The vaccine passports and the brave new world
(another version of this piece was originally posted in Swedish as a debate article in Aftonbladet on the 20th of December)
In Austria, citizens are now being halted by armed police patrols so that their digital vaccine passports can be examined. The unvaccinated are being subjected to a targeted "lockdown" and are accused of causing "enormous human suffering".
Beginning in February, the country's authorities are planning for compulsory covid vaccinations. A bill to fine or imprison those who refuse has been introduced, measures which are obviously contrary to the European legal order.
The polarization in general is marked and the atmosphere is increasingly unsettling.
The Independent reports that "vaccine refuseniks" probably will have to undergo some form of de-radicalization or deprogramming, sort of like terrorists or members of destructive cults. Andrew Neil, chairman of The Spectator, calls for systematic punitive action against said “refuseniks”. Here in Sweden, Carsten Jensen writes in Dagens Nyheter that the "antisocial behaviors of the unvaccinated must have consequences."
The examples abound.
In this type of atmosphere, there is quite limited space for any sort of rational and factual discussion. The policies pursued are being underwritten by an almost pious reference to the irrefutable Science, yet which is almost never accompanied by any robust arguments or an actually comprehensive view of the data.
In the early stages of a situation like the one we now find ourselves in, any truly open society would have scrambled to organize a proper public debate involving relevant experts from all sides as well as the general public and decision-makers at various levels, with journalists thoroughly exploring all aspects of the matter, carefully examining all relevant studies of the risk-benefit issues pertaining to the vaccines and all the other measures we’ve rushed into. Most importantly, an open society would have carefully considered the effects upon basic rights and liberties of this entire societal development.
But it is precisely this critical and scientifically grounded discussion that has been suppressed the last couple of years.
The media poses almost no questions critical of the overarching narrative. According to a study by Australian researchers, Google's algorithms are hard at work to hide undesired data linked to covid, while social media giants like Twitter actively censor skeptical perspectives on the issue, even if they’re expressed by people like the editors of the British Medical Journal.
At the same time, in many places, we see all of theses measures and policies being implemented with minimal regard to the proper regulatory authorities, the normal checks and balances, or even a thorough scientific debate. In Sweden, vaxx passes are now suddenly introduced without the government even consulting the Swedish Medical Ethics Council. The measures as such have a very flimsy connection to the research situation - it’s unclear exactly what they are being based in.
In Sweden, the number of dead with covid is now very low. There are few seriously ill patients, and the ICU occupancy is below average rates. And the total mortality rate for 2021, according to the SCB, look to end up below the last ten years’ average.
Nevertheless, one of the most extreme measures imaginable is now suddenly being introduced. An infrastructure for surveillance and control which risks having countless unforeseen effects upon how our entire society functions and even what it means to be a citizen. It is incredibly disproportionate.
Especially since data now clearly shows that even the fully vaccinated account for a significant proportion of the spread of infection, and statistics from Norway and Denmark clearly indicate that there are more infected per capita among the vaccinated as opposed to those unvaccinated in terms of the new variant.
This development is also to be expected in a population with very high vaccination coverage, as any variants with immunity-escape properties will be strongly promoted. Which also means that the vaccine, when overused, quickly loses any protective effect with regard to those most vulnerable.
Proposed solutions that do not take this into account are not only ineffective, but clearly careless, regardless of the illegality of the measures.
Yet the debate is obviously not driven by critical thinking and sensible considerations, but rather by fear, by a willingness of decision-makers to prove themselves proactive, and not least by the enormous influence of the media and marketing.
This is a very dangerous development, and we as a society need to talk about the role that profit incentives and economic power relations have played in this situation. We need to ask critical questions about how the marketing of these controversial vaccines has affected decision makers. And we have to discuss the extensive structural problems with conflicts of interest and sheer fraud that actually characterize pharmaceutical research, something which was highlighted in 2015 by The Lancet's editor-in-chief.
It is well known that states and societies tend towards authoritarianism in situations perceived as emergencies. We also know that it is very difficult to get rid of any control mechanisms which are then established. Fundamental freedoms and rights are not just for show, they have the actual purpose of protecting society from the dangerous tendencies inherent in all exercise of authority. If we ignore these protective mechanisms in a situation of panic, we risk rapidly bringing these tendencies to fruition.
If someone five years ago had claimed that in the near future people would be forced to undergo an injection and show their papers to even be allowed to go and watch a movie, most of us would have considered him insane.
But today this is seen as more or less natural. What kind of society will we have in another five years? What kind of society do we want?
Because once the digital vaccine passes have taken root, they will not simply fade away. Easily scanned digital IDs are far too useful. They have a thousand different areas of application, and many of them are obviously dangerous. Here we risk seriously sowing the seeds of a control society.
The vaccine passes are neither a proportionate nor an appropriate measure in terms of their intended purpose. They are in conflict with basic legal principles and carry many serious risks, implicit and explicit. We therefore insist that they be abolished immediately, and that a truly open and scientifically based debate on the corona measures and their consequences is initiated.
Johan Eddebo, PhD, researcher in digitalisation and human rights
Margareta Andersson, specialist, primary care physician
Axel Berglund, lawyer and bachelor of political science
Sture Blomberg, MD, specialist in anesthesia and intensive care; docent
Magnus Burling, specialist, primary care physician
Fredrik Elwinger, MSc and Doctor of Physical Chemistry
Ragnar Hultborn, MD, specialist in oncology; professor emeritus
Bo Jonsson, MD, specialist in general psychiatry
Anne Liljedahl, specialist in general medicine and emergency care
Nils Littorin, physician; MD in clinical microbiology
Carina Ljungfelt, specialist, primary care physician
Christina Malm, specialist, primary care physician
Ludmilla Morozova-Roche, MD, Professor of Medical Biophysics
Erik Neander, ST doctor, GP
Lilian Weiss, MD, Specialist in General Surgery; docent
Marcel Westerlund, psychiatrist and forensic psychiatrist
Anna Ybo, specialist in clinical pathology, forensic pathologist
Hans Zingmark, specialist in pulmonary and internal medicine
(the co-signatories endorsed the original article in Swedish, yet they could possibly object to some wording or other in the English version)