The Precautionary Principle – Why did it disappear in formulating vaccine policy?

These days, when you raise any comment or query regarding the effectiveness of a vaccine, the mainstream media label you as an “anti-vaxer” and either ignore you or write you up in a derogatory fashion.
And isn’t it strange that a universal call for “safe vaxing” is not even mentioned, because it does not suit extreme points of view.
i2P refutes that process as being undemocratic because it creates a “hole” in the concept of the freedom of speech argument for democracy.

The proposed government policy of shutting out people from receiving government benefits for refusing to have mandated injections administered to their children is simply coercive, undemocratic and illegal.

Governments, when developing policy, are supposed to examine all of the science  and have scientific consensus, and consider all of the risks before bringing it into law.
They also have to align with certain international agreements and treaties.

And there is one other overriding principle that has to be applied, particularly in the area of risk management, and that is the Precautionary Principle.

The Precautionary Principle or precautionary approach to risk management states that if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public or to the environment, in the absence of scientific consensus that the action or policy is not harmful, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking an action.

This opens the door for court action by any person injured through flawed policy enforcement,

The principle is used by policy makers to justify discretionary decisions in situations where there is the possibility of harm from making a certain decision (e.g. taking a particular course of action) when extensive scientific knowledge on the matter is lacking.
If ever an area of medicine lacked scientific knowledge it is in the area of vaccines.
The principle is generally accepted because some success has been demonstrated, but safety issues have been avoided.

The Precautionary Principle implies that there is a social responsibility to protect the public from exposure to harm, when scientific investigation has found a plausible risk.
These protections can be relaxed only if further scientific findings emerge that provide sound evidence that no harm will result.

In some legal systems, as in the law of the European Union, the application of the precautionary principle has been made a statutory requirement in some areas of law.

Regarding international conduct, the first endorsement of the principle was in 1982 when the World Charter for Nature was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, while its first international implementation was in 1987 through the Montreal Protocol.
Soon after, the principle integrated with many other legally binding international treaties such as the Rio Declaration and Kyoto Protocol.
The term “precautionary principle” is generally considered to have arisen in English from a translation of the German term Vorsorgeprinzip in the 1980s.
The concepts underpinning the precautionary principle pre-date the term’s inception.
For example, the essence of the principle is captured in a number of cautionary aphorisms such as “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, “better safe than sorry”, and “look before you leap”.
The precautionary principle may also be interpreted as the evolution of the ancient medical principle of “first, do no harm” to apply to institutions and institutional decision-making processes rather than individuals.
In economics, the precautionary principle has been analysed in terms of the effect on rational decision-making of the interaction of irreversibility and uncertainty.

Authors such as Epstein (1980) and Arrow and Fischer (1974) show that irreversibility of possible future consequences creates a quasi-option effect which should induce a “risk-neutral” society to favor current decisions that allow for more flexibility in the future. Gollier et al. (2000) conclude that “more scientific uncertainty as to the distribution of a future risk – that is, a larger variability of beliefs – should induce Society to take stronger prevention measures today.”

Many definitions of the precautionary principle exist.
Precaution may be defined as “caution in advance,” “caution practised in the context of uncertainty,” or informed prudence.
Two ideas lie at the core of the principle:

  1. an expression of a need by decision-makers to anticipate harm before it occurs. Within this element lies an implicit reversal of the onus of proof: under the precautionary principle it is the responsibility of an activity proponent to establish that the proposed activity will not (or is very unlikely to) result in significant harm.
  2. the concept of proportionality of the risk and the cost and feasibility of a proposed action

If coercive legislation is passed regarding mandatory vaccination here in Australia, then it would seem to open the door to large compensation claims by affected individuals or class action claims.

Unlike the US, Australia does not have a compensation system for patients affected by vaccines.
The US Vaccine Court that exists to provide compensation to injured individuals is a two-edged sword.
On one hand it does provide financial compensation for damaged patients but on the other hand, most settlements are sealed by the court so that any adverse information that could benefit future patients, is simply lost and does not enter the formal information for vaccines.
This allows other patients to be damaged unnecessarily.

Australian health policy seems not to be going down the right track.

6 responses to “The Precautionary Principle – Why did it disappear in formulating vaccine policy?”

  1. A very good comment on a public health policy that is being presented to the community as being in the ‘public’s best interest’. I first commented on the reversal of the Precautionary Principle in my presentation at Australia’s National Health Promotion Conference in 2009. Here is a link to the poster that presented the correlation in the increase in chronic illness in the population and the expanded use of vaccines in Australis’s immunisation program. As correlation does not equal causation, an evidence-based policy requires that this correlation should be investigated to ensure the vaccination schedule is not the cause of the significant increase in life-threatening chronic illness that has occurred in children. Governments have not investigated this correlation and they are not acknowledging this possibility of causation. This means that government vaccination policies are not evidence-based and the PP has been reversed to put the onus of proof of harm onto the general public. Here is a link to the information I provided at this health professionals conference in 2009

  2. I was just looking at disability rates in Australia, and it’s worse than I thought. According to the ABS as at 2012, approx 2.2 million people between ages 15-64 have a disability with approx 25% of those having profound disability and 47% moderate to mild disability. These figures don’t even include children under 15!

    According to the National Commission of Audit the NDIS will cost $22 billion per annum when fully rolled out in 2019/20.

    Vaccines have made us healthier, my arse. These figures should be sufficient to trigger an immediate stoppage of the vaccine programme under the precautionary principle so the source of this all this disability can be investigated.

    • John Radcliffe

      While there have been some published epidemiological studies purporting to show that vaccines are not a cause of Autism, all of them employ critically flawed statistical methods, and in most cases compare a population of children who have received x number of vaccines, with one that has received y number of vaccines. In these types of studies, the group which received only one less vaccine than the other group is deceptively described as unvaccinated. There have been no studies conducted to date which compare the rates of Autism, other disabilities and diseases in the completely unvaccinated with rates in the fully vaccinated.

      The US Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) has been compensating cases of Autism since its inception in 1986. A preliminary study published in 2011, found 83 compensated cases of Autism under the alternative diagnostic labels of encephalopathy or residual seizure disorder. In other words, compensation was awarded for vaccine-related brain injury which lead to Autism.

      (Holland et al., 2011, Unanswered Questions from the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program: A Review of Compensated Cases of Vaccine-Induced Brain Injury, Pace Environmental Law Review, p 3)

      Most of these cases were in relation to the DTPw vaccine, which was noted to cause Encephalopathy as early as the 1940s (Pertussis component).

      (Byers & Moll, 1948, Encephalopathies following Prophylactic Pertussis Vaccine, Paediatrics)

      This study only represents the tip of the iceberg too – it isn’t a question of if vaccines are one of the causes of Autism – that question has been answered in the positive. Rather, it’s a question of how many cases of Autism have been caused by vaccines.

      These articles report on other compensated Autism cases, and there have been others.

      (Kirby, 2013, Vaccine Court Awards Millions to Two Children With Autism, Huffington Post)

      (Attkisson, 2010, Family to Receive $1.5 m in First Ever Vaccine-Autism Court Award, CBS News)

  3. With all respect John, I believe we need to look at the entire commercial and political context in which vaccination and government health policy exists. The findings need to be drawn from truly independent sources, in an era when the boundaries between science and industry are increasingly blurred. If you use the same Google functions that lead you to the sorts of glib, official online statements (which might be seen as selectively citing certain research, in order to “protect the program”), you will find that there is both refutative science whose findings have led to a recommending caution, and evidence of industry-driven media bias, censorship of dissenting science and compensation payouts for vaccine injury, and conflict of interest influencing government health policy available.

    Having read widely on the subject, and having seen the science in favour of vaccination being revised by stealth since the late 1980s, and having prior to this seen the statistics regarding disease decline, I am certain that the current push for higher levels of more vaccines, and coercive measures to achieve this, is a commercial one for which (apart form the legal and human rights issues) there is neither a need, nor strong, evidence-based justification.

  4. John Radcliffe’s comments are incorrect and the link he has provided does not list any studies that have investigated in a systematic manner the long-term health outcomes of using the full schedule of vaccines in infants for a period of 5 years or more. This study needs to be done in animals before it is done in humans. But governments have not investigated the health outcomes of the combined schedule of vaccines. I have asked the government to present this study and they have informed me it has not been done. Hence the government can claim ‘there is no evidence of harm and no action needs to be taken’ simply because the link has not been investigated. And they are not acknowledging that this link needs to be investigated. If you can provide this study to demonstrate the safety of the vaccination schedule it would be greatly appreciated.

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