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Professor Mary Holland on Vaccination Policies and Human Rights: United Nations 25th International Health and Environment Conference

UN Mary
On Tuesday, April 26, many of us in the vaccine safety/autism community attended a conference at The United Nations in New York City.  We were there to hear Professor Mary Holland, Dr. Martha Herbert and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speak during the second half of this conference, which was devoted to children and toxicity.  Kevin Barry presented in lieu of Mr. Kennedy, who was called away due to family obligations.  Below is the video from the 3 hour event. Professor Holland's presentation begins at 1:12 - 1:27 and she appears again during the Q&A from 2:09 - 2:18.   Her written presentation is below the video.

Also, If you have the time, we invite you to watch the exchange with Dr. Bernard Goldstein during the Q&A.  He is the head of the U Pitt School of Public Health and was a panelist. He took umbrage with most of what Professor Holland had to say about vaccines and legal and medical rights.  He wiggled in his seat, rolled his eyes and made faces to express his dismay while she spoke.  It was a strange display to be sure.
Health and Environment: Global Partner for Global Solution – 30 Years of Chornobyl Legacy for the Nuclear Safety of the World Panel discussion on Health and Environment: Global Partner for Global Solution – 30 Years of Chornobyl Legacy for the Nuclear Safety of the World. Organised by the Permanent Mission of Ukraine, in collaboration with the World Information Transfer, Inc.

Below is the transcript of Mary's presentation.

25th International Health and Environment Conference

United Nations

Vaccination Policies and Human Rights

Mary Holland

Research Scholar, NYU School of Law

April 26, 2016

I want to start by asking a couple simple questions by a show of hands.  How many of you have ever, for any reason, been critical of the United Nations? Security Council, peacekeeper, budget issues come to mind. For any reason.  OK. 

And how many of you have ever been critical of the United States of America, for any reason?  Foreign policy, domestic policy, role at the UN. OK.  So you are all here, at the United Nations, in the United States, but the vast majority of you have been critical of these institutions at one time or another for one reason or another.

To me, this is like asking, are you alive? Are you awake? Are you a thinking person? Do you care about the world? Almost all of us we have been critical at some point for some reason of the UN or the US, because these are complex institutions with varying actions and inactions of all kinds on many issues.

But now if I ask you, have you ever been critical of your country’s vaccine policies, you may be reluctant to raise your hand.  And for good reason, because in the supercharged public discourse about vaccines, were you to have answered, “Yes, I have been critical of some aspect of vaccine policy at some time,” you would likely be branded “anti-vaccine,” that fundamentalist bogey-man term.  And not by a militant or fringe publication or spokesperson.  You might be branded “anti-vaccine” by the likes of the New York Times, the New England Journal of Medicine, the World Health Organization and by spokespeople from national centers for disease control and national pediatric associations. Your views on vaccines might be considered “outside the mainstream,” and equivalent to the views of those who deny climate change.  You might be considered a flat-earther. 

No matter if your critique were categorical, and that you truly oppose all vaccines for all people at all times, or if you simply believe, as Bobby and I and many others do, that mercury should never be a preservative in any vaccine anywhere in the world because there are better and safer alternatives.

Many in the audience here today are branded “anti-vaccine,” although that is a gross distortion.  We are called this primarily to marginalize and dismiss our views.  But just as most of you are critical of some aspects of the UN and the US but think they are important institutions, most of us have views that are nuanced, pro-health and pro safe, affordable, necessary and effective, or sane, vaccines.

My focus today is on the role of law in protecting human rights when it comes to vaccines. How can we balance the rights of the collective vs. the rights of the individual?  Vaccines, by their very nature, are a population-based medical intervention.  If enough people take this medical intervention, then the so-called “herd” will be protected from the circulation of a communicable disease, based on the theory of “herd immunity.”  Although individuals receive vaccines, the rationale for vaccines is for the good of the individual and the society.

One of the core purposes of the United Nations, set forth in Article 1 of its Charter, is to achieve international cooperation “in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all.” So the UN and the international community have obligations to respect human rights related to vaccination.  How must nations and the UN do this?  That is an important question that deserves scrutiny, as it profoundly affects both individual and global public health.   

Since World War II, the international community has recognized the grave dangers in involuntary scientific and medical experimentation on human subjects.  In the aftermath of Nazi medical atrocities, the world affirmed the Nuremberg Code which stated that the “voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential.” The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights further enshrined this prohibition against involuntary experimentation in its 1966 text, stating “no one shall be subjected without his free consent to medical or scientific experimentation.” Such a prohibition is now so universally recognized that some courts and scholars have pronounced the right to informed consent in experiments as a matter of customary international law.  In other words, it applies everywhere, whether or not a country has specific laws on its books, as customary norms now prohibit slavery, genocide, torture and piracy.

But what about informed consent in the area of medical treatment, including preventive medical treatment? What about informed consent to vaccination?  This is a controversial issue today in many countries, including the United States. 

In 2005, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO, addressed this issue, adopting the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights on the consensus of 193 countries.  The participating countries hoped this Declaration, like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights before it, would become a set of guiding principles.  On the issue of consent, the Declaration states that

any preventive…medical intervention is only to be carried out with the prior, free and informed consent of the person concerned, based on adequate information

It further notes that the “sole interest of science or society” does not prevail. 

This pronouncement is an extension of the medical oath, attributed to Hippocrates 2500 years ago, that doctors must work for the good of their patients and never do harm.  Abbreviated as the “first do no harm” principle, this credo embodies the precautionary principle in medicine, clearly placing the interests of individual patients above the interests of the collective or the “herd.”

This precautionary principle in medicine leads directly to the view that vaccination policies must be recommended, not coerced.  The doctor-patient relationship depends first and foremost on trust, and coercion undermines it.  When the doctor-patient relationship is based on coercion, trust is a casualty, and doctors then serve the state, and by extension the society, above their individual patients.  This is a slippery slope, where civilized medicine has too often derailed in the past. 

Dr. Leo Alexander, the chief U.S. medical consultant to the Nuremberg Trials, warned in 1949 that “From small beginnings the values of an entire society may be subverted.” He pointed out that long before the Nazis came to power in Germany, a cultural shift in the medical community “had already paved the way for the adoption of a utilitarian, Hegelian point of view,” with literature on the euthanasia and extermination of those with disabilities as early as 1931.

Following the medical precautionary principle, the default position for vaccination must be recommendations, not compulsion.  Individuals, for themselves and their minor children, should have the right to accept or refuse these preventive medical interventions based on adequate information and without coercion, such as the threat of loss of economic or educational benefits.  Informed consent must be the default position because compulsion, on its face, not only undermines trust, but limits the fundamental rights to life, liberty, bodily integrity, informed consent, privacy and to parental decision making.   

Many developed countries’ vaccination policies embody this principle of childhood vaccination recommendations, including conference co-sponsors Ukraine, Germany and Japan.  Other developed countries that achieve impressive public health without resort to compulsion, including the United Kingdom, Australia, Austria, Denmark, Iceland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, South Korea, and Spain, among others. 

Nonetheless, the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights Article 27 permits limitations on fundamental rights, but these limits must be imposed by law and must be “for the protection of public health or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.” Furthermore, “any such law needs to be consistent with international human rights law.”  

International courts have developed a test to assess whether restrictions of fundamental rights are legitimate and lawful.  The test studies whether the measure is lawful, strictly necessary and proportionate to the risk.  The State enacting such a restriction bears the burden of proof that the compulsory medical intervention is lawful, strictly necessary and proportionate.  Generally, the “strict necessity” element must be the least restrictive alternative to achieve the public health objective, and non-coercive approaches must be considered first. Thus, the State must show that a less restrictive alternative is not feasible before adopting a highly restrictive one.

In addition to these criteria, if a State does mandate vaccination, then it has an affirmative obligation to provide an effective remedy for those who may be injured as a result.  Like all prescription drugs, vaccines carry the risk of injury and death to some.  The guarantee of an effective remedy is a basic pillar of the rule of law in a democratic society.  And the remedy must actually be an effective one; it cannot be an illusory remedy, which in fact provides no relief. 

Vaccination policies have changed drastically since the early twentieth century when they were primarily emergency medical interventions for the whole population in times of smallpox outbreaks to the policies of today, when they primarily target infants and young children for non-emergency prevention of many diseases of differing severity.  Legislatures and courts have had to grapple with many issues flowing from these policies, including vaccine injury compensation, religious exemptions, philosophical exemptions, the right to education, the right to informed consent, and the right to parental decision making. I provide a few examples of court decisions related to vaccination and human rights from different countries.

In Japan, in 1992, the Tokyo High Court heard a case from 159 survivors of vaccine-induced injury or death.  The Court concluded that the Ministry of Health had been negligent in failing to establish a screening program to exclude people with contraindications to vaccination.  The court noted that the Ministry of Health had focused on measures to raise the vaccination rate at the expense of attention to vaccine adverse reactions.  Furthermore, the court noted that the Ministry had not provided sufficient information about vaccine adverse events to doctors and the public.  The court concluded that the injured victims were entitled to compensation as a matter of state redress.

In Ukraine, in 2004, its Constitutional Court interpreted its Constitutional guarantee of the right to education on the principle of equality.  It found that its Constitution guaranteed every individual the right to education.  Thus in Ukraine, no child, vaccinated or unvaccinated, may be refused the right to attend school.

The Turkish Constitutional Court in 2015 upheld the principle that parental consent is necessary for the vaccination of infants and children.  It found that despite its Ministry of Health’s assurances that childhood vaccinations are in the “best interests of the child,” that an infant’s interest in bodily integrity may only be violated for medical necessity and based on law, and that routine childhood vaccination required parental consent.

On the other hand, a January 2015 judgment of the Czech Constitutional Court upheld a public health law prohibiting young children from attending preschool without vaccinations against nine diseases unless the children have “permanent medical contraindications.”  But the judgment was issued over a stinging dissent, arguing that the Court’s decision was more politically motivated than based in a rigorous constitutional legal analysis.  The dissent found that the majority’s decision had “turned a blind eye” to the unconstitutionality of its public health law and that as a result, the Court’s decision ultimately would undermine rather than advance the legitimacy of vaccination mandates.

In the United States, the legitimacy of school vaccination mandates came into sharp focus in 2015, when almost twenty states introduced legislation to limit or prohibit altogether exemptions from vaccination except very limited medical ones.  Only in the state of California did blanket legislation pass, which prohibits all exemptions save limited medical ones, although similar laws already exist in two other states, Mississippi and West Virginia.  We are likely to see in the near future whether California courts will uphold or reject this new law which directly contradicts the California Constitution’s guarantee of a right to a public school education to all children.  We will see whether the courts are prepared to endorse a new kind of school segregation against 225,000 children whose vaccination status does not conform perfectly to California’s mandates.

With over 270 vaccines in the global research and development pipeline, the role of law and courts in upholding or rejecting vaccination mandates and in compensating the victims of vaccine injury is critical.  As we all understand, healthcare is big business the world over, and vaccines represent a growing medical market with increasingly high profit margins.  If we don’t adhere to first principles of the rights to life, liberty and bodily integrity of the individual, and of the right to prior, free and informed consent in medicine, we may find ourselves with known and unknown harms. 

To conclude, I paraphrase President Eisenhower’s farewell address to the United States in 1961 when he was addressing the risks posed by the “military-industrial complex.” I substitute the term “medical-industrial complex,” which I believe today poses many of the same risks he foretold: 

The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.  We must never let the weight of this complex endanger our liberties or democratic processes.  We should take nothing for granted.  Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and medical machinery of health with our methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together….[I]n holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.

So let us be alert, knowledgeable and properly integrate the interests of global health security with global liberty.


Mikhaela Jade

Wonderful! So happy to see this out there


Re Oklahoma,
I didn't read the law, but it sounds like they are admitting that no matter how they do it, even through trickery, deception and coercion, the priority is to keep vaccination rates as high as possible. What the people think, know or want is irrelevant. In fact, the less the people know, the better.

Does that sound like a government for, by and of the people?

John Stone

I understand that Governor Fallin of Oklahoma has just vetoed a bill to improve informed consent on the grounds that it could damage vaccine uptake in the state.

John Stone

Reply to Mary Holland

Thank you for the clarification. I realise that although I reacted in a certain way this was already implicit in what you were saying and much more so when you came to reply to questions. In fact, I wonder whether we could find a single example in history where the suppression of rights and liberty have not been associated simultaneously with the suppression of knowledge, and free discussion. With one we expect the other.

Mary Holland

I'm responding to John Stone.
Thank you, as always, for your thoughtful and spot on comments. I couldn't agree more that vaccine recommendations are hardly a panacea. Without truly "informed" consent, meaning that people honestly understand the risks and benefits, there isn't true consent. Indeed, most of the vaccine injury in the US and UK is due to pediatricians' recommendations, not direct, heavy-handed mandates from the state. However, I believe that the mandates cast a long shadow, and that we diminish freedom for doctors and families under the aura of mandates.

I agree that we do not have honest, open, real debate about these medical interventions almost anywhere in the world on a public level. I have written recently to oppose calls for censorship of the vaccine-autism debate, and that blog post was reproduced here at Age of Autism (thank you!). I think censorship on this topic that potentially affects every newborn on the planet is appalling.

All this said, I think we as advocates for vaccine choice and safety must start with the issue of compulsion. Penalizing families for choosing not to vaccinate violates every notion of informed consent. The global standard, at least on paper, is prior, free and informed consent. We must continually remind the public and our opponents that informed consent is what human rights norms require. We are not inventing the global standards here -- we are simply applying them and showing how distorted vaccine proponents' reasoning is.

Mary Holland

Michelle B

I loved Ms Holland's articulate, deft, and passionate contribution! We are so lucky to have her on our side.

Tried as I might, I couldn't endure much of Dr Goldstein's dissociative drivel. If Dr Offit is given an award, he must be right? NO.

And proof that there is a definite "genetic" component to ASD? Where is this proof? I remember reading (or hearing?) years ago from Dr Sidney Baker, that we're ALL in danger of going over the "edge" it's just a matter of how close we are to begin with.

There is no one stong enough to resist Al & Hg event u a l l y...

Jenny Allan

Concise, compelling, truthful and totally relevant. Well Done and grateful thanks to Mary Holland. What a star!

Rebecca Lee

Dr. Goldstein sounded like he had had a few flu vaccines too many.

Birgit Calhoun

How is Paul Offit a receiver of an award? Where did he promote health? Does Goldstein have internal knowledge we don't have? Does he know about Malcolm Brabant who had a severe reaction after a Yellow Fever vaccine. Read: "Malcolm is a Little Unwell." Does he indeed have knowledge about the basics of Medelian laws, like dominant and recessive? Some people have different reactions from others because they genetic traits, and especially if autism is genetic, wouldn't laws of genetics allow for some people to have one kind of reaction and others another?


Mary Holland was superb. My family is very grateful for powerful words.

Gary Ogden

Goldstein's Q & A response was a rambling, dissembling, worthless pile of BS that meant nothing. An appeal to eminence. He confirmed our suspicion, though, of public health authorities by saying something to the effect that attacking Offit is the same thing as attacking them. We already knew that they both deserve it. Mary Holland was incomparable!

Angus Files

Well done all involved very wise words spoken,and in the eye-wateringly UN establishment

I hope Mary manages to take the fight to the next stage as she seems to make steady progress against a strengthening prevailing pharma wind,based on nothing but hot air.



Here is an article that piggybacks on Mary Holland's UN talk:

My Journey from Ignorance:


Great article. Was very impressed by the video of Mary speaking. Also totally agree with John Stone's comments. I would say, however, that children in UK are following fast on the heels of US in terms of children's ill health. The vaccine schedule here is increasing as is the increase in children on the spectrum, children with seizures, allergies and Chrons. It makes me so mad when the news reports various stories about 'damaged' teenagers, inadequate care for them - and no-one joins the dots. I often tweet comments to that effect and, no surprise, never get a response.

James Grundvig

Mary was awesome. She nuked the academic, shill, Big Pharma bought Bernie Goldstein. Last time I heard a name like Bernie, it was "Made-Off" with your money. I am not even sure why the UN-WTI even had him there, other than be paid by NIH-CDC-FDA-IOM mouthpiece.

John Stone

This is a great and historic moment. A miracle to see it happen and a miracle to see it so warmly applauded. One thing which must be said is that also in order to have informed consent you not only have to not have legal and financial coercion, it is also necessary to allow free discussion about the safety and effectiveness of the products - a discussion which is not properly allowed in almost any country at a popular level. If the products are so good, why are you not allowed to discuss them without the heavens falling in.

I have commented recently - I think with historic accuracy - that when we had the GMC hearing against Wakefield and colleagues in the United Kingdom not a single mainstream outlet ever reported the defence of the three doctors (or any part of it), and this was less courtesy than would be accorded an international terrorist. In United States we have seen the heavy hand not only against Wakefield but against Jenny McCarthy an Katie Couric, and behind those good people the families with injured children. But running hate campaigns against those who speak up, or act with professional integrity is not acceptable. In the United Kingdom now investigating vaccine events or giving evidence in court would lead a doctor directly to General Medical Council star chamber. You may also see parents go to prison for Shaken Baby Syndrome in what are really vaccine related events. This is the reality in a country which has no vaccine mandates or sanctions.

But it is wonderful to see Mary at a UN conference and the delegates cheering.

Bob Moffit

"Many developed countries’ vaccination policies embody this principle of childhood vaccination recommendations, including conference co-sponsors Ukraine, Germany and Japan. Other developed countries that achieve impressive public health without resort to compulsion, including the United Kingdom, Australia, Austria, Denmark, Iceland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, South Korea, and Spain, among others."

One wonders how many of these countries of the world would agree to institute COERCIVE MEASURES .. to require children of the world be subject to the extremely aggressive .. some would say unnecessarily reckless .. recommended and approved schedule of childhood vaccines .. in the United States?

It would be one thing for the countries of the world to adopt the United States coercive policies regarding childhood vaccines .. however .. I believe it would be a CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY if the world also adopted the US schedule of childhood vaccines.

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