Dr Steven Overmeire’s Open Letter Re Covid Mandates By James Reed
Dr Steven Overmeire is an independent occupational physician in private practice in Perth, and he has published an open letter in the Spectator.com, one of the few mainstream publications that continues to deliver outstanding material, in the old school journalist tradition. Dr Overmeire addresses his letter to the Chief Health Officer of Western Australia, concerned about the renewed health worker vaccine and booster mandates, which were supposed to limit the spread of Covid. He argues that this is not so, and was known in 2021. “A prospective longitudinal cohort study of UK households in October 2021 found that ‘fully vaccinated individuals with breakthrough infections have peak viral load similar to unvaccinated cases and can efficiently transmit infection in household settings, including to fully vaccinated contacts.’” And it is certain now when masses of vaccinated people have gone through cycles of Covid, including, at present, the CEO of Pfizer himself. The point is also made that the mandates of an experimental mRNA gene therapy runs counter to long-established Hippocratic ethics, the Nuremberg Code, and the Declaration of Helsinki.
One wonders what response, if any, the Western Australian government will give? My guess, is that it knew that its mandates were contrary to basic medical ethics, but did not care, feeling, falsely, that it was in a zombie apocalypse, or New Black Death situation.
“Dear Dr Robertson, Chief Health Officer of Western Australia,
You state that the purpose of the mandates is ‘to limit the spread of Covid among vulnerable populations in Western Australia and to abate the risk to health care workers and health support workers who are at a higher risk of exposure’.
Based on the medical evidence from here and overseas, I no longer see any reasonable justification to force colleagues to choose between receiving these injections or suffering the financial and adverse health consequences of being, in effect, medically barred from work.
The vaccines do not limit the spread
It is clear that these injections do not limit the spread of Covid. The evidence for controlling the spread was weak even when the mandates were imposed during the Delta wave last year. The protective effect against symptomatic infection waned quickly and breakthrough infections were common, even then. A prospective longitudinal cohort study of UK households in October 2021 found that ‘fully vaccinated individuals with breakthrough infections have peak viral load similar to unvaccinated cases and can efficiently transmit infection in household settings, including to fully vaccinated contacts’.
Since Omicron, we’ve seen the new subvariants spread at a high rate despite 95 per cent of our population being double vaccinated and over 80 per cent triple vaccinated. With each successive dose, we’ve seen vaccine effectiveness become weaker, shorter lasting, and eventually negative so that higher rates of infection now occur in the vaccinated than in the unvaccinated. In New South Wales, for example, we see a direct correlation between number of vaccinations and population rates of hospitalisation.
This makes immunological sense as the vaccines were designed to produce an antibody response to the original Wuhan spike protein, but with over 30 mutations we have seen immune escape leading to breakthrough infections. There is also legitimate concern about the phenomenon of immune imprinting, in which the immune response to the original antigen reduces the immune system’s ability to respond to variant antigens. This immune impairment may explain the prolonged infectivity seen in the vaccinated versus unvaccinated in a recent longitudinal cohort study.
There is thus no evidence that these vaccines are effective at reducing spread in populations, vulnerable or otherwise.
The mass vaccination campaign and mandates may have prolonged the pandemic. It is interesting to note that countries with low vaccination rates show much lower Covid case numbers, according to Our World in Data. Compare for example Australia, UK, and America with South Africa, or compare high income with upper middle and lower middle-income countries.
In an important update to its public health guidance last month, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention no longer differentiates between the vaccinated and unvaccinated, acknowledging the inability of the vaccine to prevent virus transmission.
Given this information, can you please explain why you still consider health worker mandates necessary to limit the spread to vulnerable populations?
Abating disease risk is a personal health decision
The vaccines do not prevent Covid transmission but they may reduce individual disease severity. They can thus be regarded as preventative treatment rather than vaccines, using the traditional definition of this term. As there is no external impact on the community, people should have the right to freely choose this treatment based on their personal weighing of the health benefits and risks.
At the core of medical ethics lie the principles of informed consent and bodily autonomy. The Australian Immunisation Handbook emphasises that, before vaccination, valid consent must be given voluntarily ‘in the absence of undue pressure, coercion or manipulation’. Mandating treatment or vaccination rejects these ethical principles and removes individual choice.
It must be remembered that these injections use novel vaccine technology. They remain experimental while population effectiveness and safety data continue to be collected and evaluated.
Mandating experimental treatment runs counter to long-established Hippocratic ethics, the Nuremberg Code, and the Declaration of Helsinki. The latter were announced and adopted internationally after the horrendous experience of coerced medical procedures under the totalitarian regime in 1940s Germany, carried out by physicians who argued that the treatments were justified because ‘the good of the state takes precedence over that of the individual’.
Given that the unvaccinated pose no risk to the vaccinated, the only justification for the mandates now seems to be the paternalistic argument that our colleagues need to be protected from their own decisions concerning personal health.
Can you please explain why this warrants an ongoing emergency public health mandate?
Vaccine benefit versus risk
In working-age people for whom these mandates apply, Covid is fundamentally a mild disease and individual risk of death is very low. Australian data shows a case fatality rate of 0.06 per cent in the 20-70 year age group, compared to 3.1 per cent over 70. Both figures are likely overestimates given that Covid deaths include those dying with rather than from Covid.
The potential health benefits of these vaccines need to be balanced with the potential risks. We know that the virus spike protein is highly toxic as it damages endothelial cells, provoking inflammation and microcoagulation amongst other significant tissue effects. Yet it is this protein that the vaccine instructs our cells to manufacture. We also know that spike protein persists longer after vaccination than after natural infection, given that natural uridine has been substituted for synthetic pseudouridine to improve stability of the mRNA formulation. Whereas natural mRNA breaks down in the body within hours, mRNA and spike protein are still detected in lymph nodes at least 2 months after the second vaccine dose.
Since the vaccines were introduced, pharmacovigilance data across the world have shown an unprecedented number of adverse event reports, mostly in those aged below 70.
A recent re-analysis of the phase III clinical trial data demonstrated 16 per cent higher risk of serious adverse events and 43 per cent higher risk of serious adverse events of special interest in the vaccination group. A recent risk-benefit assessment of boosters in young adults showed that, for every Covid hospitalisation prevented, 18-98 serious adverse events occurred, suggesting net harm from mandates in this age group.
In light of this, it is concerning that a significant number of young athletes are reported to have died unexpectedly from cardiac arrest in the past year, without any prior cardiac history or symptoms. There are similar concerns about a high incidence of miscarriages, menstrual irregularities, and perinatal deaths since the vaccine roll-out, which have not yet been investigated.
Even more alarming is the evidence on increased deaths.
We are currently witnessing an excess mortality rate across the western world, running at 16 per cent above the 5-year baseline average (excluding 2020) in Australia. The excess mortality curve started its uptick around the peak of the vaccination campaign, well before the Omicron wave. Of concern, data from OneAmerica life insurance, the Society of Actuaries (table 5.7), and a German actuarial study show the excess mortality occurring not in the elderly but in the young and the insured working population, a group we normally expect to be protected from high mortality by the ‘healthy worker effect’.
A US Food and Drug Authority report released last year to justify its approval of the Pfizer injections noted that the 6-month randomised controlled trial data showed higher all-cause mortality in the vaccinated group compared to placebo, stating on page 23 ‘there were a total of 38 deaths, 21 in the COMIRNATY group and 17 in the placebo group’.
While this does not automatically link these excess deaths directly to the vaccines, a causal relationship cannot be ruled out and clearly needs to be investigated. It is disturbing that no government or health authority promoting the vaccines has undertaken any serious attempt at analysing these adverse events, almost two years into the roll-out.
These findings have led colleagues from across the world to declare an international medical crisis and urge a worldwide stop to the vaccination campaigns.
Can you please advise whether you considered these disturbing safety signals when you renewed the health worker mandates last month?
Public health measures need to be proportionate
As an occupational physician, I understand the challenge in balancing individual and population health risks. An important lesson from workplace health and safety management is that granting workers a degree of autonomy and decision latitude for managing safety leads to much improved health and injury outcomes. On the other hand, safety measures imposed in a top-down, authoritarian manner without input from those affected is, no matter how well-intentioned, unlikely to achieve the desired outcome.
Before this pandemic, best practice public health management echoed these principles. It was understood that public health requires public trust, which is achieved by open, transparent communication on what is and isn’t known, explaining the scientific evidence, making data freely available for analysis and debate, and recommending rather than coercing the public into desirable action. Risk communication was always undertaken with the aim of avoiding undue panic, as a calm and reasoned approach to an emergency leads to better outcomes. For inexplicable reasons, these principles have given way to a fear-driven authoritarian approach for a disease that, below age 70, has a case fatality rate no worse than seasonal influenza.
To this date, it is difficult to understand why a traditional, risk-stratified approach was not taken, such as the ‘focused protection’ approach targeting the elderly and vulnerable as advocated by experienced epidemiologists in the Great Barrington Declaration of October 2020.
The Public Health Act 2016, which authorises you to impose mandates during a public health emergency, covers important principles of sustainability, proportionality, and the precautionary principle under Section 3. These include the requirement to avoid harm to public health, ensure public health practices are ‘in proportion to the significance of the public health risk and consequences’ and that ‘measures that have the least adverse impact are taken before measures with greater adverse impact’.
Taking a holistic, evidence-based view on Covid and the mRNA vaccines in this age group, can you please explain how the health worker mandates remain proportionate to the individual and population risk?
In my view, they reveal a siloed, blinkered approach to a singular disease outcome that ignores the collateral impact on the health and wellbeing of the population they are supposed to serve.
I believe they contravene Section 3 of the Public Health Act 2016. They should be revoked as soon as possible if further public health damage is to be avoided.
It is beyond time to allow our unvaccinated colleagues to return to work.