Mandatory Vaccinations

Austria’s MPs Pass Mandatory Vaccination Law

Austria’s equivalent of the House of Commons voted yesterday in favour of the new Government proposals to fine the unvaccinated the equivalent of thousands of pounds. The BBC has more.

The law, which is due to come into effect on February 1st, would make Austria the first [i.e., only] European country to introduce a mandatory jab.

From mid-March the law will see adults unvaccinated against COVID-19 subjected to fines of up to €3,600 (£2,994).

So far, 72% of Austrians have been fully vaccinated against the virus.

The bill must now pass the upper house and be signed into law by President Alexander Van der Bellen, steps largely expected to be formalities.

The vaccine order is expected to remain in force until January 2024, with the government investing €1.4bn in measures designed to encourage unvaccinated people to come forward for the jab.

Addressing lawmakers on Thursday afternoon, Health Minister Wolfgang Mueckstein called the measure a “big, and, for the first time, also lasting step” in Austria’s fight against the pandemic.

Chancellor Karl Nehammer told reporters ahead of the vote that vaccines were “an opportunity for our society to achieve lasting and continuous freedom, because the virus cannot restrict us any further”.

A majority of MPs, including those from Mr. Nehammer’s governing centre-right coalition and the three main opposition parties, backed the bill, by 137 votes to 33.

The far-right Freedom Party, which has courted the votes of Austria’s substantial anti-vaccine minority, has taken a stand against the bill.

Its leader, Herbert Kickl, said the mandate “paves the way to totalitarianism in Austria” and vowed he would continue to refuse vaccination in defiance of the new law.

Since authorities announced they intended to introduce the mandate in November the capital, Vienna, has seen regular protests, with some numbering over 40,000 people.

The demonstrations have attracted a coalition of anti-vaccine campaigners and far-right extremists, and authorities have warned that they have been radicalising in recent weeks, with new “protective zones” declared around healthcare facilities and vaccination centres to protect workers.

Similar vaccine mandates are being introduced in several other countries, including in Greece, where jabs are now obligatory for everyone aged 60.

In neighbouring Germany, the new Government led by Chancellor Olaf Scholz has said it will introduce a vaccination bill in the Bundestag in March.

Alarming stuff. Have they learned nothing from history? Worth reading in full.

The BBC article links to an earlier article from last month where the BBC sets out three arguments in favour of forced vaccination (thanks Auntie) and three against. The three in favour include that we’ve tried everything else and it will supposedly “end the cycle of lockdowns” – right, like everything else governments have inflicted on us these past two years. The arguments against include that some people may not like it and, well, maybe we haven’t exhausted all our other options – so not balanced at all, and no mention of the crucial fact that the vaccines don’t prevent infection or transmission, or that the majority of new infections and deaths are in the vaccinated.

No Need for Fourth Vaccine Dose, Says JCVI

Fourth Covid vaccines doses are not currently needed, Government scientific advisers have said, as protection against severe disease from three doses is holding up. The Telegraph has more.

On Friday night, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) announced that booster jabs continue to provide high levels of protection against severe disease from omicron in older adults, including the most vulnerable.

The committee’s analysis found that, three months after receiving a third jab, protection against hospitalisation among those aged 65 and over remains at around 90%.

Ministers have been exploring the possibility of a fourth jab for several weeks after Israel, considered a global pioneer in Covid vaccination, launched such a programme last month.  

But Prof Wei Shen Lim, the JCVI’s Chairman of Covid immunisation, said: “The current data show the booster dose is continuing to provide high levels of protection against severe disease, even for the most vulnerable older age groups. For this reason, the committee has concluded there is no immediate need to introduce a second booster dose, though this will continue to be reviewed.”

No mention of effectiveness against infection or transmission. Yet it is the vaccines’ supposed efficacy against transmission that is the basis of the vaccine mandates that will see many shortly lose their jobs. If the JCVI no longer thinks the vaccines are effective against transmission it should say so and advise the Government to end its hounding and harassment of the unvaccinated.

Meanwhile, the Times abandons liberalism in a recent leading article which backs vaccine passports (no tests allowed) for sports events, theatres and indoor restaurants, saying it’s “time to get tough on the antivaxers”.

Scottish Fertility Clinic Bans Unvaccinated Women From Using Services as Italy Announces Mandatory Vaccination for Over-50s

A top Scottish fertility clinic has withdrawn its services for unvaccinated women, leaving many people upset and leading to calls for First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to address the fact that it may not be limited to just one clinic. EuroWeekly News has more.

Glasgow Royal Fertility Clinic said that “it has been nationally agreed that fertility treatment for unvaccinated women will be deferred with immediate effect.”

Citing Dr Gregor Smith, Chief Medical Officer for the Scottish Government, the update published just before Christmas said that “pregnant women should now be considered as a clinical risk group and part of priority group six within the vaccination programme”.

According to data published in the Scottish Intensive Care Society Report on October 13th, of 89 Covid positive pregnant women who were admitted to critical care between December 2020 and the end of September 2021; 88 were unvaccinated, one was partially vaccinated, and none were fully vaccinated.

The clinic said that said data, from unknown dates, also showed that “98% of pregnant women in ICU with COVID-19 were unvaccinated” and that “all the women who have died during pregnancy or up to six weeks after birth, 88% of them were unvaccinated.”

This has led the clinic, which is located in the Glasgow Royal Infirmary, to withdraw its services to unvaccinated women and the “clinic will review this decision during February 2022 or earlier if appropriate.”

“Older women who have their treatment deferred will have the deferral time added back on to their fertility journey to ensure that they do not lose out on eligibility for treatment due to their age,” the clinic said.

Note that the ICU data above doesn’t take into account the proportion of pregnant women and women trying to become pregnant who were vaccinated at the time.

What happened to liberal societies not coercing experimental medical treatment?

The news comes as Italy announces that Covid vaccination will become mandatory for all over-50s from next month in an effort to tackle surging infections. The Telegraph has more.

Misreading Mill: On Liberty and Vaccination

We’re publishing a guest post today by David Martin Jones and Michael Rainsborough, two professors at King’s College London, disputing the claim, often made by libertarian lockdown enthusiasts, that J.S. Mill would have supported mandatory Covid vaccinations.

In a comment piece in the Telegraph on December 22nd, John Harris makes the moral case for mandatory vaccination in the public interest. Harris might have supported his argument by reference to a number of political and moral theorists who, like Harris, have endorsed forcing people to do things against their will in the name the greater good. Kant springs to mind. So too does Jean Jacques Rousseau who thought that securing the ‘General Will’ might require the recalcitrant to be “forced to be free”.

Curiously, however, Harris co-opts John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty (1859) to support state mandated Covid vaccines. Harris writes: “It is difficult, in view of the urgency of the global Covid pandemic and the immense death toll and burden of the disease, not to conclude that, in Mill’s famous and uncompromising words, the anti-vaxxers are ‘such as to constitute their expression a positive instigation to some mischievous act’.”

What Harris seems to mean is that by refusing to get vaccinated, the vaccine refusenik acts in a way to “do harm to others” and consequently such actions must be controlled “by the active interference of mankind”. But would Mill have construed a refusal to get vaccinated an action directly harming others?

Danish Study Confirms That Natural Immunity Protects Better Against Infection Than the Vaccines

Last week, I wrote about a second major study finding that natural immunity protects better against infection than the Pfizer vaccine. Both this study and the earlier one were from Israel, and while there’s every reason to believe the results generalise to other populations, it’s always good to have data from multiple countries.

We now have those data in the form of a study published by the Statens Serum Institut in Denmark. I can’t say the report itself is worth reading in full, since it’s written in Danish. But I’ve posted the key figure below. It shows protection against infection for three different groups – adjusting for age, sex, comorbidities, and time of year.

The orange line corresponds to people who’ve been previously infected but not vaccinated; the yellow line to those who’ve been previously infected and vaccinated; and the green line to those who’ve been vaccinated but not previously infected.

The y-axis gives the percentage reduction in the number of infections, compared to those who haven’t been vaccinated or previously infected. For example, a value of 90% means there would be only 10 infections for every 100 in the comparison group. The x-axis gives the number of days since the relevant event.

As you can see, vaccine-induced immunity wanes rapidly, beginning a few weeks after vaccination. And at the five month mark, protection is well below 50%. Natural immunity, by contrast, is robust: a full year after infection, protection is still above 70%.

Consistent with what the two Israeli studies found, hybrid immunity – conferred by the combination of vaccination and previous infection – is slightly better than natural immunity. However, the difference is small compared to that between natural and vaccine-induced immunity.

Evidence for the superiority of natural immunity is now robust. So while those who’ve already had Covid should be perfectly free to get vaccinated, there’s no obvious need for them to do so. The tricky part may be getting this message through to politicians.

Austria Makes Covid Vaccines Mandatory

Austria has become the first country in Europe to make the Covid vaccine compulsory. From February 1st, all adults will be required to have the vaccine. Sky News has more.

The measure to make vaccination compulsory among the adult population will attract controversy, with Austria only the fourth country in the world to do so – after Indonesia, Micronesia and Turkmenistan.

[Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg] said: “Whipped up by radical anti-vaxxers, by fake news, too many among us didn’t get vaccinated. The results are overcrowded intensive care units and enormous suffering.”

He said the government therefore took “a very difficult decision… that we will quickly introduce a nationwide vaccine mandate” from 1 February.

The nation had already introduced a series of strict measures along with Germany and Slovakia in the weeks leading up to Christmas, as a debate intensifies over whether vaccines alone are enough to tackle coronavirus.

Around 66% of Austria’s population is fully vaccinated, one of the lowest rates in western Europe.

Its infection rate is among the highest in the continent, with a seven-day incidence of 971.5 per 100,000 people – and daily cases keep setting records.

The country of 8.9 million has reported more than 10,000 new infection cases daily, while hospitals have been overwhelmed with many new Covid patients and deaths have also been rising again.

The national lockdown will initially last for 10 days, after which the effects will be assessed and the measures extended to a maximum of 20 days if cases have not gone down enough.

Two states in Austria – Salzburg and Upper Austria – had already triggered a range of restrictions, with the rules extended to apply to vaccinated people and a full lockdown from next week that would see schools shut and a curfew imposed.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: BBC News has more on this story.

Stop Press 2: Austria’s opposition leader – Herbert Kickl, leader of the right-wing populist FPO party – has said the country is now a dictatorship. MailOnline has more.

Protests Erupt in Melbourne to Oppose Government’s Emergency Powers

Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets of Melbourne, the capital of Victoria, to oppose the unprecedented emergency powers the Victorian Government is trying to grant itself. 7news has more.

Thousands of people gathered in Melbourne’s CBD on Saturday to rally against the State Government’s new emergency powers and vaccine mandates.

Protesters blocked tram lines as they marched from the State Library to Parliament. One man was seen carrying a homemade gallows with three nooses but there were no reports of unrest.

Former Liberal MP turned United Australia Party leader Craig Kelly addressed the protest, saying mandatory vaccinations were an “abuse of human rights”.

“We are being governed by medical bureaucrats that are part of a mad, insane cult of vaccinists,” he told the rally.

As of Friday, just under 93% of Victorians aged 12 years-old and over had received at least one vaccine dose and 86% both.

The deadline for construction workers to be fully vaccinated to continue working on site has been reached.

The controversial mandate, which sparked violent protests across Melbourne in September, requires all tradies to have had two vaccine doses by Saturday.

Victorian aged care workers must be fully vaccinated by Monday and about one million of the state’s essential workers in total will be required to be double-jabbed by November 26th.

Worth reading in full.

New Zealand’s Ministry of Education Tells Teachers to Phone the Police if Unvaccinated Staff Show Up to Work

From Monday, all teachers in New Zealand must have received at least the first dose of the Covid vaccine to continue working on school grounds, with unvaccinated staff committing a criminal offence if they try to enter the classroom. In addition, the Ministry of Education has recommended that schools should ring the police if any unvaccinated teacher turns up to work. The Mail Australia has the story.

The advice, published in the Ministry’s gazette on Thursday, tells school leaders that if they, or any education staff, turn up to work on Monday unvaccinated against Covid, they will be committing an offence. 

The advice being given to schools follows the ‘no jab, no job ‘policy that was enacted by the New Zealand Government last month.

“The staff member will be committing an infringement offence if they have not had their first dose of the Covid vaccine and are onsite November 15th. This means they may be liable for a fine”, the advice read.

“If staff do turn up on site after this date, we encourage school leaders to deal with this in the usual manner you would if other inappropriate people were to turn up on site.

“If you feel your safety or the safety of ākonga (pupils or students) or other staff is compromised, you could consider contacting the police”.

The advice also stated that an unvaccinated person could no longer work on-site at a school without a valid medical exemption, or a written letter from a doctor outlining an exemption request has been sought. 

Worth reading in full.

How did we go from clapping our carers to sacking our carers?

I’ve written a comment piece for Mail+ about Sajid Javid’s decision to insist that all care home workers get vaccinated this week and all NHS staff by April of next year. It takes the form of a response to Matt Hancock’s op ed in the Telegraph. Here is an extract:

This week, former health secretary Matt Hancock wrote a newspaper article in which he said the logic for insisting NHS staff get vaccinated or face the sack was “crystal clear”.

He added: “There is no respectable argument left to keep this tool in the locker.”

But, oddly, he didn’t even consider the arguments against this draconian measure, let alone rebut them.

For instance, he doesn’t deal with the most obvious objection, namely that people who’ve been double jabbed can still catch COVID-19 and infect others. Indeed, according to raw data published by the Health Security Agency – the successor to Public Health England – rates of infection among the vaccinated are higher than they are for the unvaccinated.

Hancock could have challenged this data, as many have, by arguing that the vaccinated are more likely to be tested than the unvaccinated, making it difficult to compare the two. Instead, his entire argument rested on the premise that doctors and nurses who’ve been vaccinated cannot infect their patients. He could have argued that having the vaccine makes it less likely an infected person will pass the virus on, for which there’s some evidence, but he didn’t.

Then there’s the fact that those NHS workers who are currently unvaccinated may have had the virus and recovered. According to the BMJ, there is mounting evidence that natural immunity provides you with at least as much protection as being double jabbed.

If your priority is to protect patients, as Hancock claims, the logic of sacking the unvaccinated who’ve recovered from Covid, but continuing to employ the vaccinated who’ve never had it, is far from “crystal clear”.

Then there’s the moral argument. Hancock was effusive in his praise of ‘our NHS’ throughout his time as health secretary, encouraging us to clap for these courageous carers at the height of the pandemic. How can it now be right to threaten these same ‘heroes’ with the sack?

Finally, there’s the staffing argument. As a former health secretary, Hancock should know the NHS is chronically understaffed and the situation is getting worse. According to data published by NHS Digital, there were 93,806 full-time equivalent vacancies across the health service in England at the end of June.

Given this, how can it possibly make sense to start sacking NHS staff who refuse to get jabbed?

Worth reading in full.