A COVID-19 Vaccine – Is it the solution?
The Challenge and The Questions
In the face of the global COVID-19 pandemic, world health experts and politicians are united in the crucial need for a COVID-19 vaccine, regardless of the estimated 18-month time line to production, which for many is already highly optimistic. Dr Anthony Fauciof the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Disease (NIAID) and the U.S. government spokesperson for the COVID-19 crisis, has been particularly vocal about this need. Another researcher from Oxford University, Dr Sarah Gilbert said on April 11th that it could even come as early as September this year. Is this realistic? Other experts doubt it, including Dr Paul Offit, a vaccine specialist in the US, citing from his own experience of the 25 years it took him to co-develop a safe and effective rotavirus vaccine, part of the US vaccine schedule since 2006. For a new vaccine to be ready in 18 months would require fast tracking approval through the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the US and other similar public health bodies and most importantly include bypassing most or all animal testing.
Dr Fauci has also been proposing the need for a “universal flu vaccine”, one that would cover all major flu viruses and could be given every 10 years. Dr. Fauci said that moving to gene sequence information and synthetic DNA in the development of new vaccines, biologists could make part of vaccines in advance, like a chassis and then attach the appropriate viral strains.
Despite the warning from scientists, who struggled unsuccessfully for fifteen years to develop a vaccine for the corona virus responsible for Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-1), hundreds of billions of dollars are being poured into the race for a COVID-19 vaccine, with at least seventy companies competing to be the first. Currently leading the field is the US company Moderna Therapeutics, one of several vaccine developers funded by the Gates Foundation. Moderna’s stock increased by 78% when they reported starting human trials. This reported speed of development is unprecedented. Until this point, a new vaccine had to go through several stages before human trials, including a basic understanding of the virus, producing a vaccine candidate (isolating and then preparing in a modified form), and to pre-clinical trials on animals and then several stages of human trials. Regulatory approval was always needed at every stage. However, for COVID-19, genetic identification of the virus has already been achieved and trials have now been allowed to bypass the animal phase with human trials already underway.
One of the main obstacles in the development of the SARS-1 vaccine was the creation of antibody-induced enhancement in the animal test subjects when they were later introduced to another corona virus. Cytokine storms were triggered increasing lung damage, the animal test subjects died and almost twenty years later there is still no vaccine for any corona virus. 1
Dr Neil Ferguson of Imperial College, London, the group responsible for the computer modelling that predicted a global devastation if COVID-19 was allowed to spread, has been influential in persuading governments that the current lockdown’s “suppression” strategy of the disease is the only option for controlling the pandemic until a vaccine becomes available. The idea of the vaccine being the solution to this crisis and the way out of lockdown has captured the popular imagination. At the same time, serious questions are now being asked about whether his modelling of potential mortality from COVID-19 was anywhere near accurate.
As a result, nearly all the attention has been attempting to suppress the outbreak, stopping the world in its tracks, with the conviction that a vaccine will be produced and solve the problem. This is despite the fact that no vaccine for a corona virus has ever been produced and normal flu vaccines are historically not that effective.
Suppression v. mitigation: the role of natural immunity
Neil Ferguson’s research, published on the Imperial College’s website but not peer reviewed, suggested there were two approaches to containment: suppression and mitigation. The former requires the extensive lockdown strategies that have been employed. The latter involves a combination of behavioural avoidances and other Non-Drug Interventions (NDIs), including some forms of social isolation. Due to Ferguson’s initial conclusions and also in the USA with Dr Fauci’s predictions, most of the world’s governments have followed the model of China and advocated for suppression as a primary strategy.
Since his first predictions of 510,000 UK deaths if no action was taken and 250,000 deaths if specific mitigation was taken, in the face of a challenge from a group at Oxford University, Ferguson modified his projections again, down to 20,000, significantly less than the deaths in an average UK flu season. While Fauci, just days after stating in the prestigious NEJM that the death rate would be around that of an average flu season, called for a total US lockdown to prevent a disaster. It is perhaps interesting to note that Ferguson’s second revision from 250K down to 20K deaths was done two days after lockdown had already been imposed in the UK.
There is a third strategy, that of “herd immunity”. When enough people, perhaps 60-80% of the population, come into contact with the virus and develop a natural immunity, it protects the vulnerable. As an infectious disease, which produces mild symptoms in the vast majority of people, is allowed to spread through a population, immunity is conferred on individuals and the pathogen itself loses its virulence. This is the model the UK was initially following, and the one that Sweden has continued to follow with the focus on protecting the elderly, while allowing the rest of the population to continue with minimal restrictions. It is early days, but Sweden seems to be doing well and has not suffered the collateral damage in terms of their economy, loss of livelihoods, and the acute pressure on individuals and their physical and mental health.
What perhaps needs re-emphasizing in this race for a vaccine, is that natural immunity to a virus or bacteria allows for an extended immunity to the same or similar viruses or bacteria. This is now being debated and some think that natural immunity will not be conferred after exposure to covid-19, but that flies against basic immunology. The challenge is that corona viruses, like all viruses, tend to mutate often and each new mutation may require a new vaccine or the development of new immunity. Natural immunity is however much more comprehensive than a vaccine mitigated immunity. An argument can be made that healthy people getting the disease is a better and safer option. For example, having childhood illnesses such as measles and mumps confers a lifelong immunity for nearly all who have had the natural disease as opposed to the vaccine for which several doses and then adult boosters are now recommended. The vast majority of healthy people affected by the COVID-19 virus have recovered well, including many who were asymptomatic, challenging the whole strategy of quarantine for healthy people. There is some suggestion that reinfection may be an issue, but this remains unknown and the tests being used are still notoriously inaccurate. The UK have admitted that the antibody tests they currently have are unreliable. 2. What cannot be denied is that those most susceptible to severe illness are the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions (95% of COVID-19 deaths).
Corona viruses are everywhere. Thinking that we can avoid them through suppression seems highly questionable, masks or no masks! We cannot control nature in this way. It makes very good sense to isolate the elderly and immune-compromised, but this virus shows no signs of killing the predicted millions of people across the world. The wider consequences of locking down the world’s population is unknown, but there is plenty of sound scientific evidence that forcing people to stay inside, isolated from friends and family and under constant stress is a disaster from a health and immunity perspective, to say nothing of individual economic consequences. After nearly five months of the global spread of the virus, approximately 200,000 people have died, from or with COVID-19. This is tragic but as predicted by world renowned scientists, including Fauci himself just before the US imposed lockdown, globally the numbers are less than a bad flu season (650,000).
The “susceptibility” of a person to any disease state is a key factor in recognizing the risks involved and as we have seen with the corona virus, the elderly, those who are obese or overweight, those with diabetes or metabolic syndrome are particularly at risk. Those with chronic chest conditions, other immune issues and those on long term medications (antibiotics, steroids) are also vulnerable. The vast majority of the healthy do not get very sick.
Very little is being spoken about the well documented benefits of Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin D, Zinc and Selenium supplementation in supporting the body’s immune system against flu and other infectious diseases. Messaging from the medical profession and public health departments has focused entirely on avoiding the virus and has promoted the idea that there is nothing individuals can do to help their immune system to cope, until the vaccine arrives. This seems strange and potentially irresponsible in what is being described as a global crisis with, so far, no effective pharmaceutical treatment. Might this jeopardise the population when they could be using the lockdown to improve their health and therefore their immune system in anticipation of the lockdown being lifted?
What is happening in Africa?
In Sub-Saharan Africa, the numbers of COVID-19 cases have been very few, despite the WHO’s warning (April 10th) that it could become the next epicentre of the pandemic. So far this continues to be speculation. South Africa has the highest number of confirmed cases (4,361 on April 26th) and 86 deaths, and so it begs the question of how many resources should be allocated to Africa for another vaccine, when resources are urgently needed for a myriad of other health issues, and the consequences of the ruthless lockdown in many countries is unknown, but predicted to be severe. The proposal by two French researchers that Africans should be used to test the vaccine prompted immediate outrage from several governments, given that the areas currently most affected are the US, the UK and Europe. However, there is a concerted attempt to sign up African governments to vaccine research for COVID-19.
South Africa has enacted one of the strictest lockdowns in the world. On April 8th in an article in the Mail and Guardian in South Africa, it states that in a predominantly young population the risk of COVID-19 is very small, whereas the health risks due to social and economic hardship are huge. The latter may far surpass the former. 3 The World Bank has complemented Tanzania on its decision not to copy the total lockdown strategy of Europe, with its drastic consequences for millions of people.
Ghana just introduced a new law – the Imposition of Restrictions Act which gives the government unlimited powers for an indefinite time to impose violations of fundamental rights and freedoms, even though an existing law – The Emergency Powers Act 1994 is already in place to deal with such emergencies. Will the declaration of a global pandemic encourage governments to abuse democratic rights in the name of containing the crisis? It is certainly hard to justify the lockdown in most African countries.
How long should lockdown last and do we really need a vaccine?
The WHO is saying that COVID-19 is spreading more slowly than the flu but is more lethal. Five months into the pandemic the death rate is not that much different to the usual flu season. By far the most affected are those over 80 years old (death rate 14.8%), those in their 70s (8%), and in their 60s (3.6%), after which it falls dramatically to 1.3% for people in their 50s and 0.4% for those in their 40s. (worldometers.info/coronavirus). It is likely that even these figures are over inflated given the fact that most deaths (95%) were in people with pre-existing conditions who died WITH Covid-19 not OF COVID-19. In the USA, based on current figures, in New York State, where the highest number of cases have been found, there is a 0.1% chance of dying if infected and in California, it is 0.03%. Both states are still currently in lockdown as of April 27th.
According to the US CDC, estimates of usual flu mortality for 2019-2020 is between 29,000 and 59,000. However, even those figures are debatable. In an article in the British Medical Journal – Are flu death figures more PR than Science, the case is made that the connection between flu and pneumonia deaths is being skewed to inflate deaths ascribed to flu, and in the process indicate the need for increased flu vaccines. 4 Covid-19 deaths in the US are currently at 53,934 (April 26th) and these figures are also debatable given the coding changes and the association between a COVID19 diagnosis and government funding. This is not to deny the seriousness of this disease for those who are vulnerable, and the stress for those health workers on the frontline in many countries of the world, but the questions remain about how best to deal with this crisis. An increasing number of eminent scientists, epidemiologists, economists and doctors are questioning the official narrative. For example, Danish researcher Peter Gøtzsche, founder of the renowned Cochrane Medical Collaboration, writes that “Corona is an epidemic of mass panic” and “….logic was one of the first victims.” 5
History of flu vaccines and the race for the COVID-19 vaccine
The flu vaccine has not been without problems. Efficacy in some years has been as low as 10-30% and dangerous adverse effects have been reported. After the 1976 “swine flu” outbreak in Fort Dix, New Jersey, 45 million people were vaccinated against the disease. The proven side effects of the vaccine led to curtailment of the vaccine programme and serious questioning of the government policy that promoted the rush for a vaccine without appropriate safety studies. In the end there was no ‘swine flu’ epidemic but statistical studies confirmed a causal relationship between the vaccine and Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), an autoimmune nervous-system reaction characterized by unstable gait and loss of sensation and muscle control.6. During that year, the rate of GBS in Ohio was 13.3 per 1,000,000 in vaccine recipients, compared to 2.6 per 1,000,000 in nonrecipients.7 Doctors became reluctant to administer the vaccine, and public trust in the flu vaccine campaign was diminished. More recently, an increased risk for GBS occurred in patients during the six weeks following the administration of flu vaccine in the 1992–1993 and 1993–1994 flu seasons.
Each year, a new strain of the flu vaccine is produced in anticipation of the type of flu virus that might be prevalent. However, the US CDC admitted that it is hard to predict the strains of flu and therefore assure efficacy of the vaccine. In the 2003-04 season the vaccine did not work well because the strain of flu virus differed from the strain from which the vaccine had been prepared.8, 9 Given the unpredictability of matching each year’s flu vaccine to the actual strain of flu virus that later spread among the human population, it is impossible in most years to guarantee its effectiveness. The CDC report on the 1994–1995 flu season stated that 87 percent of influenza A virus samples and 76 percent of influenza B virus samples were not similar to that year’s vaccine.10 Although researchers today can be more accurate in matching vaccine to virus, it is still essentially a hit-or-miss affair. According to “Recommendations for Influenza Immunization of Children,” an American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) policy statement, “Protective efficacy against influenza illness confirmed by positive culture varies between 30 percent and 95 percent.” 11–15
One type of flu vaccine currently used is FluMist, a nasal spray flu vaccine given to non-pregnant people between 2 and 49 years of age. It is live virus vaccine, designed to protect against four influenza viruses: an influenza (H1N1) virus, a (H3N2) influenza A virus and two influenza B viruses. The live (attenuated) influenza viruses replicate themselves in the recipient’s nasopharynx (nose and throat). Researchers have documented the specific risks associated with a live virus, including the possibility of enhanced replication of the attenuated virus in individuals with compromised immune systems, and the possibility of a bacterial superinfection if the replicating live virus disrupts nasal membranes.16,17 It has been shown that vaccinated individuals shed more virus than non-vaccinated individuals and the live virus can be spread from the vaccine recipient to other, non-vaccinated people for up to 21 days. A warning on the FluMist package insert states, “FluMist recipients should avoid close contact with immune-compromised individuals for at least 21 days.” Those living with or coming into contact with people who have compromised immune systems should not take the FluMist vaccine yet it is difficult to see how such contacts could be avoided. The list of vulnerable people becomes very long if we include those whose immune systems have been compromised by conditions ranging from AIDS to cancer, allergies, and dependence on corticosteroid drugs,
In the US, flu vaccines for all citizens, has been an essential strategy for 20 years now, whether the recipient is medically vulnerable or not, despite there being no scientific evidence that it prevents hospitalizations or complications such as pneumonia. The research originally published in the prestigious Cochrane library in 2010 was updated in 2014 and 2018. 18 It forces us to question much of the conventional narrative around flu vaccines. Furthermore, research done by the Pentagon showed that members of the military who received the flu vaccine were 36% more at risk to be infected by a corona virus. 19 Although vaccines have become a familiar aspect of pharmaceutical medicine there are many known risks and much that is still unknown. This, and the issue of antibody induced enhancement on re-exposure to a coronavirus discovered during the SARS-1 vaccine trials should make us all question the merit of rushing the first corona vaccine to market at this time. The new technology being used (DNA and mRNA sequencing) is not yet fully understood but there are serious concerns about its safety. 20,21 Controversial research into viruses and vaccines called “gain of function” research has been carried out for a number of years in many years including the USA. However, the NIH halted research in 2014 citing safety concerns. 22 Gain of function research manipulates the genetic code of pathogens so they cross species and /or become more virulent. 23 In 2017 the ban was lifted and the same scientists resumed their work with funding from the NIH, including at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China.
The money and politics involved in the COVID-19 vaccine
The SARS-CoV-2 virus responsible for COVID-19 would require the development of an entirely new vaccine since there are currently no vaccines for any corona viruses.
In an enlightening analysis on the role of possible vaccines in the pandemic and the amount of money involved, Barbara Loe Fisher of the US National Vaccine Information Center highlights the crisis in her article in The Vaccine Reaction – Covid-19 Meltdown and Pharma's Big Money Win.24 Extraordinary resources are being funnelled into new vaccine research at breakneck speed, with billions of dollars of research money and untold profits in the making. Little is being said of the risks involved. Fisher states that on March 9th WHO released its COVID-19 R&D roadmap, which will include funding from the European Commission of 37.5 million euros, 10 million euros from Germany and 46 million euros from the UK. The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness (CEPI), funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, committed 100 million euros to speed up licensure of COVID-19 vaccines but said it was trying to raise 2 billion more to speed the vaccines to market.
This is a phenomenal amount of money and resources to create a vaccine for a condition that, after five months spreading around the world, has so far has only killed 200,000 (April 26th) in a global population of 7.5 billion. It seems a strange use of these resources in a world where TB annually kills an estimated 1.5 million and Malaria kills a million people a year, most of them children.
Loe’s article discusses the issues faced in the previous attempts to create a vaccine for another SARS virus, SARS-1. In the animal studies researchers encountered serious problems, where the virus showed “enhanced respiratory disease in vaccinated animals after exposure to the live virus”. The WHO roadmap specifically states that “Evaluating the potential for enhanced disease in humans is critical before [vaccines] can be assessed through larger-scale studies.” 25 A hyper immune reaction also occurred in the RSV vaccine trials in the 1960s. In other words, the vaccinated animals or children in the trials produced a hyper immune reaction when exposed to natural viruses in the wild. Vaccine expert, Paul Offit describes this process as “antibody dependent enhancement.” which was part of the challenge he faced in developing a vaccine for the Rotavirus.
It is perhaps one reason why Bill Gates, heavily invested in the race for the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine, has been granted indemnity from prosecution for any adverse effects from the vaccines he is involved with in the US. He stated in an interview on CNBC news that before this new vaccine is released globally, “governments will need indemnification from the risks involved” 26.
How confident can we be that the drug companies in this vaccine race will adhere to the safety standards normally needed to bring a vaccine to market, especially if those same drug companies are not legally responsible for any damage the vaccine may cause. With at least 70 companies now vying to be the first to produce the COVID-19 vaccine the financial stakes are huge. The global vaccine market was 42 billion dollars in 2018, and projected to double again by 2026 to over 93 billion dollars. Vaccines are now an integral part of all countries’ public health plans and this money is virtually guaranteed via the taxation of the people being vaccinated. Moderna Therapeutics, which is partnering with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), headed by Dr Fauci, has seen a 78 percent increase in its stock price since its announcement in February that its experimental messenger RNA vaccine was ready for clinical trials. On March 27, 2020, The US Congress passed the CARES act that will cost American taxpayers over two trillion dollars. It made no stipulation of a cap on how much money drug companies can charge and the profits to be made on the COVID-19 vaccine and drug therapies they develop with the taxpayers’ money. What regulation will be in place to prevent price gouging when these vaccines are licensed by the FDA and recommended by the CDC?
Loe’s article describes how the US government is encouraging the production of massive amounts of COVID-19 vaccines before they have even been proven to work. Technology involved in the production of vaccines is changing rapidly, with the use of gene-based vaccines (DNA and mRNA). However, the risks are unknown, and based on experience with SARS-1, are potentially profound and premature integration of these vaccines may have unforeseen and disastrous consequences. The science is simply not there yet but that doesn’t seem to be stopping the vaccine industry and their advocates taking advantage of this perfect storm.
The influence of big business and international organizations
It is important to recognize the role of the USA in this agenda, dominated by the extraordinary influence of the pharmaceutical industry on health policy and laws. Over the last 10 years, many states in the USA have imposed very restrictive laws in dictating who needs to be vaccinated, removing philosophical, religious and even some medical exemptions for childhood vaccines. Children in the US get more vaccines than any other country in the world, including the flu vaccine, which few other countries recommend to all citizens.
It is therefore likely that if/when a new COVID-19 vaccine is produced, governments throughout the world will toe the line and attempt to make it a mandatory requirement. They will likely justify this by saying the risks to humanity are too great to leave it to personal choice, ignoring the US constitution and Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the process. It will be a guaranteed revenue earner for the drug companies, increasingly needed as their most lucrative patents on blockbuster drugs are running out. Also, vaccines are cheaper to produce than new drugs, have less stringent safety assessments and the drug companies in the US are indemnified from claims of harm. 27 It is a win win for the pharmaceutical industry.
Perhaps the most well-known exponent of a global expansion of vaccines and the vaccine industry is Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft and GAVI, the Global Vaccine Alliance. He is also co-founder, and funder (US$460 million in donations) of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness (CEPI). It states on GAVI’s website:
Geneva, 21 March 2020 – With the COVID-19 pandemic already affecting 47 Gavi-supported countries, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance has already taken new steps to help strengthen the preparedness of health systems in lower-income countries with the full support of its Board. Gavi will also be working closely with WHO, CEPI, World Bank, UNICEF and other partners to create the optimal conditions for the acceleration of priority candidate vaccines with a focus on access including assuring adequate scale up of production and delivery to be sure the vaccine gets to where it is needed to stem the pandemic.
GAVI stated that US$7.4 billion will be given as additional resources to protect the next generation with vaccines, with a focus on making them available to the most vulnerable, “for the world’s poorest countries thanks to Gavi’s market-shaping experience.” In the online journal “The Conversation”, on April 6th, the writer Jennifer Mabuka-Maroa, of the African Academy of Sciences made the case that so far, only South Africa has offered to do clinical trials of the COVID-19 vaccine and that it is important that more African countries sign up to be part of any vaccine research. The African Academy of Sciences is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The Gates Foundation is one of the biggest donors, often larger than national government contributions, to global health programmes in many countries. His influence is extraordinary but not always without problems. In 2017, the Gates Foundation was removed from India’s National Technical Board on Immunization (NTAGI) for possible conflict of interests, 28 citing his connection to many pharmaceutical companies making the vaccines after a devastating vaccine-strain epidemic erupted. A German study called ‘Philanthropic Power and Development -Who shapes the agenda?’, 29 had cautioned on “the growing influence of the large global philanthropic foundations, especially the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, on political discourse and agenda-setting in targeted fields, and fully analyse the risks and side effects — intended and unintended — of these activities on sustainable development”. Although the Gates Foundation is still involved in India, it is an example of the conflicts that can arise when governments accept funding from the Gates Foundation to roll out their health programmes.
Gates’ focus on technical solutions like vaccines has distracted from broader socio/economic challenges associated with health, especially in poorer countries. His provision of significant funding has given him undue influence and the power to affect health policy across the developing world. Given the current crisis, Bill Gates’ profile has increased exponentially as one of the major players advocating the vaccine as the only real solution. This has polarized opinion of his contribution and possible agendas. He is both deified and vilified.
The connections between those advising governments in this crisis should also be concerning. Dr Anthony Fauci, the US government spokesperson for the COVID-19 crisis is on the board of the Bill and Melinda Gates Global Vaccine Action Plan and is very much part of the Gate’s Foundation vision for a COVID-19 vaccine. The connections between the people, the organisations and the funding all pressing for a one-track solution are sobering. The Gates’ Foundation is the second largest donor to both the WHO and GAVI, which is also connected to the World Bank, the UN, and UNICEF. Ferguson, whose work was instrumental in pressuring the UK government to impose the lockdown, and Chris Whitty the UK’s Chief Medical Officer both receive funding from Gates. The UK Vaccine Network a group of 34 scientists involved in vaccine projects, have, with only two exceptions, received funding from Gates totalling £200,000,000.
In October 2019, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, along with the World Economic Forum and John Hopkins University sponsored an event called Event 201, to discuss how to address a pandemic situation due to a corona virus and how to prepare for the social and economic consequences in light of the projected 65 million deaths. Within two months, the first cases of COVID-19 were being reported in China and John Hopkins University was forced to write a public disclaimer stating its projected death rate was not connected to the COVID-19 outbreak. The strategies discussed during Event 201 can be found on its website.
In an interview with Chris Anderson on “CBS This Morning” and released by TED Talks, Bill Gates stresses that all US states should be made to impose a lockdown and when asked when it would be possible to open them up again, said “….activities like mass gatherings, may be, in a certain sense more optional. And so until you’re widely vaccinated those [activities] may not come back at all”. In an Op-Ed of the Washington Post on March 31st, he stated lockdown should last “10 weeks or more.”
He envisages a situation where everyone will have to show proof of a vaccine certificate in order to travel at all. In the area of health policy, the Gates Foundation is now one of the most powerful and influential organisations in the world. They have a seat on all the main global organisations setting health agendas and policy, including the World Health Organization and GAVI, giving them extraordinary influence throughout the world. The BMGF is also involved in vaccine research, production and implementation throughout the world and Bill Gates himself is heavily invested in companies developing, manufacturing and marketing vaccines. Both Bill Gates and Dr Fauci have made it clear that they see a mandatory vaccine as the solution to this crisis and that herd immunity is to be actively discouraged until a vaccine is found and rolled out globally.
MIT’s Technology Review published a depressing look into the immediate future titled: We’re not going back to normal, where lock down and restrictions become a way of life. Talking about what life would look like after a pandemic, Bill Gates’s reiterated his idea for a digital certificate: “Eventually we will have some digital certificates to show who has recovered or been tested recently, or when we have a vaccine, who has received it.”
More than ever, we see that health policies and research agendas of countries and universities are deeply influenced by and indebted to the pharmaceutical industry and in particular organizations like The Gates Foundation. This phenomenon has become known as “Philanthrocapitalism” where the involvement of such bodies challenges both scientific independence and democratic governance of health strategies world-wide. In particular, the role of Bill Gates has been compared to that of John Rockefeller in the early 20th century, whose similar influence in economics, health and public policy was a major concern.
Given the extraordinary times we are living in, it offers an opportunity for powerful people to implement agendas that may not be in the interests of the majority. As Winston Churchill said “never let a good crisis go to waste”. It is crucial that we are forensic in our analysis of what is going on behind the media hysteria so that we are alerted to agendas that may compromise millions of peoples’ individual rights – the right to move, to gather, to speak, the freedom to choose what they do and the freedom to decide and choose what is best for their health. This includes any new vaccine that we are told is essential to protect us against future pandemics and release us from lockdown. The statistical evidence so far does not confirm this narrative.
The future of Democracy
Are the fundamental foundations of our freedoms at stake? Is the demand for a global shut down a devastating overreaction in the face of a virus that five months into the pandemic has killed only a fraction of the number that might be expected to die during an average flu season? Is a new and untested vaccine a solution and is the threat of making it mandatory a profound imposition on our democratic rights? Perhaps instead this could be an opportunity for the global society to “reboot” and reconfigure how we live. Maybe good things could come from this situation and we will begin to resolve ecological destruction and take better care of our planet.
If we look at history, COVID-19 has presented an opportunity for those with extraordinary power and influence, including governments worldwide and organizations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to use this crisis to impose profound limits on our freedoms. The UK and the US have already passed new legislations giving the government far-reaching powers over our movements, including the rights of detainment and enforced testing and medical treatments in the name of public health. Bill Gates has already talked about digital ID to show we have been vaccinated, a precondition to being able to travel and perhaps a slew of other what were once normal activities. Is this the thin end of the wedge of a future of perpetual surveillance similar to the current Chinese model? A situation where biometric monitoring, digital vaccine cards and other forms of daily surveillance is the norm. Where some forms of social distancing and authoritarian control becomes a part of daily life under the guise of keeping us safe? There has been no apparent consideration of the wider negative impact of the global shut down, which according to economists will far exceed anything wrought by COVID-19. The Financial Times estimates that 3 million people in the UK are already having to manage on one meal a day, while the UN estimate 265 million people are at risk of starvation.
It seems crucial to take into account this wider perspective, who are the people making the policies and ask ourselves whether we want to surrender freedom for the illusion of safety from a pandemic that has killed only 200,000 people globally (April 26th). Does this mortality rate justify the reaction of world governments and the inevitable tragic social, political and economic consequences for billions of people? It is crucial that governments are able to make political decisions truly in the best interests of their citizens, free from the economic interests of the pharmaceutical industry and its allies and others who seek to benefit from this crisis. It would be difficult to overestimate what is at stake.
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