Now even SBS has joined the populist throng of mainstream media journalism, reflux and regurgitation on COVID vaccination.
‘How to talk to someone who is hesitant about the coronavirus vaccine’ by Jennifer Scherer, SBS News, 13 June 2021.
It seems all of us have a duty to perform in how we approach the COVID vaccination topic with others, suggesting we should be talking to those who are ‘vaccine hesitant’, de facto counsellors. Ask not what you need from your nation but what it needs from you, roll up your sleeves boys and girls and open your mouths, pass it on!
But here’s how to do it humanely, gently, kindly, what would a bleating journalist or politician know of that? Table for two in the news room when you don’t even get to hear the question, even if it is the wrong one repeated over and over again.
Well, some of this may make sense if you read and follow some of the latest advice from SBS News, although it’s not news is it, it’s an opinion piece, a soft call to arms from Jennifer Scherer, her editors and the SBS. Not news but advice to steer us all in Morrison’s prickly beastly call and rollout, be a do-gooder article backed by a little bit of psychology.
There are four critical errors of judgement and overriding presumption here (in my view) – ‘An unwanted bullet’ versus ‘vaccine hesitancy’, I too shall not mince my words. I’ve read ‘yours’ and I am saturated every day on news hour, the incessant ministerial briefings and silly little breakfast fests and gossip on the other channels, the opinions of celebrities and constant trickle of invited real and pseudo-academics – now hear me out.
1) See the title of this latest SBS article is a problem in itself – How to talk to someone who is ‘hesitant’.
Despite the fact that the article states that it is not about who is right and wrong, this label conflicts with that advice by calling both people who are ‘hesitant’, and assuming the issue is ‘hesitancy’ which carries a stereotyped meaning. At the very least it conveys someone needs to talk to such a person and that assumption carries the weight they are wrong, irrational and a problem in society. It does not distinguish between vaccination and a specific vaccine issue with AstraZeneca. There are many reasons why some have declined AstraZeneca and completely different reasons why some decline vaccination in general and some of these reasons are entirely valid, particularly with the former.
It should not be assumed therefore it is ‘hesitancy’, for that is a stereotype and you start off on the wrong foot if you are motivated by this narrative and approach. For example, some people over 50 have diagnosed systemic autoimmune (genetic) clotting disorders which are equally rare in the population and they should not be given an adenovirus vaccine such as AstraZeneca or Johnson. They should be offered advice and given access to Pfizer, but the government refuses to recognise this dangerous situation, provide this information or health warning for people with these conditions and provide appropriate access. Secondly, it gives people under 50 a choice and people over 50 no choice and this is simply not acceptable – There is no valid excuse for such a misguided policy and it goes against basic social ethics whatever the reason given. It is not even based on scientific evidence, it is based on a warped or single interpretation and statistical analysis, which has scientific flaws and error of reasoning, at the very least challengeable just on scientific grounds not just moral and ethical grounds; but still this excuse, this formula is rammed down our throats.
It excludes other solutions which could better target the real problem we face and resolve putting potentially anyone at risk. The Australian government current policy puts 20-40 older people at calculated and almost certain risk of death as a collateral damage of its current policy and up to 10 more for every death in harm’s way, facing serious illness and hospitalisation. This can be avoided without compromising the needs of the whole population but neither the government nor the TGA and our chief medical officers are willing to look at it. These are just a couple of examples of this kind of error, there are a few more we could discuss here if we had the space and time, but let’s move on.
2) It is a serious error of judgement and misleading to state, ‘authorities say you have a greater chance of winning the lottery than developing the rare clotting disorder, and the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine far outweigh the risks’.
Firstly, this is a quote from Professor John Skerritt who should never have put out this myth. It is one person’s misguided opinion which has been repeated a hundred times and that neither makes it correct nor attributable to ‘authorities’ plural, a gross generalisation to lend force to the assumption, or lie. Your chance of winning the lottery and the lead question here is – which one? The probability of winning Oz Lotto is 1 in 45 million, Powerball is 1 in 75 million each time and every time you enter, depending on the number of tickets bought. Your chance of getting a clot out of those who receive AstraZeneca vaccine (direct causative relationship) are 1 in 80,000 allegedly on Australia’s reported occurrences (48 in less than 4 million vaccines), and we are told 2 women on or over 50 have died (1 in 2 million) to date. However, there were reports of a number of men who have died and that appears to have been quashed. Since we are not getting reliable information even of people in Aged Care who have been vaccinated or not, we don’t even know who is falling under the radar when it comes to what the TGA are not reporting.
Most European countries which have more reliable data are recording the clotting syndrome to be 1/40,000 and Norway has from the start recorded 1/30,000, when Australia was touting 1-2 in a million! However, that is just the calculated risk for the general population. We should be asking what is the calculated risk of serious harm, hospitalisation and death for someone who has a diagnosed or even undiagnosed systemic autoimmune (genetic) clotting disorder leading to or underpinning Thrombosis with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome (TTS) such as Anti-Phospholipid Syndrome (APS) to mention one; and there are a number of these rare clotting disorders in the population?
Prevalence and incidence of APS is 1-5% of healthy individuals who have aPL antibodies. It is estimated that the incidence of APS is approximately 5 cases per 100,000 persons per year, and the prevalence is approximately 40-50 cases per 100, 000 persons, arguably all of whom who may have a higher risk of serious clotting than the general population, even if it doesn’t manifest. Somewhere in this small but significant cohort lies an understanding of why people may be dying both from COVID and AstraZeneca. And the age discrimination measure is not the critical issue by a long shot, just a very blunt and dangerous instrument for some.
But what about people with Cerebral Venous Sinus Thrombosis (CVST), Idiopathic Splanchnic Venous Thrombosis, (Heparin Induced Thrombocytopenia) HIT, Lupus or Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) or other TTS, thrombocytopenia or blood clotting and circulatory disorder, what is the risk of these clotting disorders in the face of AstraZeneca and the risk from exposure to COVID (which is far higher) if left unprotected? And why would we even consider leaving vulnerable people who may be over 50 with these high-risk conditions unprotected, refusing them Pfizer because ‘they are vaccine hesitant’?
Remember, if you end up with TTS as a result of AstraZeneca the mortality rate is 25%. Still, you can rest your mind on the fact they are ‘getting better’ at treating it, ‘removing the unwanted bullet’. These are all questions we should be asking ourselves instead of assuming people are vaccine ‘hesitant’ or that ‘your chance of winning the lottery is greater than developing the rare clotting disorder’, when clearly it isn’t – Not even close, but 500 to 1000 times more likely. No-one dies from playing lotto unless you run in front of a bus without looking to claim your winnings and no-one has to die if the right people are given, not refused Pfizer. This narrative of extremely rare is a red herring to those who face the consequences. It is not an all or nothing game, but that is how it has been presented, SBS included, what a shame!
Professor John Skerritt of the TGA should be seriously ashamed, which I have previously echoed, over statements like this. Clearly, he is not a mathematician and has no understanding of the laws and probability, risk analysis, risk management or mediation. It would appear acceptable to him instead to propagate a myth, gross errors of misjudgement, a populist statement on which to justify the TGA and government’s decision to restrict Pfizer to people under 50, ignoring the scientific evidence and likelihood this has little to do with age (but a non-causative statistical correlation, a methodological flaw in data interpretation or unrepresentative sampling, incidental) and more to do with underlying medical conditions, which can be identified and managed in the vaccine rollout. SBS should not be spreading this myth and it should not be included in the advice or conversations we have with ‘people who are hesitant’.
3) So Sydney psychologist, Sahra Behardien O’Doherty says, ‘often… those fears can be exacerbated by a lack of accurate information’.
Indeed, I would agree with her, but I don’t think that is the direction in which her argument is leaning. It is true to say, and we can challenge ambivalence, resistance, fear and any irrational thinking or cognitive errors. Misinformation, poor information, omissions, over-complication/thinking and obfuscation do not help people to arrive at an informed state of mind or decision, for sure.
But take a look at the evidence we have been given, the misleading information, the propaganda, coercion, the politicisation of vaccine rollout and COVID itself. Ask yourself have Morrison, Hunt, Skerritt, Kelly and Murphy all be been genuine, honest, informative and up front with us? What about the issues mentioned above and I have spared you much of the detail you already know? Why do none of them mention the true risks faced by some, the few or even get the figures and information right in the first place? Could it be they have under thought this or have a secondary agenda, to cover the tracks of incompetent government? We have plenty of evidence for this with vaccine procurement, supply, cruise ships, hotel quarantine and vaccine rollout. We are not getting the correct medical and scientific data from the government sources who control the public health messaging and rollout. The mainstream media including SBS are resorting to coercion, albeit unwittingly despite some effort to be gentle, thoughtful and considerate – Yes, I am being kind too. ‘Lack of accurate information’ – Who started this political war and now wants the rest of us to finish it? Is it little wonder many of us don’t trust our government’s bloated voices?
4) Jennifer Scherer, SBS journalist here I presume, says in her conclusion, ‘People in Australia with concerns about coronavirus vaccines are encouraged to speak with their GP’.
I absolutely agree with this. In fact I would suggest that is their first port of call, not a friend, acquaintance, member of the public, not even some family members who don’t have all the best available information or attitude at hand, but pushing or projecting their own fears and anxieties on to those around them (and yes it may be because they care and don’t want to lose their loved ones).
For that is what people do in times like these, separating sheep from wolves, people who step up from those who step down to the ‘flight and fight’ anxiety driven behaviours, prejudice, stereotypical and defensive attitudes – self-preservation.
But I’ll leave you with this consideration – Apart from being better medically informed, professionally and ethically advised commensurate with your own medical, health status and family history, what is the point of going to your GP, if your GP can do nothing except advise you to go and get the AstraZeneca vaccine? Either that or wait in fear of redemption that some time until the end of the year (6 months from now) you can wait for the choice of Pfizer being available to people over 50 who are genuinely worried, and quite clearly some should be.
Your GP can arrange for you to have some blood tests where indicated or necessary, and if you are not showing any markers, family history or past and present symptoms of clotting disorder and come back with negative results, you will likely be fine and can more confidently proceed with an informed decision to have the AstraZeneca vaccine with a very good risk analysis profile as some of the experts tell us.
But what is the point of going to your GP when you already know about your medical condition or you come back with positive blood test results for one of these systemic autoimmune (genetic) clotting disorders leading to or underpinning Thrombosis with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome (TTS) or a related condition that is contraindicated from having the AstraZeneca vaccine? And these conditions I have mentioned are contraindicated both for the AstraZeneca vaccine and COVID itself – Catch 22 for some.
Currently your GP cannot give you Pfizer, they cannot recommend you for Pfizer vaccine because the government has set up its rollout program to exclude you. They cannot even provide a referral letter to a privately funded Pfizer vaccine hub or a major public hospital to receive Pfizer vaccine because you are not welcome; at the age of 50 and above you are not eligible according to the government and TGA to receive it. Instead, you will have to face the increased risk and your chances with AstraZeneca or the inevitable consequence of exposure to COVID, while you wait another 6 months on the off chance that this government will change its mind and the virus contained. And remember, if you have the positive gene or vulnerabilities for any of these disorders, you are at far higher risk of serious illness, hospitalisation and death than the general population. Now I don’t think that is a good outcome for anyone. Do you? So why allow yourself to be coerced and scapegoated by those around you. Go see your GP, listen, then push for action because…
… thoughtful pause for reflection.
There is a far simpler solution. The government needs to open up a pathway for people with specific and indicated medical conditions and vulnerabilities for access to Pfizer though their GPs or simply allow people referral and access through the government’s privately contracted Pfizer hubs, clinics and public hospitals instead of this ridiculous dogma of under or over 50 totalitarian shite. I think the worried well should have access too, once they have been through appropriate channels or processes.
There is more we can do to help, not add to the problem, if we want to get this vaccine rollout right. Asking people to become de facto counsellors is not the answer no matter how well intentioned.
It is simply not appropriate, democratic or moral, not informed or scientific to resort to fear, coercion and restriction of choice for some vulnerable and worried Australians (through no fault of their own). There is no legitimate reason for this attitude and nonsense; it is ignorant, reckless, selfish, political and pointless, you’ll make it worse. Don’t do it, especially from the presumption of your own privileged ignorance, vaccine eligibility, medical status or absence of potential serious contraindicated clotting disorder no matter how rare you think it is. Just because you are safe doesn’t mean you or your advice to someone else is. Manage your own fear and anxiety and talk to someone else about it if you have to. Share don’t tell.
Mainstream media and journalists including SBS and ABC (and I mention these because we expect better from our public broadcasters) need to get off this government led bandwagon and start addressing the real issues instead of empowering the rest of the population to blindly and vicariously coerce those who, for whatever reason are troubled by all of this, and now it seems even psychologists have joined the fray.
Go tell SBS the news. Go tell everyone!
Like what we do at The AIMN?
You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.
Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!