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Guy P. D. Armstrong
Guy P. D. Armstrong
Guy Armstrong is a New Zealander, and author of 'How Essential is Flouride?: What do the Experts Say?' (2020), available on Amazon.com.

Why Haven’t New Zealand’s Politicians and Vaccine Experts Ever Publicly Debated the NZDSOS?

Author’s note: No one asked me to write this. Though I’ve contacted various individuals in my own desire to initiate a public debate, I have never been contacted by NZDSOS or anyone else, wanting to instigate a debate.

A little over a decade ago, a small group questioned the use of a pentavalent vaccine in India. I laughed out loud reading the opening sentence of their letter, a response to an article the British Medical Journal (BMJ) published:

“We are a group of paediatricians, healthcare activists, teachers in public health, and bureaucrats who have championed universal immunisation in India throughout our working lives, so we were taken aback at being called an “antivaccine lobby” in the BMJ.” [1]

These professionals had expressed concern, and the BMJ had accepted the words of the expert who’d labelled them “antivaccine” in a previous article; it seems likely neither the BMJ nor the expert looked much into their past.

I was disappointed when I saw this same thoughtlessness occur here in New Zealand quite recently.

COVID debate in New Zealand news

A video of three doctors from NZDSOS (New Zealand Doctors Speaking Out with Science); began with a talk by Dr. Alison Goodwin, who said:

“I have been labelled an anti-vaxxer. I have not been screaming from the rooftops that all vaccines are bad and no-one should ever get one. What I have been advocating from the start, is for people to be fully informed, and free to choose.”

“On my last day of work this week, I wrote a prescription for a third primary dose of a vaccine for a patient. Would an anti-vaxxer do that?” [2]

She asks if she didn’t prescribe a statin to someone due to a possible risk and the availability of more appropriate treatment, would she then be an “anti-statinner”?

I can remember at the start of 2020 attempting to empathize with Dr. Bloomfield and the Right Honourable Prime Minister. Their lives were constantly in the public eye, they must have felt a massive responsibility on their shoulders. I imagined they probably sweated and cried and worried a lot, and felt they were damned if they did, and damned if they didn’t.

As a student of trace element research and the long-term effect of nutritional deficiencies, I began to I wonder why decades of research into this aspect of the biological sciences was left out of discussion about prevention of Covid-19, especially in vulnerable populations. There’s little harm in correcting protein, vitamin, zinc or selenium deficiencies in the elderly (though getting them to eat and drink is sometimes difficult).

My compassion turned to cynicism, not so much when I found that there were professional medical critics of the pandemic response, but when I saw their scepticism was not welcome in mainstream news.

Given the relentless imposition of corporations into our political life, scepticism didn’t seem outrageous.

When the topic of vaccination came about I was amazed by the complete absence of books from all reporting and TV talk during the pandemic. Many books have been written on vaccination – expert and lay, detailed and broad, local and worldwide, simple and complex, historical and modern, journalistic, legal and scientific. I’ve yet to see a single one discussed in New Zealand publicly.

I also had a little dismay at the quickness with which New Zealanders seemed to forget the past crimes and faltering morality of the pharmaceutical industry, and the complex factors that can influence even the best-intentioned medical practitioners [3].

How difficult is it to answer questions from fellow academics? Maybe it’s a little more difficult on TV, but TV debate is certainly preferable to abusive protests and aggression between citizens.

Dr. Richard Smith, a previous editor of the BMJ for twenty-five years, claimed that “scientific debate” is “something essential to the scientific process.” [4]

Mike Munro wrote in the NZ Herald recently that “… opinion about the overall pandemic response remains strongly net positive.” [5]

Assuming this is true, a big part of the reason for it is that the government and their experts have never had to publicly debate their professional medical critics, so the public has seen a reasonably one-sided perspective.

The claims of even their medical professional critics have only been on the internet, which is often regarded with scepticism, or in media, who often frame scientific issues in ways that suit whoever is paying them [6].

Volumes have been written on the public relations (PR) industry’s manipulation of science and willingness to aid the corporate and governmental weakening of journalism. Where is the outrage from “objective” and “scientific” experts against this decades-old continuing tidal wave of professional misinformation? [7]

Where is the public acknowledgement of its harm, and the political will to do away with it?

Is it not a double standard that experts resist ‘misinformation’ from activists, yet ignore all this [7]?

Political Analyst in Residence at Victoria University, Dr. Bryce Edwards, wrote on Andrea Vance’s work [8], and claims that the:

… latest census results show about 8,000 people work in PR, greatly overshadowing the roughly 1,600 journalists working in print and broadcasting. Other calculations have put the ratio of PR-to-journalists at 10:1. Many of the PR professionals work directly for the politicians, government departments, or local government authorities.” [9]

Note that Gerard Otto’s piece [10], critical of Vance’s claims [8], ignored the hiring of so many PR staff [9].

I’ve wondered whether Gerard Otto is to Jacinda Ardern, what Cameron Slater was to John Key [11], or something similar.

How can any expert report objectively on vaccination when the slightest questioning of only one vaccine (even if they have willingly administered many others) makes one into an “anti-vaxxer”?

The World health Organization has recommendations in discussing vaccines, in a 2017 document. This is Pre-Covid but worth looking at for its remarkable content. According to the WHO, because a person who “denies” vaccines is unable to be convinced,

Instead, the focus should be on appealing to the audience.” [12]

So people like me who think we should have had at least one public debate between pandemic response experts and doctors like the NZDSOS can forget about having questions and concerns answered (in public – some responses are on the NZDSOS website [13]) – instead, the way to promote vaccination is ram a point home to the audience over and over.

The WHO give lip service to a spectrum of opinion, but in this document their instructions are more conducive to binary attitudes, though they project this onto the vaccine-free:

A frequently used discussion ploy is the so-called false dichotomy or black and white thinking. The speaker simplifies a complex issue by reducing the possible perspectives to only two options; the unacceptable and the noble one. For example, deniers may…” [14]

In some instances this projection may be accurate, but it is not considered that vaccine advocates may have also used this “technique” for a time, the words “introspection” and “history” are absent from this document.

Identify the technique known as false dichotomy and make the audience aware of the simplified ‘black and white’ thinking pattern which is being used by the denier to increase polarization.” [14]

This is written under a sub-heading ‘The embracing technique’. So it’s OK for vaccine advocates to have techniques, but it’s not OK for people who are vaccine-free to have techniques…?

The WHO rubbishes binary thinking, then encourages people to rebut answers using an algorithm [15]. The WHO recommends:

If you can, condense your main message into a simple, easily understood ‘sound bite’ – that is, a less than 30 second message that captures your point in a riveting fashion.” [15]

Commenting on this, a paediatrician from Delhi, Dr. Jacob M. Puliyel, wrote:

It is sad that science is now reduced to spectacle. Debate is replaced by one-way ‘information, education and communication’ (IEC) sessions. The population is reduced to a binary: the rational scientific person and the anti-vaxxers.” [16]

Some people may say there’s no point in listening to a minority voice, when the consensus is loud and clear. Canadian researcher David Crowe said in May, 2021:

And if you are a politician, who indicates concern, about, say, ‘adverse effects about HPV vaccine’ – something like that – it will be the end of your career… so ninety-nine percent of politicians are completely on side with whatever medical science does.” (Emphasis added.)

“I don’t believe that any single politician asked a difficult question of any public health official, like: ‘What is the false positive rate of this [PCR] test?’” [17]

American politicians are known to be more sceptical of vaccination. An exception to Crowe’s claim was Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson, who organized a panel on adverse effects to Covid-19 vaccines. Nobody from the vaccine manufacturers attended, though they were invited [18].

On the 29th of November, the New Zealand National Party’s Right Honourable Simon O’Connor introduced the possibility to parliament that the benefits of vaccination may not really counter the harm done from people losing their jobs, being unable to pay their mortgages or feed their children, and their mental health issues (he was not talking about the mental health of people injured by the vaccine).

He asked if there was a better option, maybe regular testing. I haven’t seen it said much, but it strikes me as obvious that vaccination status is irrelevant as far as spreading Covid goes, if one does not have the disease to spread.

Note that Mr. O’Connor said “vaccination is good” – he had to say that because he was getting perilously close to being an “anti-vaxxer” by questioning the no-jab-no-job mandate.

Medical eyebrows were rising, and he didn’t need his career thrown on the bonfire.
Prime Minister Ardern said on the first of December:

By using vaccine passes, it makes sure that unvaccinated people aren’t being put at risk in environments where it is harder to keep them safe…” [19]

Perhaps the Prime Minister had read a letter to the BMJ suggesting that if the vaccine suppresses the expression of our symptomology, for instance coughing, etc, but doesn’t prevent transmission, vaccinated people could be spreading it with less knowledge and warning [20].

Ardern also said:

You [double-vaccinated people] should be protected from people who haven’t made that choice [to vaccinate].” [21]

So both groups need to be protected from each other.

Dr. Alison Goodwin (NZDSOS) claimed that a vaccine passport,

… does not demonstrate whether you developed any immunity, whether your immunity has waned, whether you have some immunity but you’re still able to be infected and transmit the virus, whether you have superior natural immunity, or whether you have any other infectious disease. It does not demonstrate to me, anything about your health. However it does demonstrate that you have been obedient, and complied with orders.” [2]

I think an impetus for the separation of people here in New Zealand is the publicity of articles like Your unvaccinated friend is roughly 20 times more likely to give you Covid by Christopher Baker and Andrew Robinson [22]. Note the obvious words “if they have it” are not in the title.

I think the media want us to believe the vaccine-free can spread this disease even if they don’t have it. Has a person’s vaccination status become more relevant than whether they actually have the disease?

This article in The Conversation [22] is dated 28th October, 2021. Most New Zealand media have consistently ignored any scientific finding on “the other side” of the debate, not even a study published a month previous in the European Journal of Epidemiology [23].

It’s hardly on “the other side” because it recommends vaccination, but it does discuss the

… lack of a meaningful association between percentage population fully vaccinated and new COVID-19 cases…

The authors claimed:

In fact, the trend line suggests a marginally positive association such that countries with higher percentage of population fully vaccinated have higher COVID-19 cases per 1 million people. Notably, Israel with over 60% of their population fully vaccinated had the highest COVID-19 cases per 1 million people in the last 7 days.” [23]

Note that this study is not mentioned in any NZ media [24]. And it’s not even opposing vaccination.

Then again, maybe it’s quite wise to be sceptical of medical journals. Dr. Richard Smith wrote on the blurb of his 2007 book The Trouble with Medical Journals:

… the whole business of medical journals is corrupt because owners are making money from restricting access to important research, most of it funded by public money.” [25]

To their credit, many journals have made pandemic-related research free, though we don’t only die of Covid.

Some people are skeptical of the media too. A 2010 study from the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism looked at a five-day working week over 10 (Australian) newspapers, and claimed between 42 and 70% of news had its origin in Public Relations [26].

NZDSOS seem to think that taking medical orders – sorry, advice – from PR people and politicians is a little strange, a little unmedical. Using the ‘leaky roof’ syndrome as an analogy, they write:

Maybe Hipkins will be the minister for building in the future. He is equally qualified and credible a builder as he is in medicine.” [27]

On the 25th of November, the NZ Ministry of Health released Version 2.0 of their position statement on routine pre-consultation testing of unvaccinated individuals in healthcare settings. The MOH had wrote:

Unvaccinated patients who contract COVID-19 pose a high risk to themselves and to others.

Vaccination significantly reduces the risk of developing severe infection and whilst vaccinated patients are much less likely to transmit the virus, transmission is still possible.” [28]

However, a previous version of this document, dated 19th of November, claimed in a bold font:

When there is high COVID-19 vaccine coverage (i.e., above 80 percent of eligible people are fully vaccinated), transmission is more likely to occur from a vaccinated than an unvaccinated individual.” [29]

This statement is completely absent in Version 2.0.

I wouldn’t blame the experts a bit if they ignored most of social media but debated their professional medical critics.

But the experts do the opposite – focus obsessively on social media misinformation [30], while publicly ignoring their professional medical critics, and any books that might complicate things a little. By doing this, experts contribute to minimizing discussion, and probably help breed conformity among their own ranks. By keeping the controversial stuff to the far reaches of the internet, it’s avoided by a lot of baby boomers, who have some political power and representation in New Zealand.

Or is it just that the experts are as addicted to social media as everyone else? What happened to science being a discipline?

Demand for vaccines is often made by corporations (see below), and pushed on countries in order to sell vaccines. I never saw a single journalist at one of our Prime Minister’s talks asking about this, or any of the evening news talking heads discussing it, even though it is a perfectly sensible, legitimate line of questioning, based on history.

This is one reason for critiques of the pharmaceutical industry, like this one, from journalist Dinesh C. Sharma:

India’s pharmaceutical companies are pressuring the Indian government to relax regulations governing clinical trials.” [31]

Do you remember the pandemic in Europe a little over a decade ago? The BMJ reported that:’

Drug companies are being accused of unnecessarily raising fears over the H1N1 swine flu virus so as to increase profits by boosting sales of their new vaccines.” [32]

Meanwhile, the revelation of undeclared competing interests of Professor Juhani Eskola, an adviser to WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE), has come as a gift to conspiracy theorists. SAGE advises member states on vaccines; GlaxoSmithKline, manufacturer of Pandemrix, is the main source of income of Professor Eskola’s employer.” [33]

Perhaps this previous pandemic gave the Europeans a healthy scepticism for the vaccine manufacturers that we lack over here. I suggest this could be why the European Medicines Agency claimed the following:

The impact of vaccination with Comirnaty on the spread of the SARS-Cov-2 virus in the community is not yet known. It is not yet known how much vaccinated people may still be able to carry and spread the virus.” [34]

… at a time when New Zealand’s Ministry of Health claimed a vaccinated person is “… less likely to transmit the virus to others.” [35] (Both accessed 3rd November, 2021.)

I’ll say one thing for the vaccinators, they do like to win – and this is not something new. Onkar Mittal from the Centre for Health Policy Dialogue in New Delhi, wrote to the BMJ in 2008:

… people [in developing countries] have competing needs for food, shelter, water, sanitation, and education. In reality, vaccines compete with these other needs. One example is that the widely prevalent malnutrition in children in India results from lack of health education of their mothers because health workers are too busy delivering vaccines. Therefore we have some improvement in vaccine coverage in the last two decades in India while malnutrition in children has not declined.” [36]

Vaccines are more important than food. Professor Richard Dawkins had a lot of public debates after the publication of his book The God Delusion, but we don’t publicly debate vaccines. Vaccines are more important than the meaning of life.

Nicky Hager recently suggested the anti-mandate protesters at Wellington have a good think about who they associate with. This is very sensible advice, in my opinion.

Perhaps the same advice should be given to the “rational, objective, scientific” experts around the world.

Writing about the industry promotion of a vaccine in India, Y. Madhavi from the Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai discussed health camps,

… around the country. The organisers of these camps such as various trusts, clubs and societies were lured by free gifts or concessional prices offered by the companies [37]. It was pointed out that these campaigns were creating a fear psychosis among the populace.” [38]

Does this sound a little familiar?

The above examples from various countries reveal how national immunisation policies were often influenced by the industry, regardless of the extent of disease burden and the costs involved.” [39]

Donald Light asked of a Center for Global Development report (2005), that was recommending the sale of vaccines to poor countries:

Why were principal legal advisers to big pharma chosen to do all the legal work, rather than a more neutral source?” [40]

Why is the cost of an advanced commitment set to the sales curves of drugs rather than to the sales curves of better-selling vaccines? Why does the report draw almost exclusively on industry-supported data and studies for the ‘facts’ on which the advanced commitment is based?” [40]

A Professor of Rhetoric and Applied Linguistics, Daniel Broudy, asked the question:

… how does one remain true to purely scientific pursuits in a culture influenced on nearly every front by powerful forces jockeying for positions of dominance and profit?” [41]

We’re thinking of injecting children with their product here soon, even though nobody under forty has died of Covid-19 in New Zealand, as of 30th November [42].

We will vaccinate children, and boost them endlessly, to protect baby boomers. Boomer-friendly policy will not surprise renters in this country.

If we yield to the corporations and their ignorant, meddling do-gooder servants, Broudy suggests a future like this:

Imagine a world in which control over your body is not in your own hands but in the hands of lab coats who are intent to inject you with whatever newly manufactured corporate pharmaceutical applications become state-sanctioned and mandatory. Your body—their choice.” [41]

I think we are long overdue for professional, civil, debate in this country. Many people don’t like protests. But if we can’t have professionally trained medical people debating honestly on our TV news and in our newspapers without fear of recrimination and labelling, I don’t really want to ask what we should have instead?

Should we be surprised if someone worse fills that void?

What has the absence of gentle discourse led to?

Where will it continue to take us?

Thank you,
Guy P. D. Armstrong, BSc.
I am a New Zealand citizen, and author of How Essential is Fluoride? (2020). You can purchase a copy of Guy’s book on Amazon.com.

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