Has Government Policy and Media Coverage of the Pandemic Sunk To New Lows?
Straw Poll—Which is True? Has Government Policy and Media Coverage of the Pandemic Sunk To New Lows or has it Risen to Heights of the Irrational?
Today NewsHub ran a straw poll asking Kiwis if the unvaccinated should be charged for hospital treatment. The article received resounding endorsement from University of Auckland epidemiologist Rod Jackson who was worried that when he next fell off a ladder he would be denied treatment because our hospital system is about to be clogged with thousands of seriously ill unvaccinated. His ‘back of the envelope’ calculations included 900,000 under twelves among the unvaccinated, presumably he will be expecting them to pay up too. NZ Initiative Chief Economist Dr Eric Crampton thought this was a great idea. He said it would encourage vaccination and reduce health costs.
Hold on a minute, as a principle this has great promise. Lung cancer is the leading cause of death in NZ with close to 2000 new cases each year. The estimated cost of alcohol misuse in NZ is $7.85 billion. And then there are the obese, in 2019 the NZ government estimated that the annual cost of obesity in NZ was $624 million. There is a double whammy here, smokers, alcolhol abusers, and the obese are all far more likely get Covid seriously, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated. As these conditions mostly result from personal choices, shouldn’t these groups pay for their own health care?
No of course not, these people are just exercising their freedom of choice to have fun. Kiwis are not against fun are we? The unvaccinated are after all against fun, these kill joys are too busy taking care of their own health naturally and avoiding the unquantified risks of medical interventions to have fun. Whoops, did I miss something? Thirty percent of all hospital medical expenditure in New Zealand ($870 million per annum) goes towards the treatment of adverse medical events (i.e. the remediation of illness caused by inappropriate medicines and treatments). Should we make doctors pay for the treatment of adverse events? This could save a lot of money….
The fact is that current media coverage is stoking fear and loathing. Is it appropriate to decide government policy by taking stock of a misinformed public? As Jacinda Ardern suggested this week, we can ignore the concerns of the unvaccinated because they are not representative of Kiwis. Are plans in the wings to deny them citizenship? Good idea, that will make them see sense.
I am a scientist. The publication of scientific studies during the last two weeks in leading journals, raising further questions about long term vaccine safety, carry weight with me, but I hope I can survive the weight of hysterical public opinion long enough to convince the media and the government to come clean. Both the vaccinated and the unvaccinated catch and spread Covid easily, undermining the Government’s policy to inflame public opinion and deflect criticism by blaming and segregating the unvaccinated. Quietly we have been underfunding hospital care and under paying nurses for years, moreover we have ignored the powerful effects of preventive health measures.
What would I do? Covid is predominantly a disease of the already ill. 85% of those becoming seriously ill have confounding comorbidities. In addition to rational scientifically-supported public health measures and treatments specific to Covid, I would be betting on long term measures to support public health by educating the public that healthy habits of exercise, diet, and sufficient rest are key methods to maintain health. I might take GST off fresh fruit and vegetables. I could tax sugar and hard fats. I might improve labelling of ultra processed foods. I might legislate to improve air quality in homes by reducing use of off-gassing building materials. A Jaime Oliver style healthy eating programme in schools would be a big hit. Meditation and yoga are proven to have a big impact on health. I’m dreaming aren’t I? Far better to coop the unvaccinated up in ghettos and just have fun.
Guy Hatchard PhD