Vaccines: why we can't glibly dismiss "conspiracy theories"

Story by Tom Kelly

Wednesday, 21st October, 2009 10:00am

If there's anything we can learn from the past eighteen months, it's that a person who might often be dismissed as a conspiracy theorist may be less of sinner than we thought; and indeed, more sinned against.

The financial crisis, and the subsequent recession, has taught us this valuable lesson. Who can forget the so-called "wisdom" of our political and economic "experts" - chief among them, former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern - who sought to place the prophets who foresaw our current quandary on the conspiracy nut shelf.

In an infamous gaffe, Mr. Ahern once said that he didn't understand why people "moaning and cribbing" about the economy did not commit suicide.

In retrospect, as families now struggle with debts and job losses, such mockery is hardly a joke - and so it is with people so readily dismissed as "conspiracy theorists".

When people lifted the lid on the scandalous pyramid scheme that was (and is) the world banking system, they were shot down in a similarly arrogant fashion. Anyone who veered from the "soft landing" story was a certifiable lunatic.

When the banks told us they were about to collapse, and our politicians eagerly stepped in to bail them out, many cried "conspiracy"; and yet the prevailing wisdom is that our politicians - they being the likes of Cowen, Ahern, O'Donoghue and co. - knew what was best.

Saving the banks is essential for our economic survival, they said. Believing that private banks act solely in the interest of their shareholders' wallets is akin to believing in little green men, we were told.

Tell that to the people who continue to lose jobs and homes, and watch the real economy continue to wilt, as bank shares soar.

Now, apply the same logic to the swine flu vaccine, which arrived on our shores this week.

Swine flu hasn't really become the pandemic we were all told it would be.

And yet a number of weeks ago, panicky articles appeared in Irish tabloids suggesting that people may be jailed if they refused to take the vaccine. Undoubtedly, just like the banking bailout, such blunt force would all be in the national interest.

The HSE - that wonderful bastion of efficient healthcare, transparency and accountability - will no doubt join with their political bosses in telling us that the controversial vaccine is a must to stop the sky from falling.

The jab is supplied by international pharmaceutical corporations. Like the banks, they are private entities, and not answerable to government. And like the banks, their bottom line is profit.

The scare stories are already doing the rounds.

A Vienna-based journalist named Jane Burgermeister ( explains on her website that she has "filed criminal charges" against medical companies who she claims produced and distributed contaminated bird flu vaccines "in a deliberate act to cause a pandemic, and also to profit from that pandemic".

One of the pharmaceutical companies being investigated by Burgermeister, Baxter International, is run by a board of directors chaired by former US Marine Corps general Walter Boomer. The HSE has ordered a substantial batch of vaccines from this company.

Furthermore, on Tuesday morning of this week, the mainstream media in Ireland reported that Germany's swine flu vaccination programme had been "hit by public safety concerns" over the inclusion of an "adjuvant" in the Pandemrix vaccine, which has been ordered by the Irish Government.

"Concerns about Pandemrix's safety and efficacy," the Irish Times explained, "have been raised by several German medical organisations, with warnings against using it to vaccinate high-risk groups such as pregnant women and children."

There are other warnings and concerns being raised about potential side effects.

Yet, without addressing these concerns and without satisfactory proof that swine flu is a clear and present danger, the HSE believes mass vaccination is the only show in town.

In a similar vein to the banking bailout, we are being asked by the State, and the political will behind it, to place our health and wellbeing in the hands of private, profit-making entities - some of them run by the most colourful of directors (dare we say, the Seanie Fitzpatricks of the pharmaceutical world).

Some people have, for instance, raised alarm bells that Donald Rumsfeld - whom many have described as a war criminal - until 2001 sat on the board of Gilead Sciences, the developers of Tamiflu.

This and other factors make them averse to the idea of letting this jab anywhere near their bloodstream.

But hey - aren't they all just conspiracy nuts?

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