A new pre-print study by nine health experts from Harvard, Johns Hopkins, and other top universities found that COVID-19 boosters administered to young adults cause 18 to 98 serious adverse events for each COVID hospitalization prevented.
The study—posted Monday on The Social Science Research Network (SSRN)—concluded that mandatory booster vaccination in college is “ethically unjustifiable.” The paper is titled, “COVID-19 Vaccine Boosters for Young Adults: A Risk-Benefit Assessment and Five Ethical Arguments against Mandates at Universities.”
The research was conducted by Kevin Bardosh, University of Washington, University of Edinburgh—Edinburgh Medical School; Allison Krug, Artemis Biomedical Communications LLC; Euzebiusz Jamrozik, University of Oxford; Trudo Lemmens, University of Toronto—Faculty of Law; Salmaan Keshavjee, Harvard University—Harvard Medical School; Vinay Prasad, University of California, San Francisco (UCSF); Martin A. Makary, Johns Hopkins University—Department of Surgery; Stefan Baral, John Hopkins University; Tracy Beth Høeg, Florida Department of Health, Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital.
The nine medical scientists analyzed CDC and sponsor-reported adverse event data, and found that vaccine booster mandates have likely resulted in more harm than good.
“Per COVID-19 hospitalization prevented in previously uninfected young adults, we anticipate 18 to 98 serious adverse events, including 1.7 to 3.0 booster-associated myocarditis cases in males, and 1,373 to 3,234 cases of grade ≥3 reactogenicity which interferes with daily activities,” the study stated.
The researchers estimated that “approximately 22,000 to 30,000 previous uninfected young adults ages 18–29 years must be boosted with an mRNA vaccine to prevent one Covid-19 hospitalization,” and argued that the risk of serious side effects is much higher.
Given the fact that this estimate does not take into account the protection conferred by prior infection nor a risk-adjustment for comorbidity status this should be considered a conservative and optimistic assessment of benefit.
Our estimate shows that university Covid-19 vaccine mandates are likely to cause net expected harms to young healthy adults—between 18 and 98 serious adverse events requiring hospitalization and 1373 to 3234 disruptions of daily activities—that is not outweighed by a proportionate public health benefit.
The researchers said booster mandates at colleges and universities are unethical for the following reasons:
1) Lack of policymaking transparency. The scientists pointed out that no formal and scientifically rigorous risk-benefit analysis of whether boosters are helpful in preventing severe infections and hospitalizations exists for young adults.
2) Expected harm. A look at the currently available data shows that mandates will result in what the authors call a “net expected harm” to young people. This expected harm will exceed the potential benefit from the boosters.
3) Lack of efficacy. The vaccines have not effectively prevented transmission of COVID-19. Given how poorly they work—the authors call this “modest and transient effectiveness”—the expected harms caused by the boosters likely outweigh any benefits to public health.
4) No recourse for vaccine-injured young adults. Forcing vaccination as a prerequisite to attend college is especially problematic because young people injured by these vaccines will likely not be able to receive compensation for these injuries.
5) Harm to society. Mandates, the authors insisted, ostracize unvaccinated young adults, excluding them from education and university employment opportunities. Coerced vaccination entails “major infringements to free choice of occupation and freedom of association,” the scientists wrote, especially when “mandates are not supported by compelling public health justification.”
“Serious Covid-19 vaccine-associated harms are not adequately compensated for by current US vaccine injury systems,” the researchers wrote. “As such, these severe infringements of individual liberty are ethically unjustifiable.”
The Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (PREP) stipulates that an FDA emergency use authorization (EUA) for a vaccine exempts all parties from liability for vaccine injuries or deaths, “except for willful misconduct.”
Until the COVID vaccine mandates, no prior vaccination program combined forced vaccination with an explicit rejection of all tort liability for adverse events for government and nongovernment parties alike.
The paper also noted that the reckless mandates—which didn’t even exempt pregnant and breast-feeding women—are now “associated with wider social harms.”
The fact that such policies were implemented despite controversy among experts and without updating the sole publicly available risk-benefit analysis to the current Omicron variants suggests a profound lack of transparency in scientific and regulatory policy making.
The researchers concluded their paper with a call for policymakers to stop mandates for young adults immediately, be sure that those who have already been injured by these vaccines are compensated for the suffering caused by mandates, and openly conduct and share the results of risk-benefit analyses of the vaccines for various age groups.
These findings have implications for mandates in other settings such as schools, corporations, healthcare systems and the military. Policymakers should repeal booster mandates for young adults immediately, ensure pathways to compensation to those who have suffered negative consequences from these policies, provide open access to participant-level clinical trial data to allow risk- and age-stratified harm-benefit analyses of any new vaccines prior to issuing recommendations125, and begin what will be a long process of rebuilding trust in public health.
You can read and download the study here.
Since the spring 2021, nearly 700 colleges and universities across the U.S. have mandated students to be vaccinated against COVID-19.