Mandates: Public peril or just plain baloney?

THE CAMPAIGN by those punting unlawful vaccine mandates ratcheted up yet another notch this week, with several opinion pieces casting those who oppose immunisation score cards and internal passports, as ‘beneath scientific discourse’ or to use Stephen Groote’s phrase: members of the “desperate and low”.

That Grootes like many other so-called academics and experts positioning themselves as ‘protectors of moral hazard’ and ‘saviours of public health’ (read your health), fails to provide any supporting citations for his bizarre reasoning on the subject, is par for the course.

Grootes’s characterisation of the ACDP position, surely one which is admittedly non-partisan if a little opportunistic, may be forgiven — it’s a long-standing grudge by the formerly progressive left. The ACDP to their credit do not oppose vaccination as such, rather they oppose the unbridled removal of patient consent, and the process whereby constitutionalism i.e. the will of the people is replaced by the dictates of the few in positions of authority.

Less easily forgiven are the unsupported ramblings of Professor Keymanthri Moodley, a director of the Centre for Medical Ethics and Law at Stellenbosch University, as quoted in a piece also published by the Daily Maverick, in which the author fails to provide any counter-point to the one-sided narrative of other right-wing medical ethicists who support the return to an apartheid-era dompas, albeit to protect the most vulnerable.

Clearly this is a move beyond pure rationality into outright coercion and bully-tactics — the webinar held by the Steve Biko Centre for Bioethics saw contributions by three other individuals, none of whom are similarly quoted, and thus may be mistaken for being a summation of the views of the Biko Centre itself.

If Biko were alive I am fairly positive he would have a lot to say about these hasty and needlessly slapdash attempts to limit or negate Article 12 and Article 14, two of the foundation stones of our current legal dispensation.

The US constitution, for example, written by slave-owners, does not contain an explicit right to privacy, nor is it an expressly anti-slavery opus such as our own. The US has no right to ‘ownership and control over the body’ — as I have already written, our own constitution presents a unique legacy of struggle against the patronising dictates of the apartheid medical apparatus, one which sought to classify persons using pseudo-scientific analysis — operating as if most South Africans were members of a separate species to the Human Race.

Merely because an ethicist is able to make a public interest argument does not automatically follow that it is reasonable nor rational. Without motivating why this is so from a material perspective, Moodley sees the issue as a simplistic binary: public peril versus personal privilege.

One suspects that she is referring here to the idea of herd immunity, and not a metaphysical debate introduced by a theologian?

A Nature journal article published in March for example, claims herd immunity when it comes to Covid is out of reach, and thus our efforts may come to nought.

The reality of Covid becoming endemic certainly puts paid to the ‘most vulnerable’ argument, (why are we not all taking ARVs to avoid deaths from HIV?) The logic of preemption is dependent upon there being a rational basis for these types of interventions — not simply well-meaning rhetoric, nor the wish nor fanciful whim for a life free of seasonal illnesses such as the flu, and ultimately a cure for death?

Another article by the New York Times, looking back at what has been learnt from successive waves of the covid virus, demonstrates that high levels of vaccination in some states has ‘acted like a wall’ to prevent the spread of the virus, thus protecting other members of the community, but is certainly not an endorsement of those who would also have the family dog and cat foreceably vaccinated, whilst everyone else is neutered from a political perspective?

Still other articles in the world’s media, paint a picture of divergent results from different vaccines, while several present caution when it comes to young adults and children.

There is as yet, no concrete evidence provided by any of our local ‘experts’ on why vaccine score cards (alongside demerits and sanctions for non-compliance) ought to be implemented, if at all, as we arrive at the end of the tragic two year period in which the virus has been with us. And yet all data suggests that South Africa’s vaccination strategy, though slow at the outset, is on track, despite its being voluntary and lawful. Though, the country still has a long way to go,(1) we need to exhaust lawful interventions before embarking on what may be termed, ‘special measures’, of the type implemented during wartime.

Furthermore, there are other issues which practically nobody is debating, for instance, why rolling out an elimination strategy vs simple suppression, need require an extraordinary change to the democratic character of our country? A country which claims to defend the health of the most vulnerable, yet callously consigns these self-same individuals to damp shacks and shantytowns sans water and sanitation.

Reducing the virus, which is bound to become endemic to absolute zero, and which will, in all likelihood simply fade into the background as the pandemic invariably draws to a close in 2022, need not require the removal of our current democratic dispensation and its replacement by an authoritarian dictatorship — one that keeps everyone squeaky clean, and there’s a thought.

Ordinarily mandates, as I have written in my previous piece, are gained via elections, yet the arguments being issued by so-called medical ethicists fail to consider that we have a multi-party democratic system, and instead seek to place us all on a path of mandate capture and totalitarianism.

Public health policy should be debated in Parliament, the mooted medical injunctions and objectives need to be subject to public scrutiny, the same way every other peril, including poverty is debated.

And so I have more than an elegant one-liner to Moodley’s miserable reductionist logic: Freedom is not a privilege but a birthright — No to medical apartheid. Your medical choices are not our business.

NOTE: As of October 24, 21.3-million Covid-19 shots had been administered in SA, but only 11.56-million adults, or 28.8% of the adult population were fully immunised

UPDATE: Stephen Grootes issues a volte-face, without recording his previous position.