When the pandemic ends, those unlawful mandates are going to haunt us

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:

Microchip ‘vaccine passports’, second thoughts on Cheadle-stan

AS ONE of the vaccinated, I am generally in favour of universal immunisation strategies. The majority of deaths during the Covid epidemic have come from the ranks of the unvaccinated. Vaccines save lives, I wrote, but ‘removing patient consent destroys the foundation of our democracy’. I have thus tended to promote informed consent, patient choice and persuasion rather than outright coercion — and favour to some extant, what is referred to in legal circles as ‘positive discrimination’ especially when it comes to certain categories of employment.

An opinion piece by Kevin Ritchie in the Star entitled “Vaccine hesitancy: Why it’s time to create no-vaxx, no-go areas however paints a grim future of a state in which all citizens are effectively microchipped, forced to carry electronic ‘vaccine passports’ — internal passports that act to either grant or restrict access to freedom of movement, or as Ritchie explains, “no jab, no pub, no shopping mall”.

All this is to be achieved on the basis of immediate and instantaneous third-party access to patient information. A feat which would necessitate the removal of rights already granted under the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPI), not to mention placing restrictions and limitations on fundamental freedoms — the right to privacy, freedom of movement and other rights enshrined in our Constitution.

I have already written how an antiquated dominionship and/or guardianship model of state power (the state acting as parent-of-the-people), and thus a model contrary to our human rights based system, is being rolled out as we speak by Cheadle, Karim and Grey et al, in the process negating the hard-won victories of our democracy.

Unlike members of PANDA, who are campaigning for individual privacy and rights when it comes to employment, I have no quibbles in disclosing my Covid vaccine status to all and sundry, but can’t help wondering how this plays out as we move forward and especially when it comes to other diseases, for example HIV?

Didn’t we all win a patient rights battle, fought during the late 90s and over the turn-of-the-millennium, for HIV patients to not be coerced into disclosure of status? And why is Covid being treated like a chronic illness, when all the evidence points to its eminent and impending seasonal nature?

As Helen Braswell writes in Statnews: “The truth of the matter is that pandemics always end. And to date vaccines have never played a significant role in ending them. “

Brasell who a former Nieman Global Health Fellow at Harvard, where she focused on polio eradication, argues that “there were no flu vaccines in 1918, when the world didn’t yet know that the great influenza was caused by a virus, H1N1. In 1957, when the H2N2 pandemic swept the world, flu vaccine was mainly a tool of the military. In the pandemic of 1968, which brought us H3N2, the United States produced nearly 22 million doses of vaccine, but by the time it was ready the worst of the pandemic had passed, and demand subsided.”

She writes: “That ‘too little and too late‘ phenomenon played out again in 2009, when the world finally had the capacity to make hundreds of millions of doses of H1N1 vaccine; some countries cancelled large portions of their orders because they ended up not needing them.”

The same may be said for a previous coronovirus pandemic thought to have occurred in 1889, and known in medical histories as “the Russian flu,” which “might actually have been caused by one of the human coronaviruses, OC43.”