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Fact check: Staff administering COVID-19 vaccines are not war criminals

A video of a man claiming that healthcare professionals who administer the COVID-19 vaccine are “war criminals” has gone viral on Facebook.

Reuters Fact Check. REUTERS

The 15-minute video has 6,800 shares and 4,900 likes at the time of publication and shows a man saying: “No one can possibly know if the vaccine is safe and effective because the trial is still underway.” (5:05) (fb.watch/3qA_JoObuo/ , re-posted fb.watch/3qB2LImHhI/ , here and here).

He mentions a record on the U.S. government website stating that the vaccine trial will end on Jan. 31, 2023 (here) and adds: “It’s an experiment, it’s not over yet” (5:33).

However, it is standard practice for safety monitoring to continue after a vaccine has been approved and rolled-out. The process of how vaccines are tested, licensed and monitored is explained by Oxford University’s Vaccine Knowledge Project (here), the European Medicines Agency (bit.ly/2YLLros) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (here).

After clearing final Phase III clinical trials, a COVID-19 vaccine from U.S. drug maker Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech was granted approval for emergency use by U.S. regulators in December 2020, and both that and a vaccine from British drug maker AstraZeneca and its partner Oxford University have been approved for use in Britain.

Pfizer reported in December 2020 that it would continue safety monitoring of participants in its Phase III trial. (here, see ‘adverse events’), meaning “all trial participants will continue to be monitored to assess long-term protection and safety for an additional two years after their second dose” (here).

This is a normal procedure. Government bodies also track a vaccine as it is given to the population, with the UK government using the Yellow Card scheme (here) and the U.S. government operating VAERS (vaers.hhs.gov/reportevent.html).

Reuters has debunked previous false claims about COVID-19 clinical trials here .

The man in the video, who was described by Politico last year as a “well-known anti-vaccine influencer” (here), continues: “The Nuremburg code on medical experimentation written in 1947… stated that explicit, voluntary consent from patients is required for human experimentation. That means that patients must be told they’re taking part in a trial and they must be warned of all the possible adverse events, that’s what informed consent means.

“How many doctors and nurses jabbing people with this stuff are telling patients that it’s a trial? How many are giving people the information they need to make a valued judgement? I would guess somewhere close to none. And so legally, all those people giving vaccinations are war criminals. I’ll repeat that. Legally, all those people giving vaccinations are war criminals.” (6:20)

He continues: “Let me be clear. Everyone giving the COVID-19 vaccines without explaining that it’s an experiment and without listing all the possible adverse events, is a war criminal.” (7:34)

The 1947 Nuremberg code does require that human participants in experiments give informed consent (here) and was adopted as part of the 1949 Geneva Conventions (here), so breaking the code would constitute a war crime (here).

However, those taking the vaccine do give informed consent. The UK government’s Green Book (here) explains that “consent must be obtained before starting any treatment or physical investigation or before providing personal care for a patient” including “all vaccines”.

“Consent must be given voluntarily and freely. The individual must be informed about the process, benefits and risks of immunisation and be able to communicate their decision” (bit.ly/3jlgkcX , pages 7-8). The chapter adds that information can be communicated via leaflets, posters, videos, information packs, factsheets, and websites.

Unlike the UK, the U.S. has no federal requirement for informed consent relating to vaccination (here), but some states do have informed consent laws (here).

However, the CDC state that patients receiving licensed vaccines, such as for tetanus, must be given a Vaccine Information Statement (VIS) to outline the risks and benefits (here). For COVID-19 vaccines, recipients are provided with fact sheets ‘to help make an informed decision about vaccination’ that are similar to VISs but differ in that they are specific to each authorised COVID-19 vaccine, are developed by the vaccine manufacturer and authorised by the FDA (here).

VERDICT

False. Health professionals administering approved COVID-19 vaccines are not war criminals. All vaccines go through rigorous clinical trials before they are approved by regulators and given to the public, and it is normal for governments and pharmaceutical companies to continue safety monitoring after the vaccine has been approved. Vaccine recipients in the UK and the U.S. are told about the benefits and risks before receiving the jab.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts here .

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