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Vaccines can be blamed for illness without scientific proof, EU court rules

The decision stems from the case of a man who developed MS shortly after being vaccinated against hepatitis B.

Image: Shutterstock/funnyangel

THE EUROPEAN COURT of Justice has ruled that courts may consider vaccines to be the cause of an illness, even in the absence of scientific evidence confirming a link.

The decision stems from the case of a Frenchman, referred to as JM, who was vaccinated against hepatitis B “between the end of 1998 and the middle of 1999″ and developed multiple sclerosis in 2000.

The finding states that the proximity between a person getting a vaccine and the occurrence of a disease, as well as the lack of personal and familial history of the illness and the existence of a significant number of reported cases of the disease occurring following such vaccines being administered “may, where applicable, constitute sufficient evidence to make out such proof”.

In its ruling, the court said: “Where there is a lack of scientific consensus, the proof of the defect of the vaccine and of a causal link between the defect and the damage suffered may be made out by serious, specific and consistent evidence.”

The ruling states that JW “was vaccinated against hepatitis B using a vaccine produced by Sanofi Pasteur”.

In August 1999, he began to “present with various troubles, which led to a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis in November 2000″.  He died in 2011.

In 2006, JW and his family had brought legal proceedings against Sanofi Pasteur to obtain compensation for the damage they claim he suffered due to the vaccine.

The case was heard by the Court of Appeal in Paris, which observed there was “no scientific consensus supporting a causal relationship between the vaccination against hepatitis B and the occurrence of multiple sclerosis”.

The court held that no such causal link had been demonstrated and dismissed the action. An appeal was brought to the French Court of Cassation.

‘Excellent state of health’ 

The case referenced the fact that JW was previously in an “excellent state of health” and noted the lack of family history of the disease, and proximity of the vaccination being given to the diagnosis of MS.

Yesterday’s decision allows for a court, “where there is not certain and irrefutable evidence, to conclude that there is a defect in a vaccine and a causal link between the defect and a disease on the basis of a set of evidence … which allows it to consider, with a sufficiently high degree of probability, that such a conclusion corresponds to the reality of the situation”.

The document notes that the system still “places the burden on the victim to prove the various elements of his case which, taken together, will provide the court hearing the case with a basis for its conclusion as to the existence of a defect in the vaccine and a causal link between that defect and the damage suffered”.

It states that “excluding any method of proof other than certain proof based on medical research, could make it excessively difficult [or] impossible to establish producer liability”.

The decision adds that national courts must ensure the evidence is “sufficiently serious, specific and consistent to warrant” its conclusion.

In a statement, a representative from Sanofi Pasteur told CCN: “It is not our role to comment on this legal decision.

“However, Sanofi Pasteur wishes to reiterate that its vaccines are safe and effective and protect against infectious diseases. Our hepatitis B vaccines are safe and well tolerated. They have been approved by health authorities and are marketed for more than 30 years.”

Read: ‘Women will die needlessly’: Call for push to increase uptake of HPV vaccine

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Órla Ryan

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