Rapid Response: Re: Covid-19 vaccination hesitancy

28 May 2021 — BMJ

BMJ 2021; 373 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.n1138 (Published 20 May 2021) Cite this as: BMJ 2021;373:n1138  

Noel Thomas
Bronygarn, Maesteg, Wales

Dear Editor,
The introduction to this paper finishes with the authors’ hope that it’s overview will “ help people make informed decisions about covid -19 vaccination.”

A laudable intention which reflects UK law on informed consent ? (1)

The many things that UK law expects of doctors when obtaining informed consent, include discussion of all material risks that a reasonable person might be expected to wish to know about.

The fact that covid-19 vaccine makers have all declined to accept any compensation liability for their products, would surely be essential information to explain to any reasonable person, who might, in other circumstances, wonder at the wisdom of accepting an electric kettle, a bicycle, or a car, whose maker similarly lacked confidence in their product ?

If such reasonable people were already uncertain for the reasons that Stone (2) and Grimes( 3) have recently suggested, or because they knew of other uncertainties that have been itemised here, many times, (4), the fact that the vaccine makers lack sufficient confidence in their products’ insurability, might become especially important to such reasonable people.

Nowhere does the article appear to recognise that those well identified, named, problems, actually exist.

This is not surprising. Many times in recent years it has been pointed out, here, that we have a dysfunctional consent system to vaccination in the UK.

No one has attempted to dismiss this suggestion.

This dysfunctional UK consent system becomes even more problematical when mass vaccination clinics are considered necessary.

Your two regular columnists, Drs Salisbury and Oliver, both have not clarified their positions in responses on situations where hypothetical or actual clinical methods, and UK law, may be in conflict. (5,6)

Is it any wonder that reasonable people may feel extremely hesitant about covid-19 vaccination, especially if they have examined those hundreds of papers (7) that make their decisions more precarious, and if they wonder how many doctors are aware of those papers ?

Such reasonable people, reaching the end of this article, will read that if patients are concerned about the speed of the vaccine rollout, they need to be reassured that it has occurred “without compromising scientific rigour to establish safety and efficacy.” In view of the fact that the covid-19 vaccines have temporary licences, with no medium nor long term safety nor efficacy studies completed, how do the authors justify that statement ?

This article may engender in some, a feeling that covid-19 vaccine hesitancy represents a deficiency of information that needs attention.

In our present situation, given the above uncertainties, others may regard vaccine hesitancy as a healthy, perceptive, and responsible attitude ?

1. https://www.supremecourt.uk/cases/uksc-2013-0136.html
2. https://www.bmj.com/content/373/bmj.n1138/rr-12
3 https://www.bmj.com/content/373/bmj.n1138/rr-13
4 https://www.bmj.com/content/367/bmj.l6926/rr-7
5. https://www.bmj.com/content/370/bmj.m3724/rr
6. https://www.bmj.com/content/365/bmj.l2244/rr-18
7. Neil Z Miller, Miller’s Review of Critical Vaccine Studies. New Atlantean Press, 2016

Competing interests: No competing interests

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