THERE has been a plethora of verbiage on the subject of ‘vaccine mandates’ over the past weeks. Several pieces written by legal academics and health scholars all present these measures as a fait accompli, and worse, present public health policy as if the extraordinary measures contemplated do not require anything resembling rational debate inside our nation’s democratic institutions.
Mandates are usually associated with elections and the resulting laws and policies are ordinarily drafted by parliament. Instead public health activism has adopted the fever pitch of the imperative, the unquestioning injunction and ever-present directive. What passes for debate these days, usually 5-minute opinion provided by so-called expert ‘talking heads’ on television followed by equally vapid ‘vox pops’ from the public with absolutely no balance provided by presenters, is leading the country assuredly down the road of internal passports and vaccine score cards.
As I have already written, this country has an egregious history when it comes to internal passports, in particular the aparthied era dompas, not to mention a troubled past — one haunted by the evil doctoring and medical experimentation of the likes of Dr Verwoerd et al. All the more reason to tread carefully lest we forget the lessons of the past and ignore the imperatives enshrined in our constitution?
Instead a paid-for-promotion by Investec, boldly claims without providing any citations: “Unvaccinated people are driving up the chances of mutation, creating more opportunities for the Covid-19 virus to bypass the immune system. The more people who are vaccinated, the closer we will get to a point of containment like we have with the flu.”
The same piece is remarkable for its failure to disclose the banking group’s considerable investment in Aspen Pharmacare, and instead presents an Aspen Senior Executive, Dr Stavros Nicolaou as an expert in the field of epidemiology. Then Professor WD François Venter of the Wits Centre for Reproductive Health is presented as an expert on virology. The webinar is a far cry from a national science symposium on the subject and a long way away from resembling anything like a colloquium or conference.
At the same time as these paid promotions, other health propaganda pieces are published in the media.
One by Safura Abdool Karim of the Bhekisisa Centre for Health Journalism falsely claims “South Africa’s laws allow for the government to implement mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations but these mandates won’t necessarily infringe on individual rights.” Then proceeds to jump the gun in claiming “under the Notifiable Medical Conditions Regulations, a healthcare provider would be allowed to administer a vaccine even if a person refuses to accept it.”
While the National Health Act of 61 of 2003 certainly allows for the quarantining of individuals suspected of being infected with a notifiable disease, (and Covid-19 is a notifiable disease according to regulations), the act does not provide for mandatory vaccination as such, nor does it define vaccination nor even provide a relevant immunisation section. The astonishingly brazen claims made by Karim, instead appear to refer to draft regulations which have yet to be promulgated, and thus an as yet unfinalised government vaccine mandate policy — a policy which remains moot, and which is already the subject of a legal challenge by a religious group.
It is worth considering first principles and discussing what exactly we are dealing with here.
A piece ‘comparing SARS-CoV-2 with SARS-CoV and influenza pandemic’ published in the Lancet in September 2020, may be considered required reading:
“Historical evidence from influenza pandemics which occurred in the past century shows us that pandemics tend to come in waves over the first 2–5 years as the population immunity builds-up (naturally or through vaccination), and then the number of infected cases tends to decrease. This observation is the most likely trajectory for the SARS-CoV-2 virus.”
The same piece also observes: “The new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 is less deadly but far more transmissible than MERS-CoV or SARS-CoV. […] Because of its broad clinical spectrum and high transmissibility, eradicating SARS-CoV-2, as was done with SARS-CoV in 2003, does not seem a realistic goal in the short term.”
Anna Gross echoes these self-same observations in her piece: ‘From plague to polio: how do pandemics end?‘ published by the Financial Times:
“Like Influenza A, Covid-19 will probably never be eliminated. Instead, the perceived risk is likely to reduce over time. Gross quotes Erica Charters, associate professor of the history of medicine at Oxford university:”Pandemics end when they “change from something that we as a society deem to be unacceptable, into things that can be fatal, but just in the background”
She adds: “Scientists refer to this as the moment when a disease that was once a pandemic or epidemic becomes endemic. In a recent essay, Charters and independent scholar Kristin Heitman defined it as “the point when the urgency of the disease outbreak has sufficiently diminished so that public attention is redirected to the moral and social crises that the disease has engendered or exposed”.
As John Gaunt observed in the mid 17th century ‘epidemics ended not when the disease disappeared but when deaths returned to rates seen in normal times.’
A list of pandemics in Medical News Today, shows that most respiratory pandemics occur over two years, with cholera over three and the black death a five year episode. None of the previous pandemics involved roll-outs of vaccines nor required vaccine mandates.
One should thus ask critical questions — what exactly do we hope to accomplish by treating Covid-19, (the result of a betacoronovirus mutation responsible for some 15% of colds), as if it were polio or smallpox, and whether or not there is any likelihood of it being eradicated in the short to medium term? Furthermore, do the benefits of the mooted changes in our health policies outweigh the costs to our freedom, especially when it comes to shifting and even subverting the democratic, rights-based character of our country?
As Sarah Zhang writes in the Atlantic. “The transition to endemic COVID-19 is also a psychological one. When everyone has some immunity, a COVID-19 diagnosis becomes as routine as diagnosis of strep or flu—not good news, but not a reason for particular fear or worry or embarrassment either. That means unlearning a year of messaging that said COVID-19 was not just a flu.”
SEE: Sorry Herr Prof Karim, your vaccine mandate argument is worse than apartheid-era paternalism