By Paul Collits
The Covid vaccines have been hailed as the world’s route out of lockdown and associated measures. Not so fast, as we now are coming to realise. The inept Morrison Government should be held to far higher standards of accountability for our Covid mess and for all of the vaccine lies the Government has told or allowed.
They used to say that Muhummad Ali’s jab was pretty good. But it had nothing on Scotty’s.
I always believed that 2021 would be the year of the vaccine. Vaccine mania! As opposed to 2020, which was the year of the lockdown.
I argued some time back that the vaccine would be one, a big lie, and two, the get-out-of-gaol-free card for the leaders of the once-free world. Why is it a lie? Because for the 99.8 per cent of the population that fully recover from Covid, it is simply not needed. It is a placebo. A fraud. And, worse, it is a Trojan horse for further state control and further destructions of freedom.
Why is (or, perhaps, was) the vaccine a get-out-of-gaol-free card for government? Because it would allow governments to ease restrictions, end the bribes (aka subsidies), commence the economic recovery, give us back at least some of our rights and claim that they were right about the Covid scare all along. The vaccine was the government’s big ace in the hole. That was the theory pushed by every leader, including our own low-energy prime minister. Politicians love a get-out-of-gaol-free card. Even if it is expensive and unnecessary.
In the year of the vaccine, the whole world would obsess about vaccines. Every last news bulletin now leads with something about them. The rollout. Vaccine mandates. Vaccine passports. Determining who comes first. Recruiting vaccinators. Trade wars over vaccines. Accusations of vaccine hoarding. Hosing down fears about the dangers of getting the jab. Hilariously, given the panicked approach of governments over Covid itself, castigating those who are appealing to the precautionary principle when it comes to vaccines.
Perhaps this year should be named the year of the problematic vaccine. It is, after all, experimental. It has been developed with indecent haste. Its positive effects are still debated, in particular how effectively it prevents infection as opposed to relieving symptoms. Many use tissue from aborted foetuses, either in testing or manufacture or both. (This may not be an ethical issue for the Pope, but is an ethical issue for me). It is, for most, not needed.
Many governments have suspended the AstraZeneca vaccine’s distribution. The dangers of taking it may outweigh the risks of getting Covid. The side effects of getting the jab are real, if confined to only a few. The chances of getting Covid may increase immediately upon getting the vaccine. Healthy people are dying “of”, or at least “with” the vaccine. There are medical concerns over the vaccination of children.
Yet the official medical family still trots out calming messages for the masses.
The biggest problem for governments attempting to make the case for maximum vaccination of the population is the giant elephant in the room. This is the total lack of logic at the centre of the state’s case.
If most people don’t and won’t get sick from Covid, which they won’t, then most of the people do not actually need the vaccine. Giving it to them is therefore a waste of time and money. And a waste of government energy. A waste of propaganda and column inches. Like all the other things – masks, double masks, triple masks, sanitising, house arrest of the healthy, mass testing of the asymptomatic, contact tracing and the rest – vaccines are simply Covid theatre. Wag the Dog politics.
Then there is the whole nudging game being played. Another term for this – libertarian paternalism – comes from the behavioural economics theorists of nudging, Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein. Nudging occurs where governments (or others) seek to influence decision-making not through coercion but by using persuasive techniques to get people to act in ways preferred by the government or other agents. Or, from another definition:
Nudge is a concept in behavioural economics, political theory, and behavioural sciences which proposes positive reinforcement and indirect suggestions as ways to influence the behaviour and decision making of groups or individuals.
All the infomercials about Covid, for example about distancing, wearing masks and sanitising, are a form of nudging. They back up and complement the direct fear campaigns of government and the media to endlessly report death and case numbers without context. They help keep people ignorant of the real risks of Covid and hence of the folly of their own policies.
Too timid to impose vaccine mandates themselves, and while being super cagey about it, governments are very happy for third parties to do it for them – cruise ship companies, airlines, pubs, stadiums, ticketing agencies, and so on. They urge maximum vaccine uptake and relentlessly reinforce the notion that high vaccine uptake is the way back to freedom. They bury the compulsion associated with vaccine mandates beneath soothing messages about immunisation passports “allowing” the return of the (for Europeans) summer holiday. They ignore or rubbish non-vaccine treatments for Covid. All these things are classic examples of nudging.
The government push for vaccines-for-all is all about defending its manic lockdownism and its submission to the sunk costs fallacy. Covid is now too big to fail, and governments need to keep the charade going, in order to keep the masses from asking the hard questions. This is merely digging the hole deeper. Hence the year of the state-controlled vaccine, with all its fanfare and lies and exaggeration and obfuscation.
One can only wonder – where are the Australian Prime Minister and his Government in all this?
As with all things Morrison, he has managed to say and do as little as possible about an issue that has surpassed all others during his premiership, indeed his time in politics and in most of our lifetimes, both for its global significance and its impact on individual rights and freedoms. (About which he has previously said, “so what”?) When confronted by anything that might remotely be controversial, or embarrassing, or threatening to Morrison’s tenure, or demanding action, he manages to slither off-stage almost without anyone noticing. Or, these days, without anyone really expecting him to say or do anything of consequence. Hiding behind bureaucrats or premiers or the absurd National Cabinet seems to be the current strategy.
And (very selective) cosying up to Qantas, which seems to be involved increasingly in making national policy. Doing deals with mates. Buying off the punters with furlough and subsidy. Or at least some of them. The lucky ones. Arranging photo ops with the jab. Waiting for something to turn up – the Micawber principle – is about all that this prime minister is capable of.
We have copped everything from this Chauncey Gardiner of a leader – the loss of freedom, a smashed economy, trashed federalism, destroyed wealth, the tanking of whole industries, the depression occasioned by confinement, life events cancelled or postponed and a thousand little disappointments for all of us – all delivered with a shrug of the shoulders from the top, without gravitas, heft or panache. Without a smidgeon of leaderly command. Without humbly accepting responsibility for the giant hole in which our country finds itself, all for a virus that has killed fewer Australians than the normal winter flu (1255 died from influenza in 2017). And without self-awareness, too.
Where do we stand, one year one from the commencement of the madness?
Well, Scotty, we still cannot travel overseas. Our state borders still close at the whim of some tin-pot dictator premier or jumped-up health bureaucrat wallowing in his or her fifteen minutes of fame. Tens of thousands of Australians are stranded overseas, kept out by quarantine caps and so unable to get home without sacrificing their life savings. Speaking of your rotten quarantine system, it has now found its way to the UK, alas, so that now nearly a hundred million people are subjected to this house arrest entirely at the expense of the arrested. The Poms are NOT grateful.
And the own-goals are mounting.
We are hitched to the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, about which the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher, had cautionary words and over which all those European countries have placed a stop sign.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald:
Major churches are at odds with authorities over the AstraZeneca vaccine, with religious leaders telling parishioners they are entitled to request a different jab but the federal government saying most people won’t have a choice.
Religious concerns about the AstraZeneca vaccine arise from its use of decades-old aborted fetal cells in the development process, which is common scientific practice that some Christians find objectionable.
The stoush could frustrate or delay attempts to inoculate the country against further COVID-19 outbreaks and lockdowns as authorities prepare to start the vaccine rollout later this month.
Catholic concerns are growing internationally, despite the Church’s appallingly sanguine official position. As Tracy Trasancos has noted:
It may satisfy the Catholic conscience to say that we oppose abortion even as we accept the abortion-tainted vaccines, but to the rest of the world the message we send is contradictory. It appears to put us in the same category as any pro-abortion advocate. If we truly find it moral to benefit from abortion, then we are ultimately no different from the abortionist. And that is an insurmountable problem for the conscience of many good Catholics.
If and where politicians in effect force Catholics to take the vaccine, then they are simply engaging in “moral coercion of the conscience”, as a number of theologians have reminded us. Isn’t Scotty meant to be a Christian? It’s his vaccine, after all. Scotty’s mate Daniel Andrews has introduced legislation in Victoria requiring all health workers to be vaccinated. Then again, he sought to make doctors perform abortions too. When is the pushback from Canberra? Morrison is happy to allow third parties – including the states – to mandate vaccines without blinking. Say nothing. Never resist things you either don’t believe in, or shouldn’t. Hope no one notices your acts of omission. This is the Morrison playbook.
Abortion is one issue. Another is AstraZeneca’s record on safety. DrugWatch had this to say about the company:
Over the years, AstraZeneca has had its share of legal trouble, paying more than $1 billion in federal [US] fines and legal settlements for corrupting clinical trials and illegally promoting antipsychotics. It has also had to deal with several lawsuits filed by patients who say the drugmaker’s products injured them.
… Vaccine clinical trials were halted in September when a participant suffered neurological symptoms after receiving the vaccine. After reviewing safety data, the FDA gave the company the go ahead to resume trials in October 2020.
But suing these vaccine companies won’t do you much good this time. As CNN points out:
You can’t sue Pfizer or Moderna if you have severe Covid vaccine side effects. The government likely won’t compensate you for damages either…
And the Sydney Morning Herald notes, in relation to Australia:
The Morrison government has given the suppliers of two COVID-19 vaccines indemnity against liability for rare side effects that experts say are “inevitable” when a vaccine is rolled out.
But the government will not set up a statutory compensation scheme, which the president of the Australian Medical Association, Omar Khorshid, said meant Australians who suffered “extremely rare” side effects from the vaccines would face a tough battle to seek compensation.
Very convenient, indeed, for the much-sued AstraZeneca.
Morrison still defends this vaccine which was still in its clinical trial phase as recently as December 2020. As quoted in the Herald:
Prime Minister Scott Morrison is not concerned about reports of blood clots in some people who had received AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine in Europe.
Then there was Birmo, who has been shifted from more cabinet portfolios for disastrous incompetence than just about anyone else:
Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said regulators would be seeking information from overseas but assured Australians they could have a “high degree of confidence” in the vaccine.
In doing so, Morrison is aligning himself with those for whom, suddenly, the precautionary principle should not be used, after all, as the basis for good health care decisions. The goalposts have moved more than a little, there.
Sadly, the Opposition is even worse. Here is a former Labor Health Minister attacking Craig Kelly, one of the few Australian politicians who, during the Covid affair, has consistently spoken with courage and common sense.
“My Mum lives in your electorate and I don’t want her exposed to people who are not going to be vaccinated because of these crazy conspiracy theories that you’re spreading,” Ms Plibersek said.
The clueless, insulting, far-left Plibersek, of course, thinks it is appropriate to kill the unborn and to let old people kill themselves, but not to let them take hydroxychloroquine or ivermectin, drugs that have been recommended by many medicos across the globe.
Morrison limply says he sticks to “official” sources of information on Covid. What, like the World Health Organisation? Which, until February 2020, had poo-pooed masks, social distancing and (especially) lockdowns as being appropriate responses to a viral pandemic.
The sheer hypocrisy of the recent attacks on those rightly worried about the safety of the vaccines is breathtaking, as critics of lockdown policy in the UK have noted:
It’s half amusing to see commentators decrying the Europeans for the misuse of the ‘precautionary principle’ when suspending the Astra-Zeneca vaccination (e.g. Ambrose Evans-Pritchard writing in the Telegraph that the “French Precautionary Principle is literally killing Europe”. Also the Economist’s Health Correspondent said on BBC radio today that it is folly to apply the precautionary principle during a pandemic. But it is the same precautionary principle that was invoked 12 months ago to justify lockdowns in the first place – on the grounds that we didn’t know the covid infection fatality rate, its reproduction number and because hospitals might possibly be overwhelmed.
The same precautionary principle was later invoked to justify two-metre social distancing, face masks, school closures, further lockdowns, etc. It seems that almost every day for 12 months we have had to endure some member of SAGE, notably Chris Whitty, appealing to the precautionary principle to justify some repressive measure unsupported by reliable data. Not only does the extreme risk aversion of the precautionary principle ignore costs (as Lockdown Sceptics has noted many times over the last year), but it returns to bite its advocates. One doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
Morrison is also facing supply problems, having selected AstraZeneca as the preferred vaccine for most Australians. Supply problems mean a slower rollout and therefore a likely extension of the cash splash on unemployed workers and rich airlines. All driving Australia’s economy into deeper strife, as ongoing threats of border closures and the returns to lockdown favoured by our more dictatorial premiers continue to stifle basic freedoms.
What Morrison doesn’t say is his biggest failing. The British medicos argue:
Some measures, such as test, trace, and isolate, good hand hygiene, mask-wearing in high-risk settings, and tracing from super-spreader events, may also be necessary for some time.
… Our modelling suggests that vaccination roll out in adults alone is unlikely to completely stop Covid-19 cases spreading in the UK. We also found that early sudden release of restrictions is likely to lead to a large wave of infection, whereas gradually easing measures over a period of many months could reduce the peak of future waves.”
So, no, the vaccine will be no silver bullet, certainly not in the short-term. Morrison’s view on all this? Silence, as per normal. In the meantime, the subsidies quietly (and selectively) roll on, the ban on travel overseas is extended, and there is no admission that the vaccine will decidedly NOT end the lockdown nightmare, even in poor old Australia where almost no one knows anyone who has actually got sick from Covid, or knows anyone who knows anyone who has got sick from Covid. That would be under a thousand deaths attributed (rightly or wrongly) to Covid out of a population of 25 million. And Scott Morrison is dead silent on THAT one. The big lie that we needed to do all this. And no, he probably will never be held to account for it.
So well might Morrison welcome the jab photo ops, because, when it comes to Covid leadership, principle, common sense, spine and a feel for proportionality, a photo op is about all he has got.
Paul Collits is an Australian freelance writer and independent researcher. He has worked in government, industry and the university sector, and has taught at tertiary level in three different disciplines – politics, geography and planning and business studies. A Collection of his writing published in A Sense of Place Magazine can be found here.