The public health institute RIVM and the health ministry have lost their legal case against a doctor who questioned the independence of the RIVM’s director with regard to routine flu vaccinations.
The doctor, Hans van der Linde, wrote an article in newspaper Trouw last year doubting the need for the annual anti-flu vaccination and questioning the independence of RIVM director Roel Coutinho. He later reiterated his statements on television and radio.
Coutinho is in charge of the flu prevention programme but was also recently appointed a professor at Utrecht University where he works on projects partly funded by MSD and GlaxoSmithKline, which make the vaccines.
Conflict of interest
The court ruled Van der Linde was unable to substantiate his allegations and thus ‘was wrong in accusing Coutinho of a conflict of interest’.
The statements were nevertheless permissable because they took place in the context of a public debate about the pros and cons of the flu vaccination programme. In such public debates, the boundaries of what can be said are wider, the court said in a statement.
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