Andrew Potter on not taking the swine flu vaccine

Andrew PotterIncreasing numbers of clinical staff at the hospital where I work declined invitations to be vaccinated against pandemic “swine” influenza. I think this is a worrying trend for both public health reasons and for the doctor’s integrity as a medical practitioner. There have also been reports in the popular press of doctors refusing the jab. As more NHS doctors object to what they perceive as an untried and untested vaccination, does the NHS as an employer, or the GMC as a regulatory authority have any recourse against these doctors? The GMC’s good medical practice publication, paragraph 77 clearly states: “You should protect your patients, your colleagues and yourself by being immunised against common serious communicable diseases where vaccines are available” [1]. With the current situation of a new vaccination against an infectious disease which likely has yet to bear its full impact, we need improved definition of the terms “common” and “serious” to support doctors whom decide not to be vaccinated. I also believe the NHS, either locally or nationally, should provide guidance on the matter.


1. General Medical Council (2006) Good Medical Practice

Andrew Potter is a GP trainee having previously worked as a registrar in cardiology, gastroenterology, and acute medicine. I currently work in obstetrics and gynaecology at Bedford Hospital.

  • Peter Maidment

    I feel it is important to lead by example – I am a GP principal I have encouraged my team to have both seasonal and H1 N1 vaccination I had my H1 N1 vacc on Wed – I am sitting on a hospital ward just about to have my second tranch on Human Immunoglob for GBS. Thank you Mr Bevin for the NHS- each of the 5 bottles of immunoglob each evening cost 14 x as much as the champagne I drank at dinner the night before my admission.Only the PCT will have to worry about the cost of me being on ITU if I am being ventilated in 6 weeks time.

    Yes I will still encourage my team to have vaccination – how much can I lean on them – esp with this having happened !

  • Nicola

    Info in paragraph 77 noted. However, isn’t the decision to be vaccinated one that doctors and other HCP take as a patient rather than as member of staff. As such aren’t doctors and HCP entitled to the same right to choice as any other citizen – additionally doctors and HCP should also have the same right confidentiality.

  • H Hershkorn

    My understanding is that the swine flu vaccine is prepared in just the same way and with just the same materials as the influenza vaccines which become available each Autumn, the sole difference being the virus material content. Perhaps these clinical staff refusing to be vaccinated should get more up to date with the published results so far.

  • Is there any evidence that an immunized person does not carry the ‘flu virus in the respiratory tract?

    If we have not evidence to support this then how can we make the argument that getting vaccinated yourself protects other people? Could there not be a lot of vaccinated people walking around spreading the virus but not getting sick themselves?

  • Mark Struthers, Bedford

    Despite financial meltdown throughout the banking world, the bonus culture is very much alive and kicking amongst all bankers, health or otherwise.

    Of course, there are juicy carrots on offer to encourage vaccine uptake amongst the masses. And there are big sticks apparently available with which to beat the medical professional who conscientiously objects to such bonus sports.

  • abdulkadir

    I TOOK IT.

  • Peter Featherstone

    I was sitting next to a patient who turned out to have Swine Flu recently, so I thought I should have the vaccine. I have had the usual flu vaccine each year for several years with no ill effects.

    Our hospital policy is to give the swine flu vaccine and the usual flu vaccine together – probably because it is cheaper and easier.

    Six of us had both jabs together a couple of weeks ago. for 48 hours afterwards we all felt extremely unwell. I developed shingles a week or so later.

    Is there evidence that it is safe to give both vaccines together?

    Am I right to believe that my immunity was affected, precipitating the shingles to develop?

  • Mark Struthers

    “I believe in science and I believe in studies to determine the truth.”

    So said American stand-up comedian Bill Maher in a recent article entitled, ‘Vaccination: a conversation worth having’.

    And he goes on to say,

    “There is a movement to stop people from asking any questions about vaccines — they’re a miracle, that’s it, debate over. I don’t think its that simple, and neither do millions of other people. The British Medical Journal from August 25 says half the doctors and medical workers in the U.K. are not taking the flu shot — are they all crazy too? Sixty-five percent of French people don’t want it. Maybe its not as simple as the medical establishment wants to paint it.”

  • Shari Barber-Bailey

    Please could someone explain what the actual cause for concern with the swine ‘flu vaccine is? I can’t help thinking of Esther Rantzen, a certain dubious paper in the NEJM, and my growing fears, amid rising measles prevalence, until my baby daughter could have her MMR.

    I did scan through that Huffington Post article (it’s wordy). Bill Maher expresses concern about interfering with nature by vaccinating people, and suggests that these repeated challenges to the immune system are a bad thing. My understanding was that our interfering with nature by sterilising our environment so that our immune systems lacked challenges, leaving us vulnerable to atopic etc conditions was a bad thing.

    I also tried to find a reason to be concerned about the swine ‘flue jab – I am a professional medical writer and my online searches revealed nothing credible.

    So why am I so concerned? I’m pregnant. In 10 weeks, or thereabouts, I shall have a vulnerable newborn baby. The idea that the midwives, doctors and any other staff dealing with that baby may not have been vaccinated worries me. (My swine ‘flu jab is booked for tomorrow.)

    My husband would like to be vaccinated just so he could reduce the risk of bringing the virus home to me and our toddler. (I don’t think he would rank any personal risk as important in this context.)

    I appreciate that healthcare staff have rights too, but isn’t there also a responsibility to protect patients? “First do no harm,” etc?

    Unless, of course, there is a real reason to be concerned about this vaccination. I would genuinely appreciate any information about any such reason, as I have failed to find it.

  • Adrian Midgley

    How else would it be Beverley?

    Distribution of viruses follows infection, immunisation impedes infection. I’m sure there is something in the nursing course about these things.

    There is a large campaign of antivaccinationist disinformation running at present, and it is well worth while considering who the people are presenting such odd stories. Some of them don’t distinguish, for instance, between comedy and science.

  • You didn’t answer my question which I think is legitimate and asks for evidence not assumption or conjecture. “How else could it be?”

    Is there any evidence that an immunized person does not carry the ‘flu virus in the respiratory tract?

    There is lots of evidence that people carry all sorts of micro-organisms in their respiratory tract and elsewhere but do not themselves get sick.

    Have the studies been done to culture the oral mucus membranes of H1N1 vaccinated people compared to unvaccinated people to determine if their levels of H1N1 virus is less?

    I suspect that we do not have this evidence – at least I haven’t seen it- because of the prevailing attitude that vaccination is a harmless way to improve health.

    Again very little evidence exists to support that argument.

  • Cynthia

    Just real simple, there aren’t any tests (NOT ONE)proving vaccines work – this is well documented in several books. What we were tracking w/ H1N1 was a cold. Only 1300 people died. 5,000 die of food poisioning every year in US. Your government bought 195 million vials of the h1n1 vaccine from Baxter so one would think this is about money — but they were giving it away for free. WHY? And just for laughs 10 of my friends were in line for shot out of 20 and the 1st man got the H1N1 shot and fell to the ground, diffulculty breathing, diaphoretic, EMS called and halled off in ambulance. My friends slowly scattered away making up reasons to get out of line “i FORGOT TO FEED CAT”

  • Dr David Hill

    The fallacy that the Drugs Strategy will save us from a Pandemic

    The facts are,

    Time Scale – 0 months
    Swine Flu first detected – Influenza A, Novel H1N1 “swine flu” was first detected in Mexico City and was made public March 18, 2009. Therefore the first causality was probably at the beginning of march 2009 taking into account the incubation period.

    First Death in USA
    Time Scale + 2-months later
    at the end of April 2009

    1st Vaccine Approved
    Time Scale + 6 months 2 weeks
    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the new swine flu vaccine for use in the United States on September 15, 2009.

    Vaccine 1st ready for use in USA
    Time Scale + 7 months 1 week
    The vaccine was first ready from mass production and used on 5th October 2009 in the USA

    Most Vaccinated City in the USA by 22nd March 2010
    Time Scale + 1 year 1month 1 week
    Massachusetts vaccinated more residents against the swine flu and seasonal flu in the fall and winter than any other state.
    Up to the end of Winter (March 2010) – The Massachusetts Department of Public Health says 36 percent of residents were inoculated against the swine flu, also known as H1N1, compared with 21 percent nationally. Seasonal flu vaccinations were administered to 57 percent of the population, compared with 37 percent nationwide.
    A mere 36% in one USA city and where nationally only 21% had the vaccine by March 22nd 2010.

    The Spanish flu of 1917/18 did its worst between week 16 and week 26. Up to 100 million died.

    Considering this fact by the time we get any vaccine, most of us will be well dead. Fact not fiction. Therefore the vaccine strategy is totally flawed and we have to move from this stupid strategy to a standpoint of never letting it happen in the first place – the preventative strategy not cure strategy and the only strategy that will actually work.

    That strategy is –