Covid-19 vaccines don’t violate the Nuremberg Code


The Nuremberg Code (German: Nürnberger Kodex) is a set of research ethics principles for human experimentation created by the U.S. v Brandt court as one result of the Nuremberg trials at the end of the Second World War. In a review written on the 50th anniversary of the Brandt verdict, Katz writes that “a careful reading of the judgment suggests that [the authors] wrote the Code for the practice of human experimentation whenever it is being conducted.”[1]


The ten points of the code were given in the section of the judges’ verdict entitled “Permissible Medical Experiments”:[6]

  1. The voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential. This means that the person involved should have legal capacity to give consent; should be so situated as to be able to exercise free power of choice, without the intervention of any element of force, fraud, deceit, duress, overreaching, or other ulterior form of constraint or coercion; and should have sufficient knowledge and comprehension of the elements of the subject matter involved as to enable him to make an understanding and enlightened decision. This latter element requires that before the acceptance of an affirmative decision by the experimental subject there should be made known to him the nature, duration, and purpose of the experiment; the method and means by which it is to be conducted; all inconveniences and hazards reasonably to be expected; and the effects upon his health or person which may possibly come from his participation in the experiment. The duty and responsibility for ascertaining the quality of the consent rests upon each individual who initiates, directs, or engages in the experiment. It is a personal duty and responsibility which may not be delegated to another with impunity.[13]
  2. The experiment should be such as to yield fruitful results for the good of society, unprocurable by other methods or means of study, and not random and unnecessary in nature.
  3. The experiment should be so designed and based on the results of animal experimentation and a knowledge of the natural history of the disease or other problem under study that the anticipated results will justify the performance of the experiment.
  4. The experiment should be so conducted as to avoid all unnecessary physical and mental suffering and injury.
  5. No experiment should be conducted where there is an a priori reason to believe that death or disabling injury will occur; except, perhaps, in those experiments where the experimental physicians also serve as subjects.
  6. The degree of risk to be taken should never exceed that determined by the humanitarian importance of the problem to be solved by the experiment.
  7. Proper preparations should be made and adequate facilities provided to protect the experimental subject against even remote possibilities of injury, disability, or death.
  8. The experiment should be conducted only by scientifically qualified persons. The highest degree of skill and care should be required through all stages of the experiment of those who conduct or engage in the experiment.
  9. During the course of the experiment the human subject should be at liberty to bring the experiment to an end if he has reached the physical or mental state where continuation of the experiment seems to him to be impossible.
  10. During the course of the experiment the scientist in charge must be prepared to terminate the experiment at any stage, if he has probable cause to believe, in the exercise of the good faith, superior skill and careful judgment required of him that a continuation of the experiment is likely to result in injury, disability, or death to the experimental subject.


No, COVID vaccines are not experimental

Online commentary says COVID vaccines are “experimental”.

But COVID vaccines have been thoroughly tested, and they have been shown to work. Their side-effects have been extensively examined. They have been approved for use around the world and have been credited for saving many lives.

Online commentary usually cites the first clause of the Nuremberg Code about the need for informed consent in human experiments:

The voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential.

This argument is used as evidence there’s something unethical about using COVID vaccines or introducing mandates.

Indeed, voluntary informed consent is an ethical bedrock for clinical research. Any form of compulsion is unacceptable because clinical research has inherent risks and can’t be quantified precisely. Research also may not have any direct benefit for participants, which again requires consent.

To be ethical, therefore, researchers must ensure participants in clinical trials understand potential risks and benefits, and give voluntarily consent to participate.


Nicole Bogart Writer


Published Tuesday, September 7, 2021 5:04PM EDT Last Updated Tuesday, September 7, 2021 5:04PM EDT

The majority of social media posts surrounding the topic claim that COVID-19 vaccines violate the code because they are “experimental,” alleging that because the public is not being made aware of this, they are unable to give their informed consent to be a part of a medical experiment.

Many of the posts highlight language in the code that reads, “the voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential… without the intervention of any element of force, fraud, deceit, duress, over-reaching, or other ulterior form of constraint or coercion.”

COVID-19 vaccines are long past the experimental stage

The Nuremberg Code is specifically about experimentation, which means its principles are no longer relevant once a vaccine has been through a clinical trial and approved for use.

The four COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in Canada – including Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca – all underwent rigorous, carefully monitored large-scale clinical trials before being reviewed by Health Canada.

“It’s been very interesting to see people bringing up the Nuremberg trials when, in fact, that time is long gone. These are approved medications that are outside the auspices of the Nuremberg Code,” Dr. Alexis Paton, chair of ethics for the U.K. Royal College of Physicians and trustee of the U.K.-based Institute of Medical Ethics, told by phone Tuesday.

“As we’ve been developing these vaccines, as we’ve been doing trials, all of that has been in line with the Nuremberg Code. These are not people who were forced to take part in any kind of trial – it is an opt-out situation, there’s consent.”

For those who have concerns about the speed in which the COVID-19 vaccines were produced, Paton says it’s important to understand the circumstances in which they were developed.

“Vaccines can take up to a decade from start to finish, but not always. And what’s really important when we think about the COVID vaccines… a number of ‘time suck’ barriers that normally exist when you’re developing medication or vaccines were just done away with.

And that doesn’t mean the regulation was done away with. It means things like money was made available,” she said.

“I think people look at the vaccine and think it just arrived one day. But actually, it did follow all the processes that we put everything else through. We just, as a global health community, rallied together [to get it done faster].”

Paton notes that, like any new vaccine or medication, vaccine developers and health regulators will continue to collect data on any side effects reported in recipients, including those serious enough to warrant investigation, such as rare blood clots related to the AstraZeneca vaccine.

However, this does not mean the approved vaccines are “experimental.”


Any claims that the COVID-19 vaccines violate the Nuremberg Code are false.

“To take those principles and to apply them to a context where a developing but known scientific procedure was used to develop a vaccine that went through all of the required testing procedures and phases for approval by drug administrations globally, that has been tested on and used on millions of people, in my view, is irresponsible,” said Eliadis.

Paton agreed, noting, “I think it’s natural that people are pushing back on some of the things they don’t understand or that they are worried about. But if their concern is that there’s some sort of mass global forced experimentation on people that is violating the codes of conduct that we have, then they are simply factually wrong.”



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