Tag Archives: vaccine mandates

corona marginalia: the pro-choice doc

Dr Steven James is a consultant anaesthetist at King’s College Hospital in London where he has been working in the ICU since the beginning of the pandemic in early 2020. During a visit on January 7th by the Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, Dr James made the case that the science isn’t strong enough to support the government policy of mandatory vaccination for all NHS staff. A video recording (embedded below with transcript) of their conversation subsequently went viral:

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Sajid Javid: “What do you what do you think of the new rule to require vaccination of all NHS staff?”

Dr Steven James: “I’m not happy about that.”

Sajid Javid:  “So you’re not happy with that?

Dr James: “So I’ve had covid at some point.”

Sajid Javid: “Yes.”

Dr James: “I’ve got antibodies. I’ve been working on covid ICU since the beginning. I have not had a vaccination. I did not want to have a vaccination.

“The vaccine is reducing transmission only for eight weeks with delta – with omicron it’s probably less – and for that I would be dismissed if I don’t have a vaccine. The science isn’t strong enough.”

Sajid Javid: “That’s your view… [turning to other NHS staff] and your views? Do you have any view on that? [then following no replies, turning back to Dr James] I respect that but there’s also many others with different views.”

Dr James: “Yeah, I understand that there are other views, but there’s another colleague who’s also in the same position.”

Sajid Javid: “Yeah, I understand that obviously and obviously we had to weigh all that up for both health and social care. And there will always be a debate about it.”

Dr James: “But maybe there’s an opportunity to reconsider with omicron and the changing picture, or at least the nuance that will allow doctors who’ve had antibody exposure, who’ve got antibodies, who haven’t had the vaccination to not have it, because the protection I’ve got from transmission is probably equivalent to someone who’s vaccinated.”

Sajid Javid: “Yeah, but at some point that will wane as well.”

Dr James: “But if you want to provide protection with the booster, you’d have to inject everybody every month. If it’s worn off by two months… If the protection’s worn off for transmission after two months, then after a month you’ve still got a bit of protection, so you want to maintain protection you’re going to need to boost all staff members every single month, which you’re not going to do.

Sajid Javid: “Yeah, we take advice on when – how much – you may need…”

Dr James: “But it’s not going to achieve a practical benefit.”

Sajid Javid: “Well we take the very best advice that we can.”

Dr James: “[I] understand but..”

Sajid Javid: “From the people that are vaccine experts.”

Having run out of answers Sajid Javid ends the discussion with a sneaky and deliberate slight. Unaccustomed to receiving push back and especially from someone with specialist training, he finally resorts to an appeal to authority, a logical fallacy known as argumentum ad verecundiam.

The incident has since been hijacked and misrepresented by people within two opposing camps, so it is important to emphasise that Dr James does not hold “an anti-vaxx” position, nor is he expressing one. Instead, he is straightforwardly pointing out that fact that the emergence and spread of the omicron variant has dramatically changed the situation. He is also highlighting the comparatively low protection that vaccines offer to those like himself who already enjoy natural immunity, as well as pointing to the scientifically established waning efficacy of both the vaccines and boosters.

In short he says nothing particularly controversial here and so it is a sign that we are living through exceptional and worrying times that even moderate and well-informed opinions are routinely marginalised as extreme and, in the case of the response to covid, characterised as “anti-vaxx”.

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On Wednesday 12th, Dr James was invited by ITV’s breakfast show Good Morning Britain, to explain why he refuses to be vaccinated. Once again, there was no attempt at all to debate the issue seriously, but a rather blatant effort to shame Dr James and also to set a trap they hoped he might fall into – and which he didn’t.

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Host Richard Madeley began by asking bluntly, “Dr Jones, [this video]’s made you ‘the poster doc’ for the whole ‘anti-vaxx movement’ but that’s not a kind of hat that you want to wear and you’ve come on Good Morning Britain to try and put the record straight so where exactly do you stand on vaccination?”

Dr Steve James responded: “If I’m the voice of anything I’m the voice of a hundred thousand NHS staff, who’ve already lost their jobs. People whose voice hasn’t been heard.

Continuing after an interruption: “Well I’m not ‘anti-vaxx’ because I’ve seen a great, great benefit from vaccines. There’s been a huge reduction in the number of seriously ill patients who’ve come into hospital and vaccination has probably made – or it’s almost certainly made – the largest contribution to that.”

Richard Madeley interrupts again, pressing him about “why did you say that to Javid?” and Dr James continues:

“So there’s a difference between me giving my own personal opinion about why I wouldn’t have a vaccine and whether vaccines in general are good. So you know as a doctor, I’m not anti-surgery, it doesn’t mean that surgery is what I need to have. So for a population it’d be good to offer certain treatments, [but that] doesn’t mean that everybody needs to have those treatments.”

Richard Madeley again: “So why haven’t you been vaccinated?”

Dr James: “Personally I’m a fit and well man. I’m not elderly. I was exposed to covid on multiple occasions in hospital settings and I wasn’t getting sick, and I thought, ‘well the vaccines are out there now, they’ll go to the elderly and the vulnerable’. And I was surprised to see that there wasn’t a point where instead of offering it to everyone, we’re now going to start offering it to people in a more nuanced way.”

Richard Madeley: “But being fit and young and well is no defence against covid. Young, fit people have died from it.

Dr James: “I haven’t seen anyone who’s young and fit and well and has died of covid. Now, there are always going to be exceptions, but young, fit and healthy people also die at other things. So I thought I would just sit and wait and see.

“Yesterday, the Director of the CDC [Rochelle Walensky] announced that more than 75 percent of deaths in the US have been in people with four or more comorbidities, so at about 25 percent, a lot of them have got three, have got two, have got one. * I still haven’t seen anybody who’s died in my hospital – not saying it hasn’t happened – but [no-one] who hasn’t got any comorbidities or any issues.

Co-host Susanna Reid then asks: “You won’t get vaccinated and you’ve explained why you believe you don’t need to. Just want to establish: you say you’ve been exposed to covid. Have you actually had covid?”

Dr James responds: “I haven’t had a symptomatic episode that I know to be covid… but I’ve got antibodies that show…”

Continuing after a few clarifications regarding how the antibody test had been conducted privately and was not something offered by the NHS: “If you’re carrying antibodies to a virus you’ve developed an immune system’s memory. You develop that memory because you’ve been exposed to it.”

Susanna Reid replies: “So it’s the kind of Novak Djokovic defence against vaccination isn’t it?”

This is an odd statement. First, it is irrelevant. Second, how can the word ‘defence’ be applicable in these cases? Defence implies guilt!

Susanna Reid then cuts him off as he tries to make a reply and continues: “Dr James, you are not going to get vaccinated. You’ve said. You’ve had that argument with the Health Secretary. Of course that comes with a penalty within the NHS, because from April if you aren’t vaccinated you’ll lose your job. Are you prepared to simply lose your work for the sake of taking a vaccination which we know, and you have explained, is enormously beneficial?”

Here again, there is an implicit presumption of guilt, since the prospect of punishment is tacitly endorsed. And I find this staggering. If at the beginning of the pandemic you had said western governments will introduce programmes of mandatory vaccination you would have been labelled a “conspiracy theorist” and dismissed, which is also measure of just how far and how swiftly the Overton Window is being expanded. Returning to the discussion…

Dr James: “So the benefit is for people who are likely to have a serious consequence. So the benefit isn’t there for me.”

Continuing: “For me it’s a point of principle that a hundred thousand members of my profession, who have made careful and valued assessments for themselves in the majority of cases, that they are now being forced to have a vaccine – to have a medical intervention which up until the current epidemic was outlawed in public health acts – even in health crises these things weren’t going to be allowed; and now the government’s changed its mind… but the government’s reports from the House of Commons Select Committees from the House of Lords, they say the scientific evidence isn’t strong enough.

Richard Madeley: “Well, are you arguing this purely from, if you like, a civil rights point of view, or are you also suggesting, as I think you might have done in that exchange with Javid, that you don’t trust the vaccine all the way: you don’t think it’s been researched fully enough. Am I right to summarise it that way?

In fact, Madeley is simply putting words in his mouth with a leading question presumably in the hope of eliciting a decisive if unintentional anti-vaxx statement. But again he fails.

After a further clarification of the question, Dr James says: “So my concern is the civil liberties side. I think the vaccines prove to be very safe, however very safe over the period of time we’ve looked at it. So I’d like to look at it for a longer period of time.”

Adding: “But as my mum said to me last night – she said, ‘you know if Kings [College Hospital] is going to lose 1400 members of staff then how’s the NHS going to survive?’

“And you’ve got to look at the practicality of…”

Susanna Reid cuts him off again, and says: “Dr James, what I don’t understand is you’re prepared to lose your job and put your department under pressure, as a result of you losing a job – because I don’t know how easy it can be to get an anaesthetist with your sort of training and qualifications in there – despite the fact you believe the vaccine is safe and effective.  I’m not sure I understand it.”

She then turns to GMB’s resident medical expert, Dr Hilary Jones, prompting him with this intentionally loaded question, “Dr James says he doesn’t want to be a poster boy for ‘the anti-vaxx’ movement, I can’t see how he avoids that frankly.”

Following a pre-scripted “telling off” in which Dr Jones then overlooks entirely the central issue of civil rights and government overreach in order to heap shame on Dr James, even to the point of castigating him for contracting the virus and inadvertently spreading it to patients when it was already established that he had worked on a covid ICU throughout the pandemic which means his initial infection had very probably occurred long before any vaccines were manufactured and made available.

And rather than permitting Dr James the opportunity to rebut the accusations directly, Richard Madeley finally turns to him and says: “That was an effective telling off from one of your fellow professional doctors. He says that your behaviour is, if you like, selfish. What you’re doing is for your own interests and good and to support your political views in terms of human rights and civil rights, but you’re putting patients at risk. You’ve actually put patients at risk.”

Dr James replies: “Ten percent of the NHS staff are essentially in the same position as me. I’m not a fringe person. I’m having an expression of my voice – a voice which hasn’t been heard. I’ve got thousands and thousands of positive comments from people. Hundreds of doctors and nurses have contacted me saying thank you.

“Let’s open this debate up. The debate has not been held. Many groups of doctors [and] of other politicians have said the science isn’t strong enough and you know if we don’t have a debate, if it’s a single story, it’s a single narrative, that’s not science. Science is questioning…” [final words are cut off.]

I would like to add my own praise and support for Dr Steven James. As a highly-trained medical professional, it actually takes tremendous courage to speak out freely and to address these vital matters head on with equanimity and authority. A lack of debate only further inflames an already febrile political climate in which public attitudes are becoming ever more deeply divided and entrenched.

Moreover, the tightening clampdown on free speech, which is detrimental both to civil liberties and democracy, is being exacerbated by establishment press and mainstream media outlets that hold monolithic and dictatorial lines whether about covid or other related and unrelated issues. As Dr James says, “Science is questioning…” before being abruptly cut off. As a scientist myself, I’d add that inherently this is the nature of science.

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Additional:

On the same day as ITV’s Good Morning Britain took Dr James to task for defying official government policy, an alternative interview with Freddie Sayers from UnHerd was also uploaded on Youtube and is embedded below.

The contrast between the two approaches is illuminating. Avoiding conflict and cheap manipulative tricks, Sayers manages to come across as impartial and respectful. But this isn’t a softball interview and many of the questions really do probe awkwardly in James’ broader opinions and motives:

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* Please note: The announcement made by Rochelle Walensky on ABC’s breakfast show Good Morning America on Tuesday 11th has since been updated. Speaking with host Cecilia Vega, Walensky says in the original clip: “The overwhelming number of deaths — over 75 percent — occurred in people who had at least four comorbidities. So really, these are people who were unwell to begin with. And yes: really encouraging news in the context of omicron.”

However, her statement caused outrage amongst some groups, and the CDC then accused the broadcaster ABC of omitting this crucial context. In response ABC has since replaced its online clips with an unedited version of the same interview: “In that one, the CDC director prefaces her reply to Vega by touting “a really important study of 1.2 million vaccinated people, which found that only a minuscule fraction of them — 0.003 percent — died of covid-19. Of the small number who did die, she noted, most of them had underlying health conditions.”

From an article entitled “A Rochelle Walensky interview sparked outrage. But the CDC says ABC omitted crucial context” written by Paul Farhi, published in the Washington Post on January 12, 2022. https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/media/walensky-abc-interview/2022/01/12/b5744ad4-73be-11ec-bc13-18891499c514_story.html

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media is mostly silent as across Europe and beyond anti-restriction protests continue to grow

Every weekend mass protests are now taking place in cities throughout Europe and far beyond with spontaneous demonstrations involving thousands, tens of thousands and even hundreds of thousands of people carrying banners and marching with demands to bring an end to the increasingly draconian anti-covid measures.

The legacy media pays little to no attention to this rising tide of largely peaceful dissent and for these and other reasons, reports are generally restricted to just a few non-mainstream outlets. I have gathered together clips for the last fortnight wherever footage is available. The compilation below is presented alphabetically in order of nationality.

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Australia

An estimated 8,000 to 10,000 protesters gathered in the streets of Melbourne on Saturday to protest against further lockdowns and restrictions due to the covid-19 pandemic. One topic of focused anger was the recent bill passed by the Victorian government, which gives power to the state’s premier and health minister to enforce further restrictions. Australia reported its first Omicron case in Sydney this Friday after reopening its borders for the first time in months. Anti-vaccination protests have now become a weekly event, drawing in thousands of protesters.

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Austria

Thousands of protesters marched through Vienna on Saturday, denouncing the government’s covid-19 policies.

More than 40,000 people hit the streets to protest against an extended lockdown and plans by the government to make vaccinations compulsory starting from February 2022. A reported 1,500 staged a counter-protest against the rally. More than 1,000 police were deployed to prevent an escalation of the event.

The protest came as Austria issued an extension of the lockdown to 20 days instead of the initial 10 days. A parliamentary committee approved the measure earlier in the week.

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Belgium

Tens of thousands of people marched in Brussels to protest against tightened covid restrictions. Demonstrators are mainly opposed to the use of covid passes, which stop the unvaccinated from entering venues such as restaurants or bars.

Marchers came to protest the measures that were announced Friday, the third week in a row that the government has tightened its rules. One demonstrator brought along her pet alpaca to Sunday’s protest in Brussels.

A small faction within the protest clashed with police some throwing stones and fireworks at a police line. The police deployed tear gas and water cannons in response.

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Catalonia

Thousands demonstrated in Barcelona against the introduction of covid passports in the Spanish autonomous region of Catalonia. Restrictions came into effect on Saturday after the courts authorised a request made by the regional government to introduce the measure.

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Czech Republic

A fortnight ago, thousands gathered in Prague’s Old Town Square to demonstrate against after the Czech government imposed a lockdown for the unvaccinated.

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Denmark

Hundreds marched through Copenhagen on Saturday, in protest over COVID19 restriction. Led by the ‘Men in Black’ activist group, the protesters carried torches and chanted slogans while marching through the city. A large police presence was deployed to prevent an escalation of the event.

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France

A new round of Gilets Jaunes protests against French President Emanuel Macron’s covid-19 policies took place in Paris on Saturday, with police deployed in large numbers. Several thousand protesters dressed in the movement’s characteristic yellow clothing or vests could be seen marching through the city centre, while chanting slogans or drumming. A large contingent of police in riot gear monitored the procession.

The protesters gathered in defence of the public health and social services system, according to local media. Over the course of the coronavirus pandemic, France has experienced a shortage of medical staff, with many employees resigning, taking sick leave, or being refused work due to not being vaccinated.

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Georgia

Huge demonstrations took place in Tbilisi on Sunday against a covid passport system. Protesters could be seen marching with posters and Georgian flags, passing by the parliamentary building. A ‘passport’ system has been implemented in Georgia since December 1st, where citizens and tourists can only visit public places, restaurants, entertainment and shopping centers, with a QR-code proving vaccination or recovery from the virus or with a negative PCR test result.

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Germany

Dozens of protesters marched through Erfurt on Sunday, protesting against the government’s restrictions. Protesters lit candles and carried banners reading “We need nursing personnel”, among others, as they marched through Erfurt’s city centre. The protest comes after Thuringia’s authorities have imposed restrictions on public life since November to curb the spread of covid-19, including 2G rules in retail, hotels and restaurants and nightly curfews for the unvaccinated, among other measures.

Hundreds marched in Freiberg yesterday protesting against tightened covid restrictions, despite the current regional ban for any gathering of more than ten people, the protesters marched for almost an hour, until encircled by the police. The unauthorised march took place on the day when the Saxon parliament declared a regional state of emergency amidst record number of covid cases.

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Israel

Anti-restriction protesters gathered in Tel Aviv last Saturday to denounce new stringent measures and the government’s drive towards mandatory vaccination:

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Italy

A fortnight ago, thousands of protesters attended a demonstration to oppose the ‘Green Pass’ in Rome. The certificate is mandatory in order to work and attend all public places and events, including public transport between cities.

The protesters gathered in Rome’s Circus Maximus, after Italian authorities banned demonstrations against the Green Pass in historic or tourist sites.

One protester says “If you want to kick me out of here, you have to kill me.” Another: “Between vaccinated and unvaccinated people. Are we all equal? We are equal human beings. We are equal.” Another says: “Everyone makes their choice. I am not against the vaccine, I am here for freedom of choice.”

This weekend a smaller demonstration against the ‘Green Pass’ went ahead in Trento without police permission. The main protest took place in Piazza Dante.

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Martinique

France has postponed the covid vaccine mandate for healthcare workers in Martinique after widespread social unrest took place in Forte-de-France last Saturday night. Footage shows streets and vehicles on fire amid violent unrest. There have been protests in Martinique and another nearby French island Guadeloupe as the French government imposed stricter measures ostensibly to limit the spread of the virus.

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Netherlands

Thousands gathered in the city of Utrecht this Saturday to protest new government measures aimed at controlling the spread of covid-19. Demonstrators can be seen holding signs and lighting smoke grenades in a local park, before marching through the streets.

Participant Jim Schardijn warned that “our freedom is in danger,” regarding the requirement to show a QR code as proof of vaccination when entering various public venues. The protest marked the first major gathering in the country against the new regulations, which include night-time curfews on all non-essential businesses.

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Northern Ireland

Hundreds of protesters flooded the streets of Belfast this Saturday, as the Northern Irish government introduces vaccine passports. Protesters held signs and made speeches as they rallied against the new regulations. The certification scheme, which makes proof of vaccination or a negative covid-19 test obligatory in licensed premises was introduced by the Northern Irish government on Monday.

One protester said of the new restrictions: “I honestly feel like these vaccines are not useful and vaccine passports are nothing to do with health and are all to do with control.”

But that upload was then removed (as you can see) for reasons I can only guess. So here is a different report on the same protest:

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Slovenia

Protesters gathered in Ljubljana’s Republic Square on Saturday to voice their opposition to the government’s most recent covid-19 measures to curb the epidemic, as well to the proposal for a new anti-covid law.

Several demonstrators were physically detained by the police as they attempted to march through the city centre. Police stopped the rally in Adjovscina Square and urged protesters to leave the site. Protesters clashed with police on Miklosiceva Street, where police blocked the road and dispersed the unannounced rally shortly after that.

As the rallies were unannounced and the organisers did not take security measures, police officers, dog handlers, and cavalry were also involved to maintain order. According to the Ljubljana Police Directorate, they prevented endangering people and property, maintained public order and ensured road traffic safety by calling and directing the participants of the rally.

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ACLU and vaccine mandates – an object lesson in the slippery slope to authoritarianism

The lessons from history should be kept in mind whenever we are told by government officials that “tough,” liberty-limiting actions are needed to protect us from dangerous diseases… Not all public health interventions have been benign or beneficial… Too often, fears aroused by disease and epidemics have encouraged abuses of state power. Atrocities, large and small, have been committed in the name of protecting the public’s health.

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) 2008

While vaccine mandates are not always permissible, they rarely run afoul of civil liberties when they involve highly infectious and devastating diseases like Covid-19… Covid-19 vaccine mandates — much like mask mandates — are public health measures necessary to protect people from severe illness and death.

— ACLU 2021

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Back in May 2020 when Donald Trump was still in office, the ACLU released a statement entitled “Coronavirus ‘Immunity Passports are not the Answer’” with the strapline “A system of immunity passports in the United States threatens to exacerbate racial disparities and harm the civil liberties of all”, which summarised the issue as follows:

As tempting as immunity passports may be for policymakers who want a quick fix to restart economic activity in the face of widespread suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic, they present both public health and civil rights concerns that cannot be overlooked. Immunity passports incentivize vulnerable people to contract the disease, and raise the prospect of another hierarchical system, separating us into two categories — those with COVID-19 immunity, who are given preferential access to employment, housing, or public accommodations — and those without. This division would likely worsen existing racial, disability, and economic disparities in America and lead people struggling to afford basic necessities to deliberately risk their health.

Click here to read the full ACLU statement written by Esha Bhandari and ReNika Moore, published on May 18th 2020.

However, by late March 2021 with Biden now in charge, the stance of the ACLU was beginning to soften. In an article entitled “There’s a Lot That Can Go Wrong With ‘Vaccine Passports” and a strapline that reads “Any proposal for vaccine credentials must be primarily paper-based, decentralized, and protect privacy”, Senior Policy Analyst, Jay Stanley, wrote that:

There is a difference between a standardized system for presenting proof of vaccination, and a digital system for doing so. With more and more of our credentials being displayed through apps on our phones — from airline boarding passes to concert tickets to gym memberships — it strikes many people as an obvious and overdue step to create a similar digital credential for those occasions when a person has to prove that they’ve been vaccinated. But digital credentials present a number of new potential problems, and we would oppose a vaccination credential system that does not meet three crucial criteria[.]

According to the ACLU, these “three crucial critera” are 1) It’s not exclusively digital; 2) It is decentralised and open source; and, and 3) It does not allow for tracking or the creation of new databases. What is missing, of course, is any concern over the limitation of civil liberties or violation of human rights due to the already creeping rollout of a universal mandatory vaccination regime.

The same piece published on March 31st concludes:

We don’t oppose in principle the idea of a requiring proof of vaccination in certain contexts. But given the enormous difficulty of creating a digital passport system, and the compromises and failures that are likely to happen along the way, we are wary about the side effects and long-term consequences it could have. We will be closely watching developments in this area.

But then, come September, the debate had significantly moved on from vaccine mandates (or ‘passports’) to demands for outright compulsory vaccination and the ACLU responded with the release of a new statement entitled “Civil Liberties and Vaccine Mandates: Here’s Our Take” above the extraordinary strapline “Far from compromising civil liberties, vaccine mandates actually further them…”:

At the ACLU, we are not shy about defending civil liberties, even when they are very unpopular. But we see no civil liberties problem with requiring Covid-19 vaccines in most circumstances.

With this staggering volte-face, the ACLU then goes on to say:

Here’s why civil liberties objections to Covid vaccine mandates are generally unfounded.

Vaccines are a justifiable intrusion on autonomy and bodily integrity. That may sound ominous, because we all have the fundamental right to bodily integrity and to make our own health care decisions. But these rights are not absolute. They do not include the right to inflict harm on others.

Concluding:

Even though the F.D.A. and independent medical experts have found Covid-19 vaccines to be extremely safe and highly effective, a sizable portion of the eligible population has chosen not to be vaccinated. In this context, Covid-19 vaccine mandates — much like mask mandates — are public health measures necessary to protect people from severe illness and death. They are therefore permissible in many settings where the unvaccinated pose a risk to others, including schools and universities, hospitals, restaurants and bars, workplaces and businesses open to the public.

Curiously, the ACLU piece had been originally released as an op-ed in The New York Times that you can find here except that it is hidden behind a paywall. Now, I refuse to pay the NYT but especially so to read the opinions of a non-profit civil rights advocacy group, which ought to be acting transparently in the public interest. But independent journalist, Glenn Greenwald, who quotes directly from the original NYT piece in his own article about it (more below), draws my attention to a line that the ACLU is evidently reluctant to repost on its own website (since I do not find it reproduced there):

Where a vaccine is not medically contraindicated, however, avoiding a deadly threat to the public health typically outweighs personal autonomy and individual freedom.

So it seems that “personal autonomy and individual freedom” are now of limited concern only to America’s self-appointed “civil liberties union”. And this fundamental shift, at least in their public stance, is made still more apparent once we reflect upon an earlier ACLU report specifically about pandemic response produced little more than a decade earlier.

Glenn Greenwald writes:

What makes the ACLU’s position so remarkable — besides the inherent shock of a civil liberties organization championing state mandates overriding individual choice — is that, very recently, the same group warned of the grave dangers of the very mindset it is now pushing. In 2008, the ACLU published a comprehensive report on pandemics which had one primary purpose: to denounce as dangerous and unnecessary attempts by the state to mandate, coerce, and control in the name of protecting the public from pandemics.

The title of the ACLU report, resurfaced by David Shane, reveals its primary point: “Pandemic Preparedness: The Need for a Public Health – Not a Law Enforcement/National Security – Approach.” To read this report is to feel that one is reading the anti-ACLU — or at least the actual ACLU prior to its Trump-era transformation. From start to finish, it reads as a warning of the perils of precisely the mindset which today’s ACLU is now advocating for COVID.

In 2008, the group explained its purpose this way: “the following report examines the relationship between civil liberties and public health in contemporary U.S. pandemic planning and makes a series of recommendations for developing a more effective, civil liberties-friendly approach.” Its key warning: “Not all public health interventions have been benign or beneficial, however. Too often, fears aroused by disease and epidemics have encouraged abuses of state power. Atrocities, large and small, have been committed in the name of protecting the public’s health.”

Indeed (as Greenwald quotes in the same article), the 2008 ACLU report explicitly warns against use of “coercion and brute force”:

The lessons from history should be kept in mind whenever we are told by government officials that “tough,” liberty-limiting actions are needed to protect us from dangerous diseases. Specifically: coercion and brute force are rarely necessary. In fact they are generally counterproductive—they gratuitously breed public distrust and encourage the people who are most in need of care to evade public health authorities. On the other hand, effective, preventive strategies that rely on voluntary participation do work.

Continuing perceptibly:

Lessons from History: American history contains vivid reminders that grafting the values of law enforcement and national security onto public health is both ineffective and dangerous. Too often, fears aroused by disease and epidemics have justified abuses of state power. Highly discriminatory and forcible vaccination and quarantine measures adopted in response to outbreaks of the plague and smallpox over the past century have consistently accelerated rather than slowed the spread of disease, while fomenting public distrust and, in some cases, riots.

Click here to read Glenn Greenwald’s full article entitled “The ACLU. Prior to COVID, Denounced Mandates and Coercive Measures to Fight Pandemics”, published on September 7th.

From forthright distrust in the potential abuses of state power drawn from historical precedents, to dithering concerns over the appropriate form that vaccine passports might take, to full-blown advocacy for the introduction of forcible programmes of vaccination; the ACLU’s growing assent to authoritarianism has been an exceedingly rapid one. And this is how tyranny has always arisen: step-by-step, measure-by-measure, with every encroachment on rights habituating the public to the next, and every violation of freedom justified by the last.

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the pandemic & the ‘state of exception’: either you’re with us, or you’re with the terrorists…

I would have been called “a conspiracy theorist” at the beginning of the pandemic if had had predicted that countries in the heart of Europe like Austria would apply a lockdown purely for those who have not taken the vaccine… If I’d said that any of that would have taken place I would have been called “a conspiracy theorist” but now that I express criticism of it, I’m called “a conspiracy theorist”.

— Max Blumenthal

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The quote above is taken from a very recent interview [premiered on Sat 20th] with independent journalist Max Blumenthal when he joined host RJ Eskow on his show The Zero Hour – the full show is embedded below along with annotated segments of the conversation that I have transcribed beneath including relevant links, video uploads (with descriptions in Italics) and occasional disagreements:

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“Since we’ve been having these conversations for a few years, you can see that I’ve been branded “an antisemite” for my work on Israel-Palestine, and trying to understand and interrogate how the Israel lobby influences US politics. I’ve been called “an Assadist” for my critical reporting on the dirty war on Syria, which was largely kept from the US public by legacy and corporate media. I’ve been called “a Kremlin shill” or “Russian spy” or “asset” for challenging the narrative of Russiagate, which has just been exploded in broad daylight in recent weeks with the indictment of several key players in the construction and dissemination of the Steele Dossier.

“And so now, for using the same kind of techniques and applying the kind of critical thinking that I do to every major issue – and having you know been inspied to get into journalism because of the way 9/11 was exploited to consolidate this massive security state and carry out regime change across the Middle East – for just applying that same kind of thinking to the pandemic, yes, I’m branded “an anti-vaxxer” and large segments of the organised left, or the establishment left, are angry with my analysis, and according to them, you’re not really supposed to have an analysis: we just are supposed to  go along with the proclamations of public health officials which are constantly shifting.

“Just through my conversations with colleagues and people on the left; they all know something’s wrong, but many of them self-censor because they’re afraid of having this label applied to them which does have implications; disturbing implications when you consider that in September, around the anniversary of 9/11, the DHS issued a terror threat warning that there was no specific terror plot, but that people who are critical of vaccine policy in the US were “a terror threat”. In other words, the concept of being “an anti-vaxxer” – which according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary means anyone who even opposes mandates – is now being criminalised.” [from 3:05 mins]

Drawing upon Cold War comparisons, RJ Eskow broadens the conversation raising the point that the West has once again entered a period of Manichean ‘bi-polar’ thinking, to which Blumenthal responds:

“These terms are never fully explained. It’s just a way of, first of all, appealing to establishment prejudice against the dissenter, and applying a pejorative or label in order to shut down debate.

“And you’ll find that on this, even more than Russiagate, it is impossible to have a rational or reasoned kind of calm and measured debate on the issues, with particularly people who are to the left of Tucker Carlson. I mean it goes through the Democratic Party, all the way to the radical left. You have the almost, near blanket support, or silence in the face of so many violations of human rights, and obliteration of legal strictures, and concepts that we took for granted in an already weak liberal democratic system; that’s probably an understatement.

“The purpose of 9/11 – not the attack but the response to it – was to create a state of exception where international law and conventions around torture could be wiped away, because the public provided consent to the Bush administration and the Blair administration to do so because it was gripped with fear.

“You remember the days after 9/11: I remember people were concerned that Bin Laden was going to wage a dirty bomb attack; there was the anthrax – the very mysterious anthrax attacks – to keep the fear going. And the public gave full consent for the Bush administration to create what Carl Schmitt called the ‘state of exception’ where the laws of the past no longer apply, and you had to, in the words of Dick Cheney, ‘take the gloves off’; begin torturing people; establish the unitary executive, where congressional approval of wars was no longer of interest; the AUMF [2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force] “Emergency Authorisation” – we hear that word so much around the Vaccines, well it reminds me of the AUMF, which has never been sunsetted since 9/11.

“So now we have another ‘emergency situation’: the threat of the virus, which is real, has absolutely been exaggerated, and we’ve moved from ‘responsibility to protect’ – the R2P Doctrine where the US has to come in and save some civilian population after we’ve witnessed so much death – to witnessing death all around us, and the government has to simply do something, and the public has give their consent for the government to do something. It’s gone from R2P to R2V: Responsibility to vaccinate – and that means mandating vaccines – something that Anthony Fauci said the government would never do. Something Joe Biden and Jen Psaki said [here  and here] they would never do, because it seemed usually draconian to voters back in 2002. Now they’re doing it, Democrats have overwhelmingly supported it – even a slice of Republicans have – and we’re seeing restrictions and human rights violations take place that we never could have imagined.

“I would have been called “a conspiracy theorist” at the beginning of the pandemic if had had predicted that countries in the heart of Europe like Austria would apply a lockdown purely for those who have not taken the vaccine. I would have been called “a conspiracy theorist” if I’d said another country Slovenia is now refusing to allow the unvaccinated to buy gasoline – you have to present your health card there in order to buy gasoline.

BBC news finally reported on the full extent of protests across Europe including Austria, Belgium and the Netherlands last Sunday evening [Nov 21st]:

On Thursday [Nov 18th] British comedian Russell Brand uploaded his own report on developments in Australia where thousands of protestors are also gathering to demonstrate against legislation granting new government powers:

*

“Germany will soon apply a lockdown of the unvaccinated, and lockdowns themselves, and the way we’ve seen them applied, particularly in Australia and New Zealand, where if there’s one or two cases an entire region or country locks down; and all the health effects that that has on the public are completely ignored in order to eradicate an airborne respiratory virus that’s simply impossible to eradicate and is endemic.

“If I’d said that any of that would have taken place I would have been called “a conspiracy theorist” but now that I express criticism of it, I’m called “a conspiracy theorist”. So there’s almost no way to win, but I think a large part of the public is starting to come to its senses and realising that the response to the pandemic is not necessarily about public health.

“It’s about private wealth, monetising the response, and militarising the response. The military-intelligence apparatus has been involved in this from the beginning… in a different way than it was involved in 9/11, and in some ways a more intimate way: in the way that censorship and surveillance are creeping into our lives on the grounds of a public health response.” [from 7:50 mins]

Responding to this last point, RJ Eskow says that he also recognises how governments can and do usefully regulate for public safety and worker protection and that as someone who suffers with health problems that have left his own immune system suppressed, he too desires freedom of movement. He feels that it is therefore understandable that a responsible government would encourage citizens to get a vaccine, adding however, that “a little alarm goes off” once he sees the state exercising its powers to impose enforced inoculation.

Eskow then references an article co-authored by Max Blumenthal and published by The Grayzone [Oct 19th] about the vaccine passport and who’s behind it, continuing:

“This to me is vitally interesting and you know I did a project for a think tank in Palo Alto fifteen years ago where I modelled future possible pandemics – and I found out, and very few people have written about it – back then that the federal government had already put plans in place to impose internal passports and internal restrictions on travel, military takeover of transportation hubs and things like that, and you know I thought ‘wow, that sounds dystopian’.

That’s a lot of what you’re describing and it and it seems to me we should be able to hold more than one thought in our head, which is that we want to reduce loss of life from this pandemic, but we also want to be concerned about not strengthening the mix of state and private forces that already have too much control over our lives. Do you get where I’m coming from?” [from 15:10 mins]

Blumenthal answers:

“Yes I do. I think that if there had never been mandates in the US where hundreds and hundreds of thousands of workers had a pink slip dangled in front of their face, if they did not want to take a vaccine – and we should talk about what they’re being asked to take – then there wouldn’t be this hysteria about “anti-vaxxers”.

“I mean you have people around the world – not just masses of people in Italy, in France, protesting vaccine passports: what’s called ‘the Green Pass’ in Italy where millions of workers are being told that they have to present this in order to get into their very jobs.

On Saturday [Nov 20th] thousands of protesters attended a demonstration to oppose the Green Pass in Rome. The certificate is mandatory in order to work and attend all public places and events, including public transport between cities. The protesters gathered in Rome’s Circus Maximus, after Italian authorities banned demonstrations against the Green Pass in historic or tourist sites. One protester says, “Between vaccinated and unvaccinated people. Are we all equal? We are equal human beings. We are equal.” Another tells the reporter, “Everyone makes their choice. I am not against the vaccine, I am here for freedom of choice”:

On the same day thousands also took to the streets in the Croatian capital Zagreb in the biggest demonstration the country has seen against Covid-19 measures since the beginning of the pandemic:

*

“You have protests in the West Bank in Palestine. You have protests in Tehran. You have protests in Martinique. You have protests in Morocco – massive protests against their vaccine passport system. Now you have protests in Costa Rica and Colombia; all across the Global South protests are cropping up, as well as in New York City: there’s a massive protest this Saturday in Central Park, and all across the West.

“You wouldn’t have this if there hadn’t been mandates. If people hadn’t been forced and coerced: if they had simply been encouraged. And many people who were immuno-suppressed or who were in risk groups have mostly gone out and gotten the vaccine.

“And then we have another problem and it’s the intersection of these two problems that caused me to start raising issues about the pandemic response. First, the coercion and the attacks on workers, obliterating worker rights as [economist] Richard Wolff said: one of the core foundations of the labour struggle is that the boss should never have the power to decide what life decisions the workers make. It’s up to the workers. That’s why workers organise, and so that’s why they’re opposing these mandates.

“But the other issue is the vaccine itself. They were rolled out under emergency usage. The trials were shoddy at best.* They were approved then by the FDA under very suspect conditions – in one case, the Pfizer vaccine had the control group eliminated. I mean these aren’t real trials, so people are naturally suspicious of it. It is using a novel technology called mRNA, which is essentially a gene therapy…

[Warning: Before continuing I need to insert a few words of caution: a lot here hangs on the Max Blumenthal’s use of the word ‘essentially’. More assertive claims that the vaccines are gene therapy are widely discredited. Of course, this point is highly technical and well beyond my own scientific training, but here is an article that attempts to clear up the matter.

Regarding the claim that “the trials were shoddy at best”, this is a strong statement and I have found little evidence to directly support it. However, it is important to keep in mind that the Pfizer vaccine alone has yet to receive full FDA approval (restricted to people aged 16 and above and granted as recently as August) while the alternative vaccines remain under Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) which means that clinical trials are ongoing. Moreover, The Lancet has acknowledged that “long-term safety issues might arise” due to the accelerated development under the Operation Warp Speed – see the footnote for further details.]

 “… and while it has been shown to reduce severe illness or death when people have antibodies, it does not prevent infection. And that’s something that everyone from Anthony Fauci to CDC Director, Rochelle Walensky, admitted; there’s a new study in The Lancet out this week: it’s called “Community transmission and viral-load kinetics of the SARS-Cov-2 delta variant in vaccinated and unvaccinated Individuals in the UK” [click here] and it clearly shows that the vaccines do not prevent viral transmission.

“So what does this mean? It means that the mandates are essentially unscientific. Because if the vaccines had prevented infection and transmission, then it would mean you are protecting others around you by taking it. And it would mean that there was a logic behind requiring people to take it to go into a workplace, or a logic behind vaccine passports requiring people to take it in order to mingle with others at a bar. But there is no logic there. So what is the point of the mandates and the passports? It feels like simply control. And people feel abused by this.

One of the inventors of mRNA vaccine technologies, Robert Malone, warned of the risks of the accelerated vaccine rollout and has subsequently been accused of misinforming the public on a few specific technical points. As a non-specialist it is difficult to gauge whether or not his expertise is fully reliable or we should just trust in government agencies and the powerful pharmaceutical lobby. In this interview he talks at length about many related topics, but I have cued the video to begin where he discusses the covid vaccine response:

*

“Now the people who are ratioing Richard Wolff; that’s you know the laptop-left. They don’t have a whole lot of connection with workers. But if you go out and talk to workers, including those who have willingly taken the jab under threat of losing their job, they feel like there’s been no informed consent – that’s been violated. Their bodily autonomy has been violated. And their right as a worker has been violated.

“And all to take a vaccine that doesn’t prevent them from giving the virus to others. That’s why in Ireland right now, which has over 90% vaccination uptake, you’re seeing cases rise massively …

“The same thing is happening in Singapore which ended its long lockdown and is now being swamped with cases. They have about 85% of people over [the age of] twelve vaccinated. The most vaccinated place on earth, Gibraltar – close to 100% – is going to cancel Christmas; has announced plans to cancel public celebrations of Christmas because of the massive rise in cases.  [from 16:10 mins]

John Campbell [Nov 24th] confirms the recent surge in cases in Gibraltar but also finds dramatically lowered rates of death that supports the case that vaccines do provide protection against serious disease:

RJ Eskow then picks up on the points Max Blumenthal raised and summarises, pointing out that there are actually ‘two logics’ operating: one aims to reduce transmission, while the other and sounder reason aims to reduce cases of severe illness, hospitalisation and death. Following on, he says, this means there are correspondingly two moral arguments to consider: first, that it is your duty to your fellow citizens to be vaccinated so that you don’t infect them; and, separately, that you take the jab for your own personal good:

“We don’t want you to be hospitalised or die or get long covid, which is terrible. So we will mandate you take this vaccine so that doesn’t happen. Now, I would argue that the left has not sufficiently analysed the fact that there are two principles here… So when it becomes an issue of ‘for your own good I want to mandate that you take this’, if that is the only principle, then we need to have a debate about whether that is a valid reason for mandating.” […]

“Now, if the goal is to help other people, it’s interesting to ponder whether the mandate has in fact backfired because more people are resisting because of the mandate than would have taken the shot if it had been presented to them in a clear way why they should take it. So that’s my map of the moral landscape. Do you agree with it, disagree with it?” [from 22:40 mins]

Max Blumenthal replies:

“Well, the federal court has ruled that Biden’s mandate as applied to companies of one hundred workers or more that would be enforced by OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] is extraordinarily overbroad – in their words – and a point that the judges makes, which I think is salient, is that not all workers are the same.

“If you have a long-haul trucker who’s in the truck all day by his or herself, it’s very different from someone who’s working in a crowded office or a workplace where people are indoors together for long periods.

“Beyond that they raised the issue of natural immunity, which I think is another blow to the Achilles’ heel of the mandates and this biomedical security regime that’s being erected before our eyes.

“As we know from an August 2021 study by Tel Aviv University – the largest of its kind – comparing those who are vaccinated but have not been previously infected versus those who had been previously infected and not vaccinated, they found that immunity is something like twenty times stronger in those who had been previously infected, and much more durable.

As this report explains, the true figure is closer to thirteen times, but still significantly higher:

*

“We’re seeing that bear our right before our eyes. I mean just look at the number of cases. Now who is most likely to have been previously infected? It’s the frontline workers. It’s the people who were out there while the laptop class was at home during the lockdowns that they seemed to enjoy. Those are the people who now face the mandates.

“I mean the mandates are coming down on the backs of frontline workers who were celebrated with pots and pans being banged out windows, and they’ve gone from heroes to zeroes. That’s who you’re seeing at the protests in New York City is EMS [emergency medical services] workers, firefighters, restaurant workers, healthcare workers; people who sacrificed throughout 2020 and are now facing the pink slip.

*

“So natural immunity has to be recognised here and it’s a hard thing to demonstrate. So that’s another major issue.

“And then we have the issue of boosters. In lockstep, leaders across the West began making the case for boosters including Anthony Fauci, who said in an interview that the mRNA vaccines wane in efficacy over the course of six months. […]

“If you were vaccinated more than six months ago then you are considered unvaccinated in Israel. And not only that, you are not able to go to restaurants or the gym or a spa with your Green Pass anymore, even if you did your part and got vaccinated, because they’re already on their third jab and they’re making space for the fourth one.

Bloomberg has a piece out – you know citing various public health officials and supposed experts – on how no-one knows how many booster shots you will have to take. And so when you combine this fact with the mandates, and the vaccine passports, which are coming in in more and more draconian fashion around the world, you have to consider that for the rest of your life, every six months you will have to take a vaccine – [one] that in my view is still experimental because it usually takes around four to seven years to adequately test a vaccine and run it through trials and this one has just been rushed out. You will have to do that for the rest of your life in order to continue participating in society, or working.

“So that to me is unacceptable, and I think to many more people it’s unacceptable. And I wonder if boosters haven’t been rolled out so aggressively here and mandated is just to avoid the social catastrophe that’s inevitable if they are.” [from 24:25 mins]

Lastly, RJ Eskow brought the conversation around to concerns surrounding the organisations behind the vaccine passports. Max Blumenthal has already ready written extensively on this subject in the article already linked above and entitled “Public health or private wealth? How digital vaccine passports pave the way for unprecedented surveillance capitalism” that was published on October 19th by The Grayzone.

Back in October, Max Blumenthal carefully detailed a variety of initiatives spearheaded by such groups as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation [BMGF], Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization [GAVI] which is 25% funded by Gates, Microsoft, Accenture, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Omidyar Network, along with Australian Aid and UK Aid, concluding his piece with a statement made by Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben, who is best known for his work investigating Carl Schmitt’s concept of the state of exception:

Two days before anti-Green Pass protests exploded across Italy, the renowned philosopher Giorgio Agamben appeared before the Italian Senate’s Constitutional Affairs Commission to issue a dramatic statement of opposition to the Green Pass.

Agamben is most famous for his concept of Homo Sacer, or bare life, in which an individual is stripped of rights and reduced to their biological essence in an extra-legal regime justified by war or other emergencies. When Italian authorities declared the first lockdown in March 2020, the philosopher applied the theory to his own country’s heavy-handed restrictions.

“The defining feature…of this great transformation that they are attempting to impose is that the mechanism which renders it formally possible is not a new body of laws, but a state of exception – in other words, not an affirmation of, but the suspension of constitutional guarantees,” the philosopher explained in the foreword to his collection of 2020 writings on Covid-19, “Where Are We Now: The Epidemic As Politics,”

In his remarks before the Italian Senate, Agamben pointed to a sinister agenda behind the official rationale for vaccine passports: “It has been said by scientists and doctors that the Green Pass has no medical significance in itself but serves to force people to get vaccinated. Instead, I think we must say the opposite: that the vaccine is a means of forcing people to have the Green Pass. That is, a device that allows individuals to be monitored and tracked, an unprecedented measure.”

The philosopher concluded his address by taking aim at the supra-national forces – Bill Gates, the World Economic Forum, and Rockefeller Foundation, among others – determined to impose a system of digital identification and high-tech social credit as much of the human population as possible.

“I believe that in this perspective,” Agamben warned, “it is more urgent than ever for parliamentarians to consider the political transformation underway, which in the long run is destined to empty parliament of its powers, reducing it to simply approving – in the name of bio-security – decrees emanating from organizations and people who have very little to do with parliament.”

*

To close their discussion, Max Blumenthal once again summarised his findings including the underreported consequences of the rollout of a biometric digital ID system called Aadhaar that led to a spate of deaths in rural India in 2017 as a direct result of starvation due to denial of access to basic food rations – systems of a kind that tech billionaires including Bill Gates are keen to install across the globe (and I direct readers again to read his article in full). In brief he reminded us that:

“Vaccine passports are now in the US essentially handwritten CDC cards, and I assume that they will eventually be digitised. And in fact, there is a long-standing agenda to produce a digital ID and link it to a central bank digital currency, which will be administered through your digital wallet, and it will also be connected to now, as we see, your biomedical history.

“So your ID is connected to your finance, your medical history, and it’s all required to participate in society under the current biomedical security regime, which has come into play through a state of legal exception.” [from 29:40 mins]

Finally, they talk about how society is being fractured over these issues. Max Blumenthal delineates as follows:

“The group that is not just resisting the vaccine, but resisting what I call ‘the new normal’, which is this entire biomedical security regime and propaganda apparatus that’s grown up against the backdrop of 9/11 and Russiagate in this ‘state of exception’ through the pandemic is more heterogeneous than the group that angrily and aggressively supports ‘the new normal’. That group is mostly uniform.

“And then you have another group that has decided ‘to go along to get along’, because generally they’re in an economically precarious situation and they can’t afford conflict. Or they just simply aren’t heavily politicised and don’t want to get involved in the ugliness and toxicity – especially in the US where everything has been framed through the lens of fears of populism and nationalism and you know in the course of a culture war.

“So that group that’s more heterogeneous is impossible to stereotype and you do have right-wingers in there who are there because they just see anything the government does is evil. You have a number of left-wingers who are concerned about monopoly capital gaining unprecedented control over everything including people’s biology. They don’t trust the government. Strangely, I thought there would be more. I’m kind of baffled by the reflexive obedience of large sectors of the left here.

“But it isn’t anymore just about unvaccinated versus vaccinated. I know many people who are fully vaccinated who now see the booster regimen coming in and see these bizarre and exotic restrictions like lockdowns exclusively for the unvaccinated, and they’re just disgusted on civil liberties grounds.

“Of course, the entire resistance to this programme is legitimate, but the idea that every single person in the entire world needs to take one of these vaccines – that has failed on so many of their promises – is to me unacceptable. And to many other people.

“It’s going to require so much coercion and we haven’t even talked about adverse effects. They do have adverse effects. And if you believe the CDC’s VAER’s system – the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting system – it’s harming people and injuring people every week. And that’s a concern people have. It’s a legitimate concern.

“I went to a press conference of American’s from all walks of life, many of them had testified in the Senate earlier that day – this was two weeks ago – and hearing their stories about being injured by the vaccines was shocking. Most people are not going to be injured by them – this appears to be uncommon – but it’s a concern that we have to recognise.

“But on a population level, the idea that we can vaccinate our way out of the pandemic has, in my view, been totally discredited. And that’s why we’re going to see in 2022, a focus on therapeutics, on pills people can take. The public health officials will finally accept early treatment after demonising Ivermectin – like your Youtube video could be taken down because I just said the word Ivermectin – it’s been called “horse paste”.

“And now we’re seeing what amounts to Pfizer-mectin and all these other pills – 2022 will be the year of therapeutics. So it’s a tacit admission that the vaccines failed to end the pandemic.

“So why keep pushing people into a corner and creating this kind of new, very heterogeneous resistance? When the vaccine uptake, in my view, has been pretty high across the board, and will continue to go up if people are simply encouraged through positive means, and if public health officials now finally accept the reality that it’s an individual’s choice to protect yourself against illness or death in some cases.

“And I want to make another point that I think is controversial, but I’ve made it before and it’s true [read my note below], which is that the death toll is being inflated – and that doesn’t mean covid is not a threat – but it’s being inflated and accounted in unusual ways to make us think that we’re living through some kind of genocide and to cut off our critical faculties. [from 39:00 mins]

Unfortunately, this is where my own views radically depart from Max Blumenthal’s. In the UK, where I have studied the excess death figures very carefully I have found zero evidence supporting this contention and have in fact presented contrary evidence that shows the British government did everything within its power to reduce the apparent death toll during the early months – for reasons that are blindingly obvious.

Although the system of accounting in many countries, including Britain, undoubtedly is misleading, since it does falsely include some number who have died from other causes, it also inevitably misses other cases that were not diagnosed and thus where cause of death was wrongly attributed for a counterbalancing reason. The only figures that I believe are wholly reliable are these two: the number of hospitalisations and of excess deaths. Considering the case for Britain again, excess deaths counted over the full period beginning from March 2020 approximately correlates with official covid deaths (within a margin of around 10%). Given the difference in methods a small discrepancy is to be expected.

For these and other reasons, I remain entirely suspicious of claims of this sort. Indeed, I view this whole argument about false accounting as a canard and an unnecessary distraction, although as a firm advocate of free speech I do accept that others like Max Blumenthal have the right to make contrary assertions even while I believe it weakens their otherwise sound case. I include this digression at the risk of interrupting the flow merely to stress that I do not agree with Max Blumenthal on all points.

However, Max Blumenthal does finish on a point that I’m in full agreement with:

“We’ve gone from the left advocating for ‘Medicare for All’, and calling for public healthcare, to at least quietly acquiescing as public health officials and pundits call for denying healthcare to the unvaccinated. We’ve even seen a Colorado hospital deny an organ transplant to a woman simply because she and her donor were unvaccinated. She had to go to Texas to save her own life. And that’s something that we are now accepting as triage.

“There’s so many lives that could be saved here by not cutting ICU beds – Andrew Cuomo, how many ICU beds did that guy cut throughout his tenure as governor? Thousands and thousands and thousands…

“And now we’re looking at the symptoms instead of the cause. The symptoms: there’s not enough beds and the unvaccinated are filling everything up. No, this is about neoliberalism; there should just be more beds.

“And then finally, so many people, because of the lockdowns and the fear, delayed routine treatments and many of them died because of that – I mean including chemotherapy. And now they’re coming in and they’re flooding hospitals – look at the reporting right now – the hospitals are full of people who have now decided that they can’t wait any longer to have their routine procedures done, but they waited because of the pandemic.

“So all the hospitals are flooding with people and they’re going to be even more full because of the flu this winter. So covid isn’t the only issue here. It’s the response to it that has been absolutely inhuman, and there needs to be some debate about it – and the critics who have criticised and critiqued every other response by the powerful; every other undemocratic overreaction to a crisis – many of them are absent.” [from 46:35 mins]

Please note: Although the transcript is mine, the views expressed above are not necessarily shared by Wall of Controversy. (My own views are expressed across a range of posts on the subject.)

Importantly, I have not been trained as a medical professional and do not claim to have expert knowledge of this subject. This article is in no way intended to provide medical advice of any kind.

*

* From a report by The Lancet Commission on COVID-19 Vaccines and Therapeutics Task Force published in The Lancet (Vol 9, Issue 7, E1017–E1021), released March 26, 2021 entitled “Operation Warp Speed: implications for global vaccine security”:

OWS has accelerated the development of COVID-19 vaccine without compromising efficacy, safety, or quality.1 There are, however, long-term safety issues that might arise. For example, three Ad5-vectored vaccine trials for HIV showed excess HIV infections in vaccine recipients; could Ad5-based vaccines for COVID-19 enhance HIV infections? Similarly, the use of the AS03 adjuvant was thought by some to be associated with the development of narcolepsy.20 Rare events, such as intussusception after the use of oral rotavirus vaccines, might not be apparent, even in trials of 30 000–60 000 people.21 Vaccine-associated enhanced respiratory disease and antibody-dependent enhancement were reported in animals given vaccines against SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV;22 fortunately, these effects have not been reported in small animal, non-human primate, or human studies of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines.23 However, a long-term effect, similar to the enhancement that was observed for the Sanofi dengue virus vaccine, cannot be ruled out.24 Disregarding safety can undermine public confidence in COVID-19 vaccines and decrease vaccination uptake.25 Strengthening of systems in LMICs to monitor, record, and report adverse events after immunisation will be important given the multiple vaccines in use.26

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/langlo/article/PIIS2214-109X(21)00140-6/fulltext

Interpretation of the study (quoted directly from the paper):

Vaccination reduces the risk of delta variant infection and accelerates viral clearance. Nonetheless, fully vaccinated individuals with breakthrough infections have peak viral load similar to unvaccinated cases and can efficiently transmit infection in household settings, including to fully vaccinated contacts. Host–virus interactions early in infection may shape the entire viral trajectory.

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Filed under analysis & opinion, Austria, India, Ireland, Italy, police state, September 11th, USA

corona marginalia: my body, my choice

“My body, my choice” is a feminist phrase that applies to many issues beyond reproductive rights, as well. The message that nobody should do anything or force us to do anything we don’t want to do with our bodies is necessary for creating a culture of consent.

Suzannah Weiss

*

Although feminists were not the first to argue for the sanctity of personal autonomy over their bodies, it was surely the feminist fight to secure this basic and fundamental freedom that set the course for modern rights. Looking back further, autonomy over own bodies was actually the underlying tenet of liberal democracy since the end of feudalism and the advent of the European enlightenment, when concepts of human rights arose and the violation of the bodies of all humans became of legal concern.

After nearly four centuries of liberal progress, that fundamental right has just been overturned. Already Indonesia, Micronesia and Turkmenistan have mandated covid-19 vaccines for adults, but closer to home, Austria today became the first European country to follow suit with new plans for general compulsory vaccination of its population:

The government said it was preparing the legal groundwork for a general vaccine mandate to come into effect from 1 February, with exemptions for those unable to receive a jab on medical grounds.

The age from which people will be required to be vaccinated has not yet been determined, the government said.

Those refusing to be vaccinated are likely to face administrative fines, which can be converted into a prison sentence if the fine cannot be recovered.

The Guardian article above then reaches for its conclusion with this curious dog whistle:

[T]he planned general vaccine mandate drew heavy criticism from the opposition benches in parliament. “From this day Austria is a dictatorship,” said Herbert Kickl of the far-right Freedom party, which has advocated scientifically unproven alternative treatments against coronavirus infections, such as the anti-parasite drug ivermectin. *

The implication, at least according to the progressives at the Guardian, is that since only the far-right is concerned about such a gross infringement of personal freedoms, perhaps those who disagree might be sympathisers of some kind. (Sadly, this is how discourse proceeds today.)

Likewise, the BBC has been doing its own part to downplay the grotesque threat to our civil liberties and human rights, as Big Brother Watch Director, Silkie Carlo, found out when on Wednesday she was interviewed by Radio 5; the day that Austria announced its original lockdown for the unvaccinated (how rapidly the Overton Window can be slid open):

Here the rhetorical trap is set at around 6:05 mins when the BBC host challenges Silkie Carlo over her (perfectly legitimate) choice of expression: “you say it’s a power grab”, she says, “I’m curious, what do you think the motivation of governments is in a situation like this?”

So here again, we are dealing with a sort of dog whistle for progressives. To translate, implicit in the question is the latent rhetorical one: “what kind of a conspiracy theorist are you?”

Dealing with baited questions of this sort can be exasperating, and especially when the presenter is quite evidently feigning ignorance; in this instance, deliberately ignoring the plethora of historical precedents for authoritarian takeovers. Moreover, she is talking to a representative of the aptly named Big Brother Watch – clearly, Orwell’s novel remains a cautionary tale about how societies can slip into tyranny when a population does not remain vigilant. Frankly, Orwell, who of course worked at the BBC, must be turning in his grave.

Maintaining her composure (and not even rolling her eyes), Silkie Carlo patiently explained:

“Well, once you enter a phase of authoritarianism, it doesn’t necessarily make the government less popular… But the question you just asked is the million dollar question. I don’t know and that’s why I think it’s terrifying and that’s why I think there are millions of people around Europe who are terrified.”

Continuing after a prompt about ‘public health concerns’:

“It’s not an overriding concern for public health. I think at best – if we’re being charitable – it’s that the government has completely failed to get a grip on the situation (and bear in mind we’re two years into this now). If you can’t control the situation at this point, and you have to be entering into a checkpoint society, where people have to show their papers to police officers just to live their lives, then clearly something’s gone really wrong.”

I confess that this post has been somewhat hastily drafted and had the issue not been of such grave significance I might have withheld these words in order to edit my thoughts a little. However, the simple fact that we are now having this debate at all is extremely disturbing – in fact, shockingly reminiscent of another debate that we had around the time of 9/11, when journalists and ‘experts’ sometimes opined in the mainstream about the pros and cons of torture.

Let me stress (as I have already in earlier posts) that I am not anti-vaccine. Moreover, I do not doubt that the covid vaccines have already saved many lives during this pandemic and indeed the hospital figures do confirm this fact. However, the vaccines currently available are all extremely ‘leaky’. While they do protect the vaccinated against serious disease, hospitalisation and death, they do not prevent transmission of the virus. It follows from a purely scientific standpoint, therefore, that these vaccines are best administered to those who are most vulnerable to the disease.

No less importantly, all vaccines carry risks. I have reported on the risks too, because it is crucial to investigate the truth surrounding all of these issues – information matters. And given the risks alone, it is entirely right that patients are obliged to give informed consent – just as informed consent is required before we undergo any medical procedure.

The imposition of mandatory vaccination violates well-established human rights that grant us autonomy over our own bodies. Irrespective of the science, this decision by the Austrian government is deeply unethical and sets a very dangerous precedent.

Finally, to reiterate: I am not anti-vaccine. I am not pro-vaccine. I am pro-choice.

*

From an article entitled “5 Things That Are #MyBodyMyChoice” written by Suzannah Weiss, published in Bustle magazine on September 25, 2015. https://www.bustle.com/articles/113094-5-things-that-are-mybodymychoice-because-respecting-them-is-essential-for-creating-a-culture-of-consent

* From an article entitled “Austria plans compulsory Covid vaccination for all” written by Philip Oltermann, published in the Guardian  on November 19, 2021. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/nov/19/austria-plans-compulsory-covid-vaccination-for-all

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corona marginalia: Kyle’s story

Kyle Warner is a 29-year-old professional mountain biker from Idaho. His unfortunate story was first brought to my attention by John Campbell who has since recorded a follow-up interview with Kyle uploaded on Wednesday [Nov 10th] and embedded directly below:

Before continuing with Kyle’s story, it is vitally important to stress that John Campbell, who has a doctorate in nursing and is a retired teacher of nurses, has always been and remains pro-vaccine. He has stated repeatedly that covid vaccine injuries may have arisen from not administering the vaccines correctly and has used his online platform to advocate for better practise – here is John Campbell discussing being ‘fact-checked’ a few weeks ago.

Moreover, and in spite of his recent misfortune, Kyle Warner also encourages the take up of vaccines, although like many millions, he is opposed to mandatory vaccination. However, it seems that the language itself is now being modified and so I draw attention to the current definition of “anti-vaxxer” according to Merriam-Webster (screenshot below):

Merriam-Webster definition of anti-vaxxer

To quote directly from horribly contorted and dangerous definition, an anti-vaxxer is “a person who opposes the use of vaccines or regulations mandating vaccination”. (The emphasis is mine.)

This Orwellian redefinition that deliberately lumps together anyone who opposes mandatory vaccination with those who are fundamentally opposed to vaccination under all circumstances thereby vilifies millions who are justifiably concerned about civil liberties, government overreach and basic human rights. It is important to keep this in mind as we return to the story of Kyle (and others who present their own cases below).

*

It was mid-May when Kyle received his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. Besides a sore arm he did not experience any apparent complications. A month later on June 10th, Kyle received the second dose. Again, he experienced no immediate complications. A fortnight later, however, Kyle (a professional athlete) began to notice that his normal resting heart rate had risen from around fifty beats per min up to sixty. Of more concern, he felt abrupt leaps when his heart rate would suddenly shoot up to ninety and hundred even while resting. Alarmed by this, he immediately decided to cut out all stimulants from his diet and then took two weeks off in order just to rest and recuperate.

When Kyle returned to cycling, however, he found that his condition had actually become more serious. During a climb on his first ride, he noticed that his heart rate had risen to 160 and was shocked to see that it didn’t return to normal again. He struggled home and visited his local hospital.

On admission Kyle explained how he thought he may have been having a reaction to the vaccine but the doctor in charge of his case told him he was more likely having an anxiety attack. In response, Kyle said that he knew his body and repeated that the side-effects he was experiencing corresponded to ones he had read about. Finally, the same doctor told him he may be in the midst of a psychotic episode and promptly sent him home.

In reality Kyle was suffering from pericarditis (inflammation of the lining surrounding the heart) along with POTS and reactive arthritis. These conditions left Kyle bedridden and unable to exercise during the months that have followed. Understandably, he fears that his career as a mountain biker may be finished.

*

On November 2nd, Kyle Walker joined other covid vaccine injury claimants. Supported by doctors and medical experts they went to Washington DC to testify at the US Senate calling for transparency and accountability.

Senator Ron Johnson who convened the roundtable panel personally invited NIAID Director, Dr. Anthony Fauci; CDC Director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky; FDA Acting Commissioner, Janet Woodcock; NIH Director, Dr. Francis Collins; HHS Secretary, Xavier Becerra; the CEOs of Pfizer, Moderna, BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson, Albert Bourla, Stéphane Bancel, Uğur Şahin and Alex Gorsky respectively; as well as state representatives for each of the vaccine injured who were speaking out, but none of the above accepted his invitation and no journalists from any mainstream media outlets attended the proceedings.

Kyle Warner opened his statement as follows (from 53 mins):

Before I start my speech I just want to say thanks to Dr Fauci, the FDA, heads of the CDC and NIH, for not showing up to this meeting and not listening to us. I really appreciate it and I’m glad that you have our interests at heart. This message is kind of for you. It’s a message on how this has broke my heart literally and figuratively.

He continued:

Listening to these stories today and looking at the [Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System] VAERS database, it is easy to see that we have a serious problem arising, but you guys already know this. The real question is whether or not you’ll stand up to your favourite pharmaceutical lobbyist in defence of the American people you are supposed to serve. We were told we were fighting a war against the pandemic and the question in the air is: will you leave your troops behind yet again?

I’m not asking you to end the vaccine programme by any means. All I’m asking is for some transparency and acknowledgement of what is happening, so that we as a country can have an honest discussion of the risks.

I believe that where there is risk there must be choice, and without acknowledging that people are being seriously injured and dying, we are doing a great disservice to the American people.

It is estimated that Moderna and Pfizer will make around 60 billion dollars in revenue this year from covid-19 vaccines. And with the rollout of boosters and mandates, it seems like much of that is destined to be recurring revenue.

We need to set up a fund with a portion of vaccine proceeds to help heal and study injured Americans and compensate the families who have lost loved ones due to complications of the vaccine.

This is the first ever mass administration of mRNA vaccines and the drug companies need to compensate us if they’re going to be testing on us.

Do you know why we stopped saying the Pledge of Allegiance in school? It’s because the new one: ‘One nation under siege, completely divisible, with liberty and justice for all corporations’ doesn’t sound quite as good. I’m asking you human to human, please do the right thing and help us.

Although the video is cued to the start of Kyle Warner’s statement, I encourage readers to listen to other contributions too – in particular the powerful testimony of injured healthcare professionals, Joel Wallskog, an orthopaedic surgeon from Wisconsin, and Shaun Barcavage, a research nurse/practitioner from Pennsylvania (starting from 2:20:45).

This is an abridged version of Shaun’s testimony (a fuller version is provided below):

“Politics has zero impact on me being here today. I’m pro-patient, pro-science and I’ve been fiercely pro-vaccine my entire life – often having fights with family members to get vaccinated.

However, like many, I was a bit hesitant about the vaccine. We all had our concerns. I was scared about the new platform. The new spike protein vector. The fact that we relied on more long-term in vitro studies without long-term safety data in humans. But as a researcher and a scientist I also understood the need to control a pandemic. So I got vaccinated.

As a researcher I fully understand reactions occur and they are real. No medication or vaccine is reaction free. I get this, but so should everyone else. But in this rollout there were many things that came to light quickly, once I fell into that adverse reaction world.

Prior to December 29th 2020, the day my life fundamentally changed, I was a vibrant, funny, compassionate, healthy person. No medical conditions. No medicines. Never a vaccine reaction. Let me briefly share my [vaccine] reaction story.

I went to the hospital where I work. I stood in line. Immediately after dose one I developed paraesthesias in my right arm – got injected in my right deltoid. Within hours to days, the numbness and tingling travelled to the right side of my face, my eye and my ear.

I saw a neurologist – one of the top neurologists in New York City – he said ‘Oh, if it subsides get the second shot – we just don’t know it’s all new.’ So it subsided. Against my better judgement, I went back and I got in line.

Dose two literally sent me into a tailspin. […]

I’m a science-driven nurse/practitioner and I remain pro-vaccine. I dedicated my life to helping people and medicine. Heartbreakingly I ended up in the realm of the injured. But the real tragedy is not only the lack of adequate medical support, but the active and coordinated denial of our situations. Even by my own colleagues.

Finally, I want you to know that I was never the activist type. I never pictured myself being here. But fear and despair have changed me. This experience has shattered my life.”

All participants on the panel were speaking on their own behalf and no-one appeared as a representation of any organisation or institution. None on the panellists has ever been an anti-vaccine campaigner, but all are opposed to mandatory vaccination (as am I):

As you can see, the original upload has already been taken down by Youtube (and Senator Ron Johnson’s channel was suspended for a week over alleged misinformation) but an edited version is now available and again I have cued it beginning with Kyle Warner’s statement. The bowdlerised testimony of Joel Wallskog and Shaun Barcavage now begins at 24:55 mins:

*

Please note: The views expressed by Sen. Ron Johnson and other participants are not necessarily shared by Wall of Controversy. (My own views are expressed across a range of posts on the subject.)

Importantly, I have not been trained as a medical professional and do not claim to have expert knowledge of this subject. This article is in no way intended to provide medical advice of any kind.

*

Additional: A longer version of Shaun Barcavage’s testimony

“Politics has zero impact on me being here today. I’m pro-patient, pro-science and I’ve been fiercely pro-vaccine my entire life – often having fights with family members to get vaccinated.

However, like many, I was a bit hesitant about the vaccine. We all had our concerns. I was scared about the new platform. The new spike protein vector. The fact that we relied on more long-term in vitro studies without long-term safety data in humans. But as a researcher and a scientist I also understood the need to control a pandemic. So I got vaccinated.

As a researcher I fully understand reactions occur and they are real. No medication or vaccine is reaction free. I get this, but so should everyone else. But in this rollout there were many things that came to light quickly, once I fell into that adverse reaction world.

Prior to December 29th 2020, the day my life fundamentally changed, I was a vibrant, funny, compassionate, healthy person. No medical conditions. No medicines. Never a vaccine reaction. Let me briefly share my [vaccine] reaction story.

I went to the hospital where I work. I stood in line. Immediately after dose one I developed paraesthesias in my right arm – got injected in my right deltoid. Within hours to days, the numbness and tingling travelled to the right side of my face, my eye and my ear.

I saw a neurologist – one of the top neurologists in New York City – he said ‘Oh, if it subsides get the second shot – we just don’t know it’s all new.’ So it subsided. Against my better judgement, I went back and I got in line.

Dose two literally sent me into a tailspin. Within four days I developed debilitating tinnitus. What I recall from that is the month of February, curled up in a foetal position on the bathroom floor, wondering how would I ever live with this. It was so severe. Couldn’t hear TV. Couldn’t listen to music, or read a book, or hear what other people were saying. Thought my life was over.

It continued. I got right facial tingling, back numbness, throat tightness, tachycardia, wildly fluctuating blood pressures, severe right-sided headaches and brain fog. I went back to the neurologist. I told all that was going on. He said, ‘Oh, wait it out, it might likely subside again.’ I said, ‘I don’t think so, this is pretty bad.’ I ended up in the emergency department on January 30th.

Despite all my years of nursing experience, [and] having been familiar with the vaccine trials, I offered up quickly, ‘I think I’m having a reaction to the vaccine.’ I was quickly dismissed by a physician who had no knowledge about these vaccine reactions and he sent me away with ibuprofen – so many missed opportunities to treat me.

Things continued to progress. I developed POTS syndrome – never even heard of it before as a nurse – where you can’t stand for more than five minutes without your heart rate zooming, getting faint and nauseous. Severe intractable insomnia. I never had a problem sleeping before, suddenly I’m taking five meds to try to get to sleep. Muscle twinges, tremors, adrenal dumps – adrenal dumps that would burn my muscles and my stomach. […]

I pursued everywhere across the country from New York to California, looking for answers, pestering top researchers, scientists, doctors. Getting nowhere. Getting no recognition. Getting dismissed.

By August I’d literally exploded in generalised body neuropathies – imagine, waking up in the middle of the night stinging in my hands and feet, burning in the soles of my feet, prickling all over like I fell in a bush of nettles. […]

I pushed for objective data. I insisted: let’s do a tilt-table test. [It] showed my dysautonomia. Pushed for a skin biopsy. Showed I developed small fibre neuropathy. Still, I couldn’t get anybody to take an interest in me. I’m a researcher, I found that curious. Here I am, presenting, unusual case, study me, I’m a perfect candidate. I give you objective data. If I tell you my pain’s a seven out of ten, it’s a seven out of ten – I don’t minimise or maximise.

Feeling so alone and so scared I turned to social media because I couldn’t find anybody like me for support. In mere months I had thousands of people. I set up a tinnitus group: 3,500 members joining in months. Later I found six other groups focussed on neurological symptoms. I started to help them – as a nurse it was the best way I could help: use my resources. I started researching. Reading journals. Hearing what they were hearing. Reading as much as I can. Sharing with them. Helping the people who had no insurance understand what their labs were. People who had no money. Guiding them. What tests they should get. How best they should use their money.

Crazy thing is social media – you’re there, you’re looking for support, you find support – they suddenly tag you: ‘misinformation’. You’re not real. You’re an ‘anti-vaxxer’. You devolve into more despair. […]

My goal here today is to speak as a researcher. A lot’s been said already. I’ll just emphasise: if we mandate vaccines, it’s clear we need to mandate manufacturers and government institutions to step up and investigate us. It’s not right. It’s immoral.

Reactions are real; they’re a part of science. I got unlucky. But it’s unethical to hide them even if it’s for some greater motive. […]

We know NIH did a study. I’d love to know what was in it. It’s unethical to hide research if there’s information in there to help people. I know this, I’m a researcher.

We also must return science into the hands of scientists and get it out of money; donor money and politics. We deserve safe and effective vaccines, but we also deserve effective and safe government. I don’t think we have that right now.

I’m a science-driven nurse/practitioner and I remain pro-vaccine. I dedicated my life to helping people and medicine. Heartbreakingly I ended up in the realm of the injured. But the real tragedy is not only the lack of adequate medical support, but the active and coordinated denial of our situations. Even by my own colleagues.

Finally, I want you to know that I was never the activist type. I never pictured myself being here. But fear and despair have changed me. This experience has shattered my life. Like all of you: I know where you are. […]

I will continue to fight. I will continue to research. I will find an answer, people, or I will die trying.”

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