If You Care About Science, This Court Decision Should Horrify You

Vaccines are safe, no matter what the legal technicalities of one court case argue. funnyangel/Shutterstock

Robin Andrews 29 Jun 2017, 16:55

Vaccines save lives – millions of them, in fact. If you disagree, then you can go in a specially designed box along with climate change deniers, astrologers, and flat-earthers which, when full, will be promptly launched into the sea.

Right. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s take a look at a concerning ruling that’s come out of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) recently.

A French man went to court after developing multiple sclerosis (MS), a lifelong autoimmune condition wherein your white blood cells attack a biological sheath covering your brain and spinal cord. He claimed it was because of a vaccine he received for hepatitis B. A plethora of research on the vaccine has hitherto failed to demonstrate any link with MS, but the man – known as “W” – won his case.

W received his course of inoculations between 1998 and 1999. In August of that year, W contracted symptoms of MS. Then, in 2006, his family attempted to sue the vaccine manufacturer, whom they blamed for his diagnosis.

Remarkably, at a regional court in France, W won his case. The reasoning given was that because he had no previous health issues and no family history of the illness, the vaccine must be to blame – despite there being no direct evidence of cause-and-effect.

No, this is not a good argument for Brexit. Maryan Wayo/Shutterstock

There are multiple factors that appear to cause MS – including genetics, a lack of sunlight, heavy smoking, and associated viral infections – and in W’s case, he had not demonstrated any biological link between the vaccine and his illness.

In 2011, the Court of Appeal of Versailles overturned this decision precisely because of this lack of evidence. Remarkably, they did conclude that he had made a solid legal case that the vaccine was responsible, even if they ultimately overruled the earlier decision.

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