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COVID-19 vaccination does not violate the Nuremberg Code
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One of the Nuremberg principles is that humans should not be subject to medical experiments without their voluntary consent.
The COVID-19 vaccines have been tested in clinical trials with people who gave their consent.
The Facebook post is also based on the premise that COVID-19 vaccinations are medical experiments and that’s not true, an expert told us.
A man calling himself the "vaccine police" posted a video on Facebook making unsubstantiated claims about COVID-19 vaccines and the people administering them at a Walmart pharmacy in Missouri.
The video uploaded on Aug. 16 runs for more than 30 minutes and initially shows a man, identified as Christopher Key, driving up to a Walmart parking lot and filming himself inside his car.
"We are headed to Walmart, and we are going to present documents to the pharmacist, letting them know what they are doing is crimes against humanity and what they are doing is a violation of the Nuremberg Code, and if they do not stand down immediately, then they could be executed," he says.
Later in the video, the man is joined by a few other supporters who join in filming themselves as they walk through the store and up to the pharmacy area, where employees are shuttering the service windows. The video shows Key confronting and threatening other Walmart employees. At some point, Key claims that he’s there to be vaccinated. Eventually, Key and his supporters leave the store, and police await them outside. No one appears to be arrested.
The Washington Post reported that Key "has a history of making discredited medical claims."
Key’s Facebook post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
Key’s claim that pharmacists administering COVID-19 vaccines are doing so in "violation of the Nuremberg Code" is false.
The Nuremberg principles that Key alludes to are not part of U.S. law; they refer to a treaty agreed to after World War II to prosecute individuals for war crimes, and crimes against humanity, said Mary Ellen O’Connell, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame School of Law. One of the principles is that humans should not be subject to medical experiments without their voluntary consent.
O’Connell said that some individuals were charged under the charter with carrying out forced medical experimentation, and such forced experimentation is barred specifically in current treaties on the law of armed conflict, most notably the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the Additional Protocols of 1977.
Key’s argument is based on the false premise that COVID-19 vaccinations are medical experiments, O’Connell said.
She noted that the COVID-19 vaccines were developed through testing by willing, volunteer participants, and when those clinical trials met the acceptable legal and ethical standards of safety and efficacy, the vaccines were given emergency use authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
"No one taking the vaccine is being subjected to experimentation," O’Connell said. "Further, no one is forced to get a vaccine. If you refuse for reasons other than medical issues or religious teaching, you may lawfully be barred from certain activities where you may infect other people. That is your choice, not one coerced by the government."
Noah Feldman, a law professor at Harvard University and Bloomberg Opinion columnist, in June also wrote that vaccine mandates don’t violate the Nuremberg consent principle, because they are not experimental and because the Nuremberg code isn’t a federal or Texas law. His post was based on a Texas lawsuit challenging a hospital’s requirement that employees get vaccinated against COVID-19.
"But the fact that the code isn’t really law is unlikely to bring any comfort to vaccine skeptics. And the lack-of-consent point is not the point the plaintiffs are really trying to press, anyway. They want to promote the view that the vaccines are experimental," Feldman wrote.
As PolitiFact has reported, while vaccine skeptics often use the term "experimental agent" when referring to the vaccines, the FDA refers to them as "investigational vaccines."
The agency tells vaccine makers to file "periodic safety reports at monthly intervals" under an "investigational new drug" tracking system.
The three COVID-19 vaccines available in the United States are being administered under emergency use authorization.
During public health emergencies, like the coronavirus pandemic, the FDA has the legal power to grant emergency use authorization to certain products if they meet specific criteria and if there’s no adequate, approved and available alternative to treat the malady. A goal is to make products available quickly, when people urgently need them. Scientists and physicians at the FDA decide whether to grant such authorization.
"An emergency use authorization has a slightly lower bar to cross than full approval, but has come about after a comprehensive review of the data," Seema Shah, a Northwestern University professor of medical ethics previously told PolitiFact.
Pfizer and BioNTech, which developed one of the three COVID-19 vaccines available in the U.S., in May completed their application for full FDA approval for use in people ages 16 and older. An FDA decision is expected by January.
Moderna said in June that it had begun submitting parts of its full approval application. Johnson & Johnson has not yet submitted an application, but plans to this year, the company said.
A Facebook post claims that COVID-19 vaccinations are "a violation of the Nuremberg code."
One of the Nuremberg principles is that humans should not be subject to medical experiments without their voluntary consent. The vaccines have been tested in clinical trials with people who gave their consent. The post is also based on the premise that COVID-19 vaccinations are medical experiments and that’s not true, an expert told us.
We rate this claim False.
Facebook post, Aug. 16, 2021
National Institutes of Health, The Nuremberg Code
Email interview, Mary Ellen O’Connell, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame School of Law. Aug. 20, 2021
Washington Post, Self-proclaimed ‘Vaccine Police’ tells Walmart pharmacists they ‘could be executed’ for administering shots, Aug. 19, 2021
USA Today, Fact check: COVID-19 vaccine mandates don't violate Nuremberg Code, Aug. 10, 2021
Oregonlive.com, Does COVID-19 vaccine rollout violate Nuremberg Code that protects against coercion of medical-experiment subjects?, May 21, 2021, updated May 25, 2021
PolitiFact, Instagram post overlooks FDA sign-off on COVID-19 vaccines, March 31, 2021
Factcheck.org, Nuremberg Code Addresses Experimentation, Not Vaccines, June 8, 2020, updated May 17, 2021
Bloomberg Opinion, No, Covid Vaccine Mandates Don’t Violate the Nuremberg Code, June 2, 2021
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COVID-19 vaccination does not violate the Nuremberg Code
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