15 Belgian doctors suspended for anti-vaccine remarks

15 Belgian doctors suspended for anti-vaccine remarks
Credit: Belga

Around 15 doctors in Belgium have been suspended for periods ranging from one month to two years for speaking out against the coronavirus vaccine.

The Order of Physicians (Ordre des médecins), the body that supervises the deontology of doctors in Belgium, temporarily suspended – constituting a temporary ban on practising the profession – 15 doctors in 2021 following complaints from patients and fellow doctors that they were making anti-vaccine remarks, according to reports from Le Vif.

A total of 22 convictions were made by the Order, including reprimands, based on its deontological opinion issued to all doctors practising medicine in Belgium in January 2021.

This stated that doctors should “respect their ethical duty by taking on a pioneering role in recommending and promoting vaccination,” and that it would “take a firm stance against the dissemination of information that does not correspond to the current state of science.”

Dire straits

The fact that many complaints came from other practitioners is rare, according to Michel De Neyer, vice-president of the Order of Physicians. “From a collegial point of view that is normally not considered OK. But that was because those doctors were in dire straits.”

He explained that many of these doctors were struggling to keep up with an unbearable workload while having to “see with sadness how colleagues who undermined vaccination were putting public health at risk.”

In just three cases, the suspensions will last for two years. During this time, doctors cannot practice medicine, unless they appeal the decision. This appeal, which can go as far as the Court of Cassation in the last instance will suspend the enforceability of a challenged decision.

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Data referenced by the World Health Organisation (WHO) showed that, in the first 3 months of 2020, nearly 6,000 people around the globe were hospitalised because of coronavirus misinformation, while at least 800 people may have died due to misinformation related to COVID-19.

According to the WHO’s Andrew Pattison, Team Lead for Digital Channels, Digital Health and Innovation, Covid-19 vaccine misinformation is hampering “one of our most promising tools to end this pandemic.”

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