Healthcare students bullied into skipping informed consent

Published date17 April 2021
Date17 April 2021
The reward for some of them has been bullying and intimidation when, for various legitimate reasons, they wished to delay receiving the Covid-19 vaccine. Bullying is not a word to be used lightly. Read the following case and judge whether it is warranted.

A medical student told me that on reading the research on blood clotting associated with AstraZeneca he became increasingly concerned. He is not anti-vaccine. Nonetheless, as someone under 30, he felt that the chances of severe illness from catching Covid were less of a threat than the very rare but very serious clotting disorders associated with AstraZeneca. He was willing to take the Pfizer vaccine.

When it was announced that students could not take up placements unless vaccinated, vaccination was, in effect, made mandatory. They were the only category of healthcare worker for whom this was the case. About two weeks ago, this student's medical school surveyed students to establish their vaccination status. He replied honestly, giving his reasons for declining the AstraZeneca vaccination, but stressing his willingness to be vaccinated. He received a letter that did not engage with his concerns but stating that he could not take up his clinical placement.

Suspended He then received a phone call from the medical school telling him that he had two options: take the AstraZeneca vaccine or be suspended from further training for a year. Like many students, he could not afford to defer. By now, he felt under extreme strain and feared that he might be damaging his future career. With great reluctance, especially given that AstraZeneca was now under scrutiny by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac)

, he accepted an appointment for April 12th.

He made two further attempts, first by email on the morning of April 12th and then when he arrived at the clinic, to state that a decision by Niac was expected within hours and to ask that given the circumstances, could he be given the Pfizer vaccine at the same hospital at a clinic which was on the same afternoon.

He alleges that the clinic's administration staff told him that they were aware that the Niac decision was imminent and likely to favour his viewpoint, but said that the Pfizer vaccine was reserved for over-70s. So he held out his arm. Within the hour, the Niac decision to suspend vaccination for under-60s was announced.

This is not only bullying, it is stupid. If...

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