The Approved COVID-19 Vaccines Are Not Experimental and Are Safe and Beneficial During Pregnancy

This past December, on his popular podcast The Joe Rogan Experience, Joe Rogan interviewed Dr. Robert Malone, a physician-scientist, who made numerous accusations and insinuations regarding health authorities, doctors, and the pharmaceutical industry in connection with COVID-19 vaccines. His condemnation, which continues to this day is focused particularly on the mRNA vaccines, meaning the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and the Moderna vaccine. During the more than 3-hour discussion, possibly the most jaw dropping thing that Malone did was to refer to the vaccines that billions of people have received throughout the world as experimental and claim that all mandates of such vaccines violated ethical rulings. He did it like this:

…They completely disregard bioethics. They completely disregard the Federal common rule. They have broken all the rules that I know of that I’ve been trained on for years and years and years. These mandates of an experimental vaccine are explicitly illegal. They are explicitly inconsistent with the Nuremberg Code. They’re explicitly inconsistent with the Belmont Report…

In referring to the Nuremberg Code of 1947 and the Belmont Report of 1979, Malone was equating vaccine mandates, such as laws requiring health care workers and teachers to be vaccinated against COVID-19, with various unethical research practices that the Nuremberg Code and Belmont Report were written to address. To unpack this, let’s first make it very clear that the vaccine jabs that you received into your arm are not experimental by any definition of the word.

As of the writing of this post in mid February 2022, several COVID-19 vaccines are approved by health authorities around the world, with a few more gearing up for approval. Using the United States as an example, both the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and the Moderna vaccine have full approval of the Food and Drug administration in people ages 18 and up. This includes full approval in pregnant and lactating women. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine furthermore has full FDA approval for ages 16 and up, plus emergency use authorization (EUA) in ages 5 and up, whereas the Johnson and Johnson vaccine is covered by an EUA in ages 18 and up. Similar authorizations apply worldwide to AstraZeneca, Novavax, Covaxin, and certain other COVID-19 vaccines. The vaccines have been proven safe and effective in clinical trials, a finding that is backed up increasingly by the demonstrated benefits of the vaccines in preventing severe COVID-19. They are saving lives.

With this in mind, let’s look at the ethical comparisons that Dr. Malone made, against which Mr. Rogan did not even push back. Published in 1979, the Belmont Report lays out guidelines on how to conduct human research trials ethically. It defines requirements, such as that participants in trials must not be forced to participate and that the benefits of the study must outweigh any potential harms. Thus, guided partly by the Belmont Report, clinical researchers must always check if a benefit of a treatment, or a harm of a treatment is becoming evident as a study proceeds, in which case in may become necessary to stop a study early. A case in point is a notorious long study occurring in the decades prior to the Belmont Report, known as the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. Running from 1932 to 1972, this study was designed to explore the effects of syphilis —untreated syphilis— on the bodies of test subjects, African American men, who were mostly poor and uninformed. Fairly early in the study, the antibiotic penicillin became widely available. This medication cures syphilis, completely if it’s given early enough, but the study went on and on until the 1970s, ending just prior to the conferences that generated the Belmont Report.

As for the Nuremberg Code of 1947, this resulted from investigations, hearings, and trials related to the medical atrocities of Nazi researchers, such as Dr. Josef Mengele, whose criminal experiments included things like extracting organs and amputating limbs of concentration camp prisoners without anesthesia.

One can make a reasonable case against particulars of vaccine policies, such the number of jabs, the lengths of the intervals between the jabs, the dosages of each jab, the age groups, and whatnot. But moving from that to equating vaccine mandates implemented for the sake of public heath to unethical research on par with Nazi war crimes, one is admitting there is little case to be made against the vaccine policy based purely on the science.

David Warmflash
Dr. David Warmflash is a science communicator and physician with a research background in astrobiology and space medicine. He has completed research fellowships at NASA Johnson Space Center, the University of Pennsylvania, and Brandeis University. Since 2002, he has been collaborating with The Planetary Society on experiments helping us to understand the effects of deep space radiation on life forms, and since 2011 has worked nearly full time in medical writing and science journalism. His focus area includes the emergence of new biotechnologies and their impact on biomedicine, public health, and society.

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