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Monday, October 3, 2022

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Opinion: Why would a kiwi doctor not believe in vaccines?

It seems extraordinary to me that someone with medical training would be skeptical when it comes to vaccination. Overseas this has been a big deal. So-called doctors, many of them in very high power positions have actively fought against vaccines, and in a couple of instances in America, they have actually been stupid enough to claim that Covid is caused by ‘demons’ and not a virus. 

Yes, demons. How does this happen?

I have never had medical training, but I did attend school, and there I learned all about Edward Jenner and his successful trial of the smallpox vaccine in the 1700s. The syllabus also covered the polio epidemic in the 1950s and how Dr. Salk gave away the rights to his successful vaccine so that millions of people to this day can have protection from a very nasty illness.

As I say, I learned that in school. So why is it that someone who has attended medical school and been trained in public health and epidemiology has such weird views about vaccines? They would have learned that bacteria and viruses cause illness and that a combination of hygiene, medication, and vaccination has kept a lot of these diseases at bay for most of us. 

The reason I bring this up is that this week Jonie Girouard can no longer practice medicine in New Zealand after she voluntarily requested to be removed from the Medical Council registry of doctors. Her registration was probably going to be revoked anyway because she was caught issuing bogus medical exemptions to Covid vaccines, and for disseminating anti-vax messaging.

I’m usually not one to feel joy at others’ misery, but on this matter, I say “good job.”  What on earth was this charlatan thinking?  

It was bad enough that she was charging $80 for a ‘certificate’ that was an illegal rort, but what is inexplicable is that having gone through medical training she will know about the history of communicable diseases and the horrible toll they have taken on humanity. No amount of praying, exorcism, or wishful thinking defeats a pathogen. What does is a robust immune system backed up with scientifically verified medications and vaccinations. 

When faced with a new illness, the risk to our lives is much higher than one that has been with us for centuries, and this is the case with Covid. Most of the people who become infected recover, but millions have died, and countless others will be living with some debilitating symptoms for years to come because humans have not encountered this particular virus before. 

What vulnerable people need at this time is good sound advice about what to do, not a load of quackery. Jonie Girouard failed in her fundamental duties and for that, it is right that she can no longer practice medicine in this country.  

Her case highlights what is at the centre of a lot of these anti-vax positions – a warped view of what freedom means. Yes our freedoms have been curtailed. None of us like being told to stay at home. However, this is a major public health crisis. Most of us, (97% of eligible people in my city) agree that safety around this new disease is paramount, and have been vaccinated. Let’s not forget that over five and a half million people have died in two years from Covid. New Zealand has escaped the worst of this because of a very strong and robust public health strategy by our government. It hasn’t been perfect, but it has kept us safe.

Our freedoms are always in flux, and often we agree collectively to constraints for the greater good – seatbelts, crash helmets, traffic lights, etc, are all curbs on our freedoms that we accept every day.  

So, some people who choose not to be vaccinated will have some of their freedoms curtailed. Yeah, that’s right. And it is right. They can still go to petrol stations, supermarkets, hospitals, and chemists. 

What’s more, when this health crisis is over, all of us will be able to go about our lives pretty much as we did before with the same amount of freedoms we had. And we will be able to do so because of a government-mandated public health response backed by science, medicine, and most of our population.  

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