The opinion of the Bioethics Committee on compulsory vaccination: one more step towards the dissolution of the ethics of fundamental rights

Part 1
(see Part 2)

The following text is a response to the Belgian Bioethics Advisory Committee following its position on mandatory vaccination(1). A brilliant rebuttal to this opinion is available here(2). Our text echoes this response and denounces the lack of neutrality and independence of the Bioethics Committee and the sophistry of the arguments it puts forward in its opinion.

The « democratic debate » on the anti-covid vaccine obligation (possibly disguised as a vaccine pass) will be imposed by the government in the coming days. The advisory bodies that advise the government(3) have already expressed their opinion on this issue: none of them are opposed to this obligation; some are even frankly in favor of it. However, their opinions justifying the holding of such a debate are based on arguments and presuppositions that are at the very least questionable, often not up to date, when they are not simply erroneous, and these failings reflect an attempt to force their way through.

We will not repeat here the questionable arguments of the Federal Institute for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights in its opinion in favor of compulsory vaccination(4) : an excellent carte blanche refuted them brilliantly(5) We will not dwell further on the questionable positions of the opinions issued by the Superior Council of Health(6) and the Federal Commission for Patients’ Rights(7) (a commission that is not opposed to making vaccination a condition of access to essential activities, such as access to education or access to a profession!): multidisciplinary groups of scientists and academics(8) raised a series of strong objections to these various opinions after determining that they were based on unproven or even inaccurate assumptions and that they failed to take into account « current field data, up-to-date scientific knowledge, pharmacovigilance, variations in vaccine-related risks or severe forms of Covid-19 by age groups and comorbidities, and the specificity of Covid vaccines. »(9) Because their assumptions are flawed, so are the conclusions and normative proposals in favor of mandatory vaccination set forth in these opinions.

What about the opinion of the Bioethics Advisory Committee? It must be noted that, like the other advisory bodies mentioned, it does not mention :

  • adverse reactions to vaccines ;
  • restrictions and/or bans already imposed on some of them in several countries;
  • the lack of experience with the currently proposed vaccines;
  • the unavailability of certain data on these vaccines;
  • of their experimental nature;
  • the benefit-risk balance varies according to age and health status;
  • the precautionary principle, a principle with obviously variable geometry since it is invoked as a major ethical principle justifying the refusal of early treatment options based on proven medications, and rejected as an immobilist principle hostile to progress in the case of experimental vaccine technologies;
  • of natural immunity;
  • Vaccine efficacy, which varies from person to person, is unpredictable and dependent on variants, and immune escape;
  • the zoonotic nature of coronaviruses;
  • the fact that these vaccines allow transmission, which makes the notion of solidarity vaccination obsolete;
  • the false sense of protection provided by vaccination, a risk factor for the spread of the virus;
  • possible collateral effects of mass vaccination in times of pandemic, such as possible selective pressure on variants ;
  • of the actual — extremely low — covid-related mortality;
  • of actual excess mortality;
  • counting, statistical and modeling methods used since March 2020 that are questionable, to say the least;
  • the lack of early treatment of patients despite the existence of early management protocols;
  • the restructuring policies implemented for decades in hospitals;
  • the fact that covid vaccination cannot be compared to vaccination against polio, smallpox or yellow fever;
  • the fact that the vaccinations strongly recommended for children in Belgium are aimed at protecting the child himself against a series of childhood diseases: in other words, the vaccinated public is vaccinated for its own protection, unlike the vaccination of millions of people not at risk in the case of covid;
  • the fact that the existing vaccination requirements in Belgium for certain professions are intended to protect exposed workers and not those with whom they come into contact;
  • the fact that the mandatory vaccination against hepatitis B was done after 10 years of use of the vaccine and that this vaccination does not concern people who have antibodies;
  • etc

Without a complete and up-to-date scientific basis and therefore without correct premises, the ethical arguments and conclusions of the Bioethics Committee that are supposed to justify a « democratic » debate on a possible anti-covid vaccine obligation for adults cannot be considered valid, and the holding of such a debate cannot therefore be considered legitimate. Not only does the opinion of the Bioethics Advisory Committee not take into account a whole series of factual and scientific data, but it also does not take into account a certain number of philosophical objections that have been addressed to it for almost two years. To put it briefly (the details of the rebuttal of the opinion being set out in a second part of this text): according to this opinion, the principles of informed consent and respect for bodily integrity could be transgressed in the long term under the pretext of general interest, the latter being defined by the decision-making bodies. It is therefore, to put it bluntly, an opinion that initiates the destruction of the ethics of fundamental rights, henceforth subordinated to a conception of the common good, of the general interest and of solidarity imposed by the authorities. However, respect for fundamental rights is part of the general interest. Fundamental rights are one of our most precious common goods. They are not selfish rights, but safeguards. The objective of the establishment of fundamental individual rights over the centuries was precisely to make them bulwarks against the arbitrariness of power. The evolution we are talking about here is really a step backwards. We must be aware that in such a regime, there will be no safeguards: it is the power that will dispose of our bodies and those of our children according to its interests. Are the authors of this opinion even aware of this? Would we accept a debate on the legitimacy of rape under certain conditions under the pretext of common interest?

Notes et références
  3. Le Conseil supérieur de la santé, l’Institut fédéral pour la protection et la promotion des droits humains, la Commission fédérale droits des patients et le Comité consultatif de bioéthique.

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