A colleague Professor Robert Clancy AM DSc FRACP FRS(N) provided me with a short essay on:
Challenging the COVID-19 Narrative: An Australian Perspective on Science, Strategies, and the WHO
In the evocative words of Professor Robert Clancy, the question echoes: “Where has all the science gone? Short time passing, the powers have blurred them every one, oh, when will we ever learn.” With a critical lens focused on the COVID-19 pandemic, this essay delves into the Australian experience, questioning the divergent paths taken and urging a re-evaluation of strategies, particularly in the face of external influences like the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The COVID-19 pandemic, though not unforeseen, unfurled as a coronavirus, defying expectations of an influenza outbreak. Drawing parallels with the Spanish flu of 1919, Australia’s “island quarantine” shielded it from the high mortality witnessed globally. The mortality rate for COVID-19 stood at 1%, compared to the Spanish flu’s 10%, with similar infection rates and mortalities for both. The essay points to two pillars shaping Australia’s response: a historical legacy of handling pandemics, rooted in the Bubonic Plague and four influenza outbreaks, and the valuable lessons derived from the Australian Health Management Plan for Pandemic Influenza (AHMP) in 2019.
The AHMP, a testament to Australia’s scientific and public health framework, emphasized communication, integration of services, and a flexible response. The influenza experience served as a model for COVID-19 management, aligning with Australia’s geographical and epidemiological context. However, the essay raises concerns about the divergence between the evidence-based AHMP and the international narrative, particularly influenced by US interest groups and the WHO.
A crucial point of contention lies in the approach to vaccines. While the AHMP saw vaccines as important but not central, the COVID-19 narrative, championed by the USA and the WHO, placed untested genetic vaccines at the forefront. The essay highlights the rejection of traditional antigen vaccines in favour of mRNA vaccines, raising safety concerns and questioning the wisdom of this choice. He argues for a strategy based on early epidemiological analysis, repurposed drugs, and judicious use of antigen vaccines to minimize the pandemic’s impact.
The essay contends that Australia deviated from its historical and evidence-based approach, opting for external strategies that, according to many, hindered effective responses. The failure to conduct early epidemiological analysis, dismissive attitudes towards repurposed drugs, and the exclusive focus on untested genetic vaccines are identified as key missteps in the Australian response. The consequences, as outlined by the essay, include prolonged pandemic duration, increased morbidity and mortality, and heightened safety concerns surrounding mRNA vaccines.
In its closing argument, the essay advocates for a recalibration of Australia’s response to COVID-19. It calls for a national interest-driven review of the pandemic experience, rejecting the one-size-fits-all WHO control, and a cautious approach to the industrial production of mRNA vaccines until safety concerns are adequately addressed. The essay serves as a poignant plea for a return to Australia’s science-based experience, institutional frameworks, and geographic peculiarities as guiding principles in pandemic planning and response.