Let me start this article by declaring that I am double-vaccinated against Covid19, with a booster scheduled for next week.
In my lifetime, I have seen a number of pandemics in New Zealand come and go; have been vaccinated or inoculated for all of them; and had no option but to submit to these procedures in my early years under parental guidance or military law and discipline. I carried an International Health Certificate in my passport for many years, producing it on demand in many countries I sought to enter. Yes, I had a very bad reaction to one lot - TAB, as I recall - and another from the Asian Flu in the 1950s. I brought back Malaria from South-East Asia and suffered the indignities of spasms in cinemas. In operational theatres, diseases such as Malaria, Dengue fever and Typhoid were rife. Not all prophylactics were successful - especially against Malaria (Paludrin), Scrub Typhus (DBP, now recognised as deadly as Agent Orange), glandular fever and dysentery treatments. I survived!
So, being vaccinated is my choice, based on my experiences over many years. I seem to have escaped most of them so fronting up to be vaccinated against Covid19 was a no-brainer - or so I thought.
And again, let me say that I assume the socialist government of Jacinda Ardern is/was well-meaning in its attempts to avoid wide-spread Covid19 infections.
But at what price? And could this government have done a better job following different strategies, than the ham-fisted, authoritarian regime they chose to adopt? And who cares, anyway? I was strongly pro-vax; stringent border controls (still am); masking; social distancing; frequent sanitising; limited lockdowns; and contact tracing. I would add one other precaution - disposable gloves in/on public transport or in public venues including supermarkets and other places where manual contact may be necessary - to avoid contact with surfaces.
Well, I got to thinking.
On two occasions recently, the lovely owners of two small businesses which have provided us with excellent personal services over many years, mentioned to me that they were not vaccinated and chose not to be. I did not intrude into their reasons why, but thought - if your business involves members of the public, why would you (a) choose not to vaccinate yourself and/or your staff and (b) why would you not insist that clients produce their “vaccine pass” before being allowed entry? After all, is this not what PM Ardern and her “Cabinet” insist be done, after due “consultation” with their Covid19 Technical Advisory Group?
Well, it transpires that in New Zealand today, the unvaccinated among us are vilified, shamed and disgraced. Surely they should acknowledge their heinous and unforgiveable attitude by continuing to infect us more-abiding citizens? Surely, they must be prohibited from entering many if not most establishments? Surely, they deserve to lose their jobs; their businesses; their livelihoods; their families; and any respect they might have had from us?
According to Ardern, absolutely! They are a menace! They truly deserve our government’s opprobrium, condemnation and vilification, eh?
But who are the unvaccinated? Apart from those who choose not to accede to enforced medical procedures under our Human Rights legislation, the overwhelming majority of the unvaccinated are our Maori people. Why? The government and Maori leaders will not comment on why there continues to be this reticence. Well, if you read such books as “Tangiwai: A Medical History of 19th Century New Zealand” by L.K Gluckman, it is very clear that our Maori people are deeply suspicious of “Western” medicine and are culturally reluctant to access the facilities available to all citizens. Two Maori ministers in Ardern’s own government (Davis and Jackson) described this cultural reluctance as “ignorance”, an interesting comment, when subsequent findings by the discredited Waitangi Tribunal (21 December 2021) conclude that the Ardern government (of which Davis, Jackson and a number of other Maori caucus MPs are members) is racist and breached the Treaty of Waitangi by not prioritising Maori in the vaccination “roll out”.
The unvaccinated are now the “enemy of the state”. How dare they decline to be jabbed! Serves them right if they choose not to succumb to the state’s mandate. But curiously, the Maori people are not to be so vilified - their situation is “different” and is the result of government bumbling, colonisation and modern-day racist “inequities”.
The problem is that this authoritarian approach is based upon two assumptions which, with a little reflection, can easily be rejected as totally unfounded, even stupid.
The first assumption is that those not vaccinated are the main if not the only source of infection. It is they who are primarily responsible for spreading the virus, hence they must be shunned and excluded from all places where people might gather - bars, restaurants, gyms, etc. Our new “pass laws” prevent these undesirables from mixing with us “cleansed by vaccination” groups.
The problem with this assumption is that it is not just the unvaccinated who are capable of spreading Covid. Fully-vaccinated persons are 38% able to be carrying the Covid 19 virus and to pass it on to others (including the non-vaccinated), according to the English Lancet Medical Journal on Infectious Diseases. Other international health agencies agree that the virus can be, and is, easily spread by vaccinated people too. Particularly in family households for example, where vaccinated parents who can also be carriers, can transmit the virus to their unvaccinated children. Being fully vaccinated is no guarantee that a person is not also carrying the virus and capable of passing it on to both vaccinated and unvaccinated persons.
The second assumption is that unvaccinated people do not exercise the same basic anti-Covid precautions mentioned above, so it is claimed that that they consciously participate in spreading the virus by not undertaking the basic precautions. My recent experience of the unvaccinated is that they are fastidious in taking every precaution to ensure not only that they themselves do not contract Covid, but that their families and their clients likewise are not exposed by any shortcomings in the unvaccinated environment. They practice masking, social distancing, sanitising and contract tracing verbatim - probably much more assiduously than the liberated vaccinated majority.
Both assumptions are clearly wrong, yet they are depriving people of fundamental freedoms; ruining people’s lives and livelihoods; and will result in severe economic issues already evident by people exiting their jobs in droves.
Why are the unvaccinated being persecuted for exercising their legitimate right to refuse a medical treatment under our Human Rights laws? If they are taking every precaution to ensure they neither contract, nor spread, the virus (using the tried and successful pre-vaccination safeguards), why then are they being punished severely by this government for declining to be vaccinated?
Associated with these spurious assumptions is the testing regime. Whilst we are regaled daily with the numbers tested, this can only be the result of those presenting for testing. They do not reflect numbers of carriers. The slow, almost pathetic, government response to the introduction of rapid anti-gen testing (RATS) is a joke. Freely available, self-administered test kits have been available to UK citizens for months and allow freedom of movement based on negative results-cheap, quick, effective. But in New Zealand as at December 2021, these tests are only available at certain pharmacies. My own Health Centre cannot tell me where the nearest participating pharmacy is! If the unvaccinated were able to access these tests and provide evidence they are not carriers, why must they be shunned and excluded? At least Air New Zealand has thought this through and allows those with a negative test to fly - using masks, sanitising and contact tracing.
The answer is purely the application of political power to do so. The whole Covid19 saga has been politicised from day one and continues to be a political platform to be used to promote personalities, particularly the Prime Minister, when it should be her Health Minister who should be fronting this debacle - curiously he is rarely seen. It has afforded Ardern and her government the most appropriate distraction, whilst enabling her government to introduce the most far-reaching constitutional, political and social changes New Zealand has ever experienced.
See for example a particularly insightful article by Graham Adams in The Democracy Project of 6th January 2022 (HERE) headed “Ardern’s plans for co-governance with iwi face rough seas”.
Then, there is the issue of omission-what are they not telling us?
I will bet that very few members of the public could cite the total number of active Covid19 cases in New Zealand right now - it is currently 1102 in the past 21 days, with some 14,000-plus active cases since March 2020.
Instead of vilifying significant proportions of our population as non-conforming, irresponsible citizens for deciding not to be vaccinated, Ardern needs to be focusing on more positive strategies, such as introducing the rapid anti-gen tests and including negative test results as an alternative to the Vax “pass laws” reminiscent of many authoritarian Socialist and Fascist regimes. Accepting negative testing of the unvaccinated as an alternative to “pass laws” would then avoid consigning otherwise law-abiding citizens to the social and economic scrap-heap for not doing her bidding.
Henry Armstrong is retired, follows politics, and writes.