Sceptics’ petition against mandatory COVID-19 vaccine: ‘We’re not anti-vaxxers’

A group claiming to represent some 1,800 members on a Facebook group say they will refuse any mandatory vaccination against COVID-19 without independent, peer-reviewed studies proving their safety

A group of activists is claiming to represent some 1,800 members on a Facebook group that will refuse any mandatory vaccination against COVID-19 without independent, peer-reviewed studies proving their safety.

As the global scramble for a coronavirus vaccine continues in a bid to ward off the virus that has shutdown entire sections of the global economy, not everyone is enthusiastic about the first vaccine that will come on the market.

One spokesperson for the Natural Health Alliance, the environmental activist and Gaia Foundation coordinator Rudolf Ragonesi, is one of the sceptics on any mandatory vaccination against COVID-19. He says the alliance will act as a watchdog and source of information, and to call on the Maltese government to sign the Oviedo convention on human rights and biomedicine.

“There has been a movement across the world and even in Malta, albeit more silent, which represents an approach to health that does not put pharmacology at the centre of its universe… It seeks to follow a philosophy on natural health,” Ragonesi said.

The first delivery of a COVID-19 vaccine could be expected in Malta in December, despite a pause in clinical trials, virologist Chris Barbara said. The most advanced experimental vaccine, developed by pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca and Oxford University was put on hold after a volunteer developed an unexplained illness.

With news that Malta is in line for 330,000 doses of a prospective drug against COVID-19, Ragonesi says that the cohort of people signing up to the Natural Health Alliance is demanding “freedom of choice” in medicine.

“Human rights must be respected during a health crisis, and that includes the freedom to live without interruption. Our petition is quite broad; it’s not just about the vaccine.”

More specifically, Ragonesi says the alliance is keen on independent scientific research that validates medicine, rather than sceptic about a vaccine. He claims the World Health Organisation itself is compromised by the influence of its two main State funders – the United States and the United Kingdom – and its third largest funder, the private Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

“The WHO is an institution and doesn’t have the same force as a scientific study. If the WHO says, ‘we are approving this vaccine based on these 10 independent studies giving these results’, then they are quoting primary sources. That’s entirely different to simply giving a blanket rubber stamp to the product.”

The Gates Foundation invested in Pfizer back in 2002 and still owns shares, as well as in Pfizer’s coronavirus development partner, BioNTech. “There’s the issue of funding. Bill Gates himself has gone on record saying that he expects a 20 to 1 return on investment in vaccines. This is the person who has funded the WHO, so we cannot rely on their statements. We want to see independent scientific studies,” Ragonesi says.

The activist has denied that the alliance is a front for anti-vaxxers. “We want transparency. No vaccine will be 100% safe or harm-free – there are a lot of shades of grey. A bit of research will show you that all vaccines on the market have reactions.

“We are not saying ‘don’t trust the manufacturers’ – but to rely on independent studies, and once these independent studies have been completed, it will be on these studies that the health authorities acquire the vaccine.”

But Ragonesi indicates that the alliance would oppose any mandatory vaccination against COVID-19. “It would be the first time in Malta that such a vaccine be made mandatory for adults… we would be opening ourselves up to a totally new reality… a totally different paradigm, since the laws regulating infectious disease focus primarily on the immunisation of children.”

The alliance’s petition to MPs is insisting that no exception can be made to the exercise of fundamental freedoms, something that however might also attract support from faiths which are inimical to vaccinations. “We have a fundamental right to freedom of conscience and to exercise our preferred choice in matters of personal health for our bodies and minds are our most valuable possessions, over which we alone enjoy sovereignty,” the petitioners claim.

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