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BSI response to ECJ ruling on vaccines

21 June 2017

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) have today issued a ruling on national courts deciding that vaccines may cause adverse reactions, even in the absence of scientific evidence. This is in relation to the case of a man from France who was vaccinated with the hepatitis B vaccine and later developed multiple sclerosis. You can read the full European Court of Justice ruling here and the press release on this ruling here.  In response, the British Society for Immunology has issued the following statement:

Professor Peter Openshaw, President of the British Society for Immunology said:

“It is vital that we use an evidence-based, scientific approach to assess medicines in order to ensure that patients are provided with effective and safe treatments.   It is very concerning that the European Court of Justice has ruled that judges can consider whether a vaccination led to someone developing a medical condition, even if there is no scientific evidence to support this.

“The court judgement states that "the administering of the vaccine is the most plausible explanation" for the disease and that "the vaccine therefore does not offer the safety that one is entitled to expect". This is misleading: anecdotes are by their nature plausible, but must be disregarded as a guide to decision-making. Decisions must be made on evidence, not anecdote.

“The scientific evidence does not support a link between the hepatitis B vaccine, or any other vaccine in current use, and multiple sclerosis. To say that there is a link between any vaccine and multiple sclerosis and at the same time to admit that there is no scientific evidence of such a link is illogical and confusing to the public.

“The Government’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is the independent expert advisory panel which reviews all the scientific evidence available on each vaccine using very rigorous and objective criteria. JCVI then makes recommendations on whether it should be provided to patients.   Once a vaccine is approved, the UK’s Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency monitors its safety on an ongoing basis.”

“Vaccines are amongst the best measures we have to save lives and prevent disease. The public should be reassured that all vaccines available in the UK go through a rigorous approval process and ongoing monitoring to ensure their safety. We should continue to vaccinate according to the carefully designed UK schedule, disregarding anecdotes and false associations.”