By Grove Higgins D.C.
This article is exclusively an opinion and thoughts of Dr. Grove Higgins on Vaccine Mandates and Medical Ethics.
This article aims to provoke thoughtful discussion and does not intend to offer medical advice.
Consult your healthcare provider for personalized recommendations.
Share your thoughts in the comments below.
I hesitated to release this article for weeks now. But I try to be honest and truthful always with my patients. So, although this is my opinion, it represents many hours of thought and discussion with many of my patients. I am sharing this with you to keep an honest and authentic dialogue with you, my readers, patients, friends, and family. Please feel free to comment and enter the discussion.
Another flu season is upon us. It also raises the annual (now.. continual) debate about vaccinations. This has been polarizing and fraught with contradictions and controversy, especially in the medical community. While COVID vaccines may have offered a respite in the fight against the pandemic, some ethical and practical questions need to be addressed.
The New Variant: What We Know
Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that the newest, fastest-spreading variant, known as BA.2.86, "may be more capable of causing infection in people who have previously had COVID-19 or who have received COVID-19 vaccines" (CDC). “Infection” sounds scary, but [law/philosophy] says that the more infectious the disease, the less dangerous it is for otherwise healthy people.
Despite this, President Biden called for everyone to get up-to-date vaccines and a proposal to Congress for funding for a “vaccine that works.”
I can’t help thinking, "What have we been doing all this time?" The president should have the most up-to-date information. In fact is, the COVID vaccines already available to the public have not performed as advertised, and the experts continue to identify unforeseen side-effects and consequences to the vaccines, which many of us have already received. We were repeatedly assured that the COVID-19 vaccines were effective and safe; neither was completely true. This includes those provided by the CDC reporting mentioned above, which the public was unaware of previously (CDC).
Big Pharma: Profits vs. Punishment
You might be surprised to hear that big drug companies have had to pay fines for breaking the law. In fact, between 1991 and 2017, these companies paid a whopping $38.6 billion in penalties. But here's the catch: these fines are a tiny slice of their vast profits ($711 Billion).(PublicCitizen) Imagine you made a big mess and had to pay a $5 fine, but you made $100 at the same time. Would that $5 fine really stop you from making another mess? Probably not. Companies like GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, and others have paid billions in financial penalties for:
Illegal Drug Promotion: Marketing drugs and uses that the FDA still needs to approve.
Overcharging Government Health Programs: Cheating state Medicaid programs with fraudulent drug pricing.
Criminal Penalties: False claims and illegal marketing.
State Settlements: Deceptive marketing or fraudulent pricing.
What does this look like?
$38.6 billion (fines)
$711 billion (profit)
= 5.4% Loss of profit
(This is after $ of development of these drugs – likely 1/100th the profits of each drug)
At only 5% of their profit, drug companies' fines aren't enough to deter bad behavior or make them change their ways. On top of that, the people running these companies rarely go to jail for breaking the rules, so there's little risk for them. But we, the consumers, face potentially dire consequences.
When the companies we trust to make our medicine aren't held accountable and the government that promotes and regulates them does not do it’s job, we wonder: Who's looking out for our health?
It is entirely appropriate for consumers to question how things work and demand greater safety and accountability in the world of medicine.
The Pandemic of Ethics
Norman Doidge’s essay “Needle Points” captures a crucial issue: doctors and other healthcare providers should always have honest discussions with their patients about the pros and cons of treatments, including vaccines. Then, the patient can make an informed decision on how he or she wishes to proceed. But when these thoughtful talks get replaced by blanket rules and mandates, discussions are short-circuited, and there is no foundation of trust. This approach could lead to people becoming overly reliant on medical services, often turning healthcare into more of a business opportunity than a patient-focused mission.
Ignoring the need for open dialogue has a ripple effect, especially when you add in the fact that some big pharmaceutical companies prioritize profits over ethical behavior. We have proof of this behavior, so unsurprisingly, people start to lose faith in the medical system. This growing mistrust spills into critical public health issues, like vaccine hesitancy. When consumers don't trust the companies making the vaccines or the medical professionals administering them, they will be skeptical about rolling up their sleeves for a shot. This hesitancy is not just a personal choice; it spills over into other aspects of healthcare and impacts community health on many levels.
“Public health moves at the speed of trust.” Dr. Rishi Manchanda
The "Do No Harm" Principle
Doctors are in positions of trust and should help their patients as much as possible by recommending tests or treatments for which the potential benefits outweigh the risks of harm. The short version of this is the idea of “Do No Harm.” This includes providing patients with all the necessary information to make an informed decision.
However, in mandated care, the physician is between a “rock and a hard place”: he or she is required to provide whatever care is mandated. But the irony lies in the fact that while pharmaceutical companies remain largely immune to liabilities, physicians bear the brunt of any litigation or professional penalties related to mandates, such as vaccine side effects. This is especially true if doctors rely on the recommendations and information provided by the drug companies and government, yet having access to research, fail to do their due diligence to assess claims of drug safety and effectiveness.
It's a predicament that increases medical care costs, reduces access to medical professionals, erodes trust in the healthcare system, and potentially exacerbates chronic diseases and economic strain. Private practitioners are especially vulnerable as they often cannot afford to fight litigation.
Remember, vaccines have helped many people avoid severe illness. If you are part of a high-risk population, getting vaccinated is a reasonable and advisable course of action. But you should know the whole story before making a decision.
Reported Severe Adverse Events Reported after COVID-19 Vaccination (CDC)
Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS)
Myocarditis and Pericarditis
We are entering another COVID-19 season. Before rolling up your sleeve, consider the potential risks and consult with a healthcare provider you trust. Remember, the decision to get vaccinated should be personal, in consultation with your physician, and not under coercion or undue influence.
Under the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, federal law requires a healthcare professional to provide a copy of the current Vaccine Information Statement (VIS) and answer any questions before giving a vaccine. (Immunize.org)
Ask! Its your right
While vaccines may have played a role in controlling the pandemic to some extent, the ethical complexities surrounding them can't be ignored and illuminate other issues in healthcare today. Medical ethics and patient autonomy must not take a back seat to rushed policies or financial incentives. Ultimately, we must strive for a balanced approach that respects individual choices while safeguarding public health.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2023, August 23). Risk assessment summary for SARS COV-2 sublineage BA.2.86. https://www.cdc.gov/respiratory-viruses/whats-new/covid-19-variant.html
Public Citizen. (2019, October 22). Twenty-seven years of pharmaceutical industry criminal and civil penalties: 1991 through 2017. https://www.citizen.org/article/twenty-seven-years-of-pharmaceutical-industry-criminal-and-civil-penalties-1991-through-2017/
Doidge, N. (2021, October 28). Why is there so much vaccine hesitancy?. Tablet Magazine. https://www.tabletmag.com/sections/science/articles/needle-points-vaccinations-chapter-one
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Selected Adverse Events Reported after COVID-19 Vaccination. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/safety/adverse-events.html. Accessed August 30, 2023.
Immunize.org. (n.d.). You Must Provide Patients with Vaccine Information Statements. https://www.immunize.org/catg.d/p2027.pdf. Accessed August 30, 2023.