development against SARS-CoV-2 has proceeded at pace, important pieces of safety information can only be obtained over time & cannot be assumed, no matter what resources are applied. This is especially true for vaccines, like this one, where novel technology is being used against a novel virus for which long-term human safety information is not yet available.
The majority of the population have a low risk of severe illness or death from the virus. A new vaccine, which lacks an extensive safety profile for prolonged periods after dosing, for example as little as one year, should not be offered to, let alone mandated, for such people. This is particularly true for pregnant women and children for whom the risks could have the largest impact.
We should learn lessons of history. We are right to remember the drug Thalidomide which precipitated the 1968 Medicines Act and under which authority the Human Medicine Regulations 2012 were put in place a relatively short time ago. Where a vaccine is pushed out on a national or global scale, as is intended, all the greater is our moral obligation to ensure the bar on safety standards is raised, not significantly lowered as is the intended effect of the proposed changes to those regulations currently before Parliament.
Consent must be informed
Once benefits and safety have been demonstrated then for vulnerable groups the benefits may well outweigh the risks and we could support vaccination, subject of course to informed consent. Until that time, those administering the vaccine remain uninformed as to potential and unforeseen consequences, and those receiving the vaccine cannot, by definition, have any informed consent in any true meaning of that phrase.
Be honest with the public, our patients
The history of vaccine compliance in this country is good. Over 90% of children complete their childhood vaccinations5 and the UK has some of the highest levels of flu vaccination uptake for the elderly6. Given the appropriate assurances, there is no reason to suspect the public would not seek voluntary vaccination. Encouragement and assurances will come from the medical profession once the benefit and safety of the proposed vaccine is established.
We call on you, on SAGE and the government to commit to reject coercion in favour of voluntary vaccination, honest education of the public and informed consent.
We look forward to your reply.
Dr Clare Craig BMBS, FRCPath
Dr Mike Yeadon Bsc(Hons), PhD
- [Co-signers to be listed]
cc Matthew Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care; Sir Patrick Vallance, Chief Scientific Adviser; Professor Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer Department of Health; Professor Stephen Powis, Medical Director NHS England; Ruth May, Chief Nursing Officer England; Dr Gregor Smith, Chief Medical Officer of Scotland; Professor Rowan Parks, Medical Director NHS Scotland; Professor Fiona McQueen , Chief Nursing Officer Scotland; Dr Frank Atherton, Chief Medical Officer Wales and Medical Director NHS Wales; Professor Jean White, Chief Nursing Officer Wales; Dr Michael McBride, Chief Medical Officer Department of Health Northern Ireland; Charlotte McArdle, Chief Nursing Officer Northern Ireland; Professor Yvonne Doyle, Medical Director and Director for Health Protection, Public Health England
If you are a registered doctor, nurse or other health professional agreeing with this letter and wanting to make your voice heard:
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Other than the signed principle authors, no names will be published until there are at least 18 co-signatories.
 Ensuring Uptake of Vaccines against SARS-CoV-2, NEMJ
Taking the UK’s Testing Strategy to the Next Level, The Blair Institute for Global Change
 EU Clinical Trials Register – Clinical trials for sars-cov-2 vaccine -bacillus
 U.S. National Library of Medicine – ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT04516746
 NHS Digital – Childhood Vaccination Coverage Statistics- England 2017-18
 Nuffield Trust – Adult flu vaccination coverage