by Ananish Chauduri
On 14 October, Winston Peters will most likely be back in Parliament. The reason for this support is simple: he showed up at the Wellington protests.
In the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder, the Black Lives Matter protests flared in the US. This was in the middle of the ongoing pandemic. Progressives were all strongly supportive of those protests. It was important to protest such systemic injustice.
But then our own citizens showed up in protest against the heavy hand of the government and a system that the Progressive hero and role model Jacinda Ardern admitted with a smile to a reporter was aimed to create a segregated society.
Suddenly, these protesters represented a “river of filth”. Of course, it is disappointing though not surprising that the government does not wish to engage with those protesting. But what about the opposition? Why did they refuse to talk to these people especially when one in three Kiwis supported the protests?
The principal complaint seemed to be that they were anti-vaxxers.
The anti-vax label was always nonsense. The great majority of those unvaccinated against Covid have been vaccinated for diseases like measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, or HPV. Many were concerned with the newness of mRNA vaccines (and would have preferred the older viral vector technology) and others were objecting to the vaccine mandates.
The government was asking for 90% vaccination of those 12 and over. Yet according to the United Kingdom Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisations (JCVI) there was little reason to call for universal vaccination of those under the age of 15.
Thomas Cranmer recently reported that in December 2021 the Chief Scientific Officer of the Ministry of Health wrote to the Director General of Health advising against double vaccination of those less than 18 due to an increased risk of myocarditis.
The New Zealand Bill of Rights 1990 s.11 confers upon people the right to refuse medical treatment. The government’s vaccine mandates were seen by many as violating the proportionality rule articulated by the High Court in a recent case.
There was a valid counterargument that the government, in excluding the unvaccinated from many areas of social life, was prima facie discriminating (under s.19 of the Bill of Rights) against a minority that was exercising another fundamental right.
This is particularly salient given that New Zealand does not mandate any other vaccines; not even for diseases that kill children, such as measles.
The premise that one needs a mandate to get high vaccine take-up is also faulty. According to Our World in data, as of June 2022, 80% of people in New Zealand were fully vaccinated with another 4% partially vaccinated. Denmark, which had no such mandates in place, had achieved a better outcome with nearly 83% fully vaccinated!
Research carried out by John Gibson of Waikato University in December 2021 suggested that there was great misunderstanding about vaccine efficacy among the New Zealand public.
Gibson found that a large majority believed that (i) the vaccine prevents infection and transmission; (ii) reduces the likelihood of getting symptoms of Covid; (iii) reduces the likelihood of getting seriously sick and dying. Only (ii) is correct! More than 95% of the respondents believed that the vaccines were more effective than they are and were trialled against highly stringent criteria.
The vaccine trials had nothing to say regarding whether the vaccines can prevent serious illness or death! A BMJ article from October 2020, quotes Tal Zaks, the Chief Medical Officer of Moderna (another producer of mRNA vaccines):
“…Our trial will not demonstrate prevention of transmission…because in order to do that you have to swab people twice a week for very long periods and that is operationally untenable…Would I like to know that this prevents mortality? Sure, because I believe it does. I just don’t think it is feasible within the time-frame [of the trial] – too many people would die waiting for the results before we knew that.”
In fact, earlier in August 2020, the Editor-in-Chief of the BMJ commented:
“So instead we are heading for vaccines that reduce severity of illness rather than protect against infection, provide only short lived immunity, and will at best have been trialled by the manufacturer against placebo. As well as damaging public confidence and wasting global resources by distributing a poorly effective vaccine, this could change what we understand a vaccine to be. Instead of long term, effective disease prevention it could become a suboptimal chronic treatment. This would be good for business but bad for global public health.”
We knew all of this long before the imposition of vaccine mandates in New Zealand and the resulting deep social divisions.
Peters picked up on the deep-seated anger against the mandates. He is poised to benefit from his perceptiveness.