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Flawed Fiat: Challenging Adrian Gore (Part 4)

Part #4 – An open letter to Discovery founder and CEO Adrian Gore

(Read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3)

Adrian Gore has mandated thousands of people get a specific medical treatment. That demands a bulletproof justification. I’d like to challenge him on that. I argue that his “six-point rationale” is flawed.

Many will follow his ruling by reason of his formal source of power as leader of Discovery. Many will follow it because of the high esteem they justifiably hold him in.

In a series of pieces, I will press Gore on many of his premises. My goal is healthy debate. This is important for the precedent it can set and the impact a vaccine mandate will have on lives. I heartily invite your response and a good-spirited debate. 

My Part #4 challenge to Adrian:

  • Backfire? Hammers heighten vaccine hesitancy.
  • At what cost?
  • Company and community’s call? Says who?!

Dear Adrian

You say, “the issue is no longer one of limited access to vaccines, but one of hesitancy. This must be overcome.”

Backfire?

Public health ought to be based on trust. I have argued this before.

We are seeing vaccine mandates fuel hesitancy. Below is a study that shows this.


Here’s the crux:

“Our findings suggest that control measures, such as domestic vaccine passports, may have detrimental effects on people’s autonomy, motivation, and willingness to get vaccinated. Policies should strive to achieve a highly vaccinated population by supporting individuals’ autonomous motivation to get vaccinated and using messages of autonomy and relatedness, rather than applying pressure and external controls.”

Here’s a piece in The Conversation arguing against mandates in South Africa for this and other reasons. Here’s the nuggety conclusion:

“The solution, given that this is a moment in which trust in the safety of the vaccine appears to be rising, is clearly not to bring down the hammer. As we have discussed above, this could do more harm than good by causing people to push back against vaccines rather than embrace them. Instead, the government must address problems like a lack of access to trustworthy information about vaccines by further bolstering its efforts to make verified and scientifically sound information available to South Africans. Scientific research has shown that people who received information on COVID-19 through reliable information channels are more likely to be accepting of vaccines.”

The paper they cite, Examining the effect of information channel on COVID-19 vaccine acceptance, suggests providing quality information beats using force. It finds that “individuals who received information from traditional media compared to social media or both traditional and social media were most likely to accept the vaccine.”

Can you demonstrate that mandating vaccinations will be more effective than making them available alongside the best information there is?

Scarcity

Adrian, you say there is now ample supply of vaccines. I’m happy to concede you’re strictly correct. There appears now to be enough supply to get vaccines to all adults in a matter of months. Fine.

But you ignore a universal truth. Scarcity is everywhere. Everything has a cost.

The costs of vaccines are the direct financial cost of the medication itself and the logistics needed to get them into arms. Plus the opportunity costs. These include all of the time, expertise and energy of the highly skilled experts who created the vaccines. And the money.

What else could have been done with the money and time?

The burden of proof is on you to demonstrate that the costs that you will incur are the best way to spend the time, money and energy. Since vaccine mandates limit (I’d say infringe on) human rights, you need to show that you are targeting a legitimate goal and doing so in the least restrictive way. Our Constitution demands that.

I appreciate these may be relatively small costs for you. Certainly the costs of development are not yours. I don’t know if you are buying vaccines or using those provided free by the state.  

Nonetheless, could you achieve superior health outcomes by spending your resources on something else?

You know better than anyone the health benefits of exercise and healthy eating. These are perhaps the strongest and most enduring defences we have against severe symptoms and death from Covid. I know you already provide wonderful opportunities for your staff to live healthily. But I’d suggest your duty is to demonstrate that ramping this up won’t achieve the health benefits that your mandate will.

More free exercise classes, subsidised healthy food, reimbursement for participating in road or trail running races.  Sponsored equipment. Transport to endurance events and other competitions. Access to dietitians.

None of these infringe human rights.

Alternatively, could you get better bang for buck – more meaningful health outcomes – by targeting a different illness altogether? That may seem unlikely given the dominance of Covid in the media. However, I fear our journalists have fallen into monomania.

What the media don’t care to tell us is that Covid is now way down in the list of big killers. In England Covid is now 24th on the list of leading causes of death. It falls outside the leading causes of death in the table below compiled from official sources (Office for National Statistics – Monthly mortality analysis).

Begging the question

We must do this as “a country, as a community, and as corporate South Africa”, you say.

Why? What makes this a decision to be made at those levels?

As I have shown in earlier editions, people with the vaccine appear equally capable of spreading and getting Covid. There are also circumstances (places, times and geographies) where vaccinated people are getting the virus at a higher rate than those without the vaccine. And, as we agree, being vaccinated or having had the virus provide strong protection against the worst symptoms and death.

So, why is this not an individual decision? Why not trust people to take the decision best for them? Perhaps they’ve already had the virus, and so have better, longer-lasting protection than vaccines provide (in a prior letter I cite a study out of Israel that shows natural immunity is 27 times stronger than that from vaccines). Maybe they object on some other justifiable grounds.

Solutioning

I’m not just breaking down your approach. I propose a solution.

Science is about ruthlessly and bravely questioning everything. Discovery is a place that I have long thought to be scientific. This provides what I reckon is an irresistible way forward:

  1. Review the science and the arguments;
  2. Conclude that a vaccine mandate is wrong;
  3. Scrap your mandate;
  4. Be bold about it. You are following science;  
  5. Reap the rewards of brave leadership.

Next: Faulty Fiat #5

Later this week I’ll publish my challenge to Part #5 of your rationale: the legal obligation to protect staff. Again, you are strictly not wrong. But I fear you have oversimplified this.

  • You ignore the high burden of justifying a limitation on a human right in the Constitution;
  • You ignore the duty to demonstrate the limitation on human rights are justified as the least intrusive method to achieve a legitimate outcome;
  • You fail to address limitation of each of the human rights that vaccine mandates limit. I’d suggest these include those to dignity, privacy, freedom of movement, freedom to earn a living, bodily integrity and, perhaps, more.
  • Your broader argument ignores much of the data on whether, in fact, vaccines protect people in ways and to a degree that justifies your mandate;

Chart of the day:

Sweden, with hardly a lockdown and no vaccine mandate, is out of the pandemic. They’re fine. They didn’t panic. They stuck to pre-Covid pandemic plans.

Belarus did the same.

Recommended reading:

This week I propose a piece from the UK’s Daily Sceptic.

In sum: masks don’t work and mask mandates were a function of panic.

“Of the 14 RCTs that have tested the effectiveness of masks in preventing the transmission of respiratory viruses, three suggest, but do not provide any statistically significant evidence in intention-to-treat analysis, that masks might be useful. The other eleven suggest that masks are either useless—whether compared with no masks or because they appear not to add to good hand hygiene alone—or actually counterproductive.

If you are mandating thousands of people get a specific medical treatment, your argument should be bulletproof. On my analysis, yours has meaningful faults that deserve fuller consideration before the rule takes effect on many lives.

Adrian, I would hugely appreciate your engagement on this. Despite my strong conviction one way, I endeavour to be open-minded and ready to change my mind if persuaded. Despite your decision, and I imagine an equally potent yet polar conviction to mine, I do hope you’ll do the same. 

Regards,

Ian Macleod

Ian Macleod

Ian Macleod

Ian Macleod studied business science at the University of Cape Town, and journalism at Rhodes University. He completed his MBA at the University of Pretoria’s Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) in 2017. Ian's career has spanned from feature writing for magazines to consulting at a big four professional services firm. Currently he divides his time between two consulting roles, one in a quasi-academic capacity and the other to investment firms in the novel field of narrative economics.

9 Responses

  1. Very well argued indeed. Thank you for standing up for thousands of people who are too scared to say so. Please, i beg you, keep up the good work.

  2. Very well written argument. Points well put. I doubt Adrian will respond, as he doesn’t to any social media out to him,perhaps out of ignorance?

  3. Your tenacity is a marvel – your work too. Well done and thanks from the many South Africans who don’t get to appreciate your work.

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