Experts tell MPs compulsory Covid vaccines can be made legal, Tom Swarbrick writes

11 November 2020, 14:05 | Updated: 11 November 2020, 15:01

MPs have taken evidence from academics arguing that the covid vaccine could be made compulsory
MPs have taken evidence from academics arguing that the covid vaccine could be made compulsory. Picture: PA
Tom Swarbrick

By Tom Swarbrick

A group of vaccine experts has told MPs that compulsory Covid vaccines could be made legal.

MPs have taken evidence from academics arguing that the covid vaccine could be made compulsory.

The professors, from the University of Oxford and the University of York, told the Joint Committee on Human Rights that taking the vaccine could be made a requirement of leaving lockdown.

However, the evidence which was submitted in July was not included in the final report by MPs.

Dr Lisa Forsberg, Dr Thomas Douglas, Dr Jonathan Pugh and Dr Isra Black, who specialise in philosophy, law and the ethics of medicine, argue that a compulsory vaccine may place less of a burden on the individual than the lockdown rules.

They suggest that making the vaccine compulsory would not violate current human rights legislation and speculate that individuals could opt not to have the vaccine but would have to remain under lockdown laws.

Indeed they argue that the Coronavirus Act 2020, voted through by MPs in just four days in March, “does not explicitly prohibit the imposition of compulsory medical treatment or vaccination”.

They point to other countries in Europe who have mandatory vaccination policies, like Italy and Austria but don’t suggest that the UK Government should follow suit.

Instead, they describe the legislative changes that would be necessary to make vaccination compulsory and whether that change would be ethical. They conclude that both would be possible.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “In the UK, we do not currently have mandatory vaccination but operate a system of informed consent – it is everyone’s responsibility to seek NHS advice to get the right information to make an informed choice.

“Our priority is to ensure any potential new COVID-19 vaccine meets robust standards of safety and effectiveness.”

Asked why the controversial evidence did not make their final report, Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights said: “We did not use this evidence in our Report as the topics we focussed on in the September Report did not include vaccination.”

The report mentions vaccinations only once.

It comes as US pharmaceutical firm Pfizer, working with German biotech company BioNTech, released preliminary findings that suggest their vaccine is more than 90% effective in preventing Covid-19.

The vaccine has been tested on 43,500 people in six countries and no safety concerns have been raised.

Pfizer is now planning to apply to the US regulator the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for emergency approval to use the vaccine by the end of the month.