Alaska Legislature

Alaska House rejects vote on Nuremberg code pushed by COVID vaccine skeptics

JUNEAU — The Alaska House of Representatives declined to vote Saturday on the validity of the 1947 Nuremberg code, turning down a request from Republican members of the House.

Some opponents of COVID-19 vaccination, including far-right U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Greene, a Republican of Georgia, incorrectly cite vaccination efforts as a violation of the code, which was created in the wake of Nazi atrocities.

The Nuremberg code, drafted after the fall of Nazi Germany, is a series of principles that define ethical medical treatment and research. The code encompasses 10 points, including the requirement that an experiment involve the informed, voluntary consent of its subjects.

COVID-19 vaccinations, even those authorized under emergency-use permission, have gone through clinical trials and are not experimental. Participants in those trials did so on a voluntary basis, and no steps in the approval process were skipped.

In addition, there is no compulsory COVID-19 vaccination in the United States, though vaccination is required for some jobs and activities.

On Saturday, Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, called for a non-binding vote that asked the House whether the code “remains just as valid today as when it was written in 1947.”

Speaker of the House Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, referred the vote to three committees, and her decision was upheld 17-16 after several Republicans challenged her.


Eastman did not explicitly refer to COVID-19 vaccinations in the context of the Nuremberg code on Saturday.

On Saturday, Rep. Sarah Vance, R-Homer, incorrectly said that COVID-19 vaccinations are experimental. Rep. Christopher Kurka, R-Wasilla, called mass COVID-19 vaccinations “a giant human experiment.”

After the vote, in a post on his personal website, Eastman said the current situation amounts to “vaccine mandate madness.”

Asked about the proposal, Eastman wrote Sunday, “With the amount of inaccurate information that has appeared in both official and unofficial sources, it is difficult to say that Alaskans are actually informed when making the decision of whether or not to get the vaccine.”

Rep. Andy Josephson, D-Anchorage, said on Sunday that comparing vaccination efforts and Nazi atrocities was “profoundly offensive.”

“It’s just a horrible analogy, and people should just not go there,” he said.

The Nuremberg code was developed after Nazi researchers used unwilling political prisoners and concentration camp inmates to measure the effects of hypothermia, altitude, poison and other factors. The “experiments” did not produce valid data but have been cited by some postwar scientists.

On Saturday, Rep. Sara Hannan, D-Juneau, incorrectly said the experiments were “violations of human dignity, of scientific methodology, yet they produced results.”

One day later, she apologized on social media, saying her remarks were “incorrect, insensitive and hurtful.”

The Auschwitz Museum, which preserves the site of a former Nazi concentration and extermination camp in Poland, has frequently spoken against comparisons between the Holocaust and COVID-19.

On July 7, it said on social media that using the Holocaust as an instrument to argue against a vaccination that saves human lives “is a sad symptom of moral and intellectual decline.”

James Brooks

James Brooks was a Juneau-based reporter for the ADN from 2018 to May 2022.