As a fully vaccinated journalist, I went to the World Wide Freedom Rally that took place in Valletta today. To report the protest, but also to understand the reasoning of those that currently feel the need to fight for their rights.
With signs reading “my body, my responsibility” and “no to mandatory vaccines”, the main consensus is loud and clear: the people gathered in Valletta are against being forced to take a COVID-19 vaccination.
From “it can have effects in seven years’ time” to “I don’t know what’s in it”, some are genuinely afraid of the effects the contents of the vaccine might have.
Now that the travel passport is widely accepted, those that aren’t vaccinated face real-life disadvantages compared to those who did take the vaccine. And with restaurants creating offers to support getting vaccinated, many feel discriminated against.
Profit over health
One protestor says she is concerned about how few people have read actual scientific papers about “antibody dependent enhancement”.
“Instead, people trust other sources that have been heavily influenced by big industries that have always and will always prioritise profit over health.”
And that is one of the protestors’ main arguments: vaccines aren’t distributed for our health, but for profit. As gyms in Malta were closed for a significant amount of time during the partial lockdown, many turned sceptical about the true intentions of the government.
People went to exercise at outdoor gyms instead, which resulted in overcrowding, and some suffered mental health issues because they weren’t able to work out as much as they used to.
“Do they want to keep us healthy or do they want to keep us under control?” a critical protestor wonders.
It can’t be denied that the pharmaceutical industry is a billion-dollar industry, and it’s no different when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccines.
Reuters reported that the world will have spent $157 billion (€133 billion) on COVID-19 vaccines by 2025.
“If they can spend billions on the vaccine, why don’t they spend billions on promoting healthy food and sports, on keeping people healthy?” a man present at the protest said.
And as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer throughout this pandemic, it is indeed concerning to see the social and economical effects of COVID-19 spread across the world. Rather than uniting humanity, inequality rates became higher than ever during the pandemic.
The effects of the media
The protestors aren’t only sceptical about the government and the pharmaceutical industry. They also feel like the media is purposely over-reporting and exaggerating the virus, with some going so far as to claim that COVID-19 is a ‘hoax’.
Lovin Malta interviewed Jean Karl Solar, one of the few Maltese doctors that is openly sceptical about the severity of COVID-19. But people present at the protest weren’t impressed.
“Asking questions about 5G and saying the protest is Sunday instead of Saturday… These are not the things we are here for,” said a woman at the rally.
“We are unfairly portrayed by the media, they treat us like we’re crazy.”
To be clear, Lovin Malta didn’t ask about the 5G conspiracy theory, although Soler brought it up himself to discredit it and distance himself from those beliefs. The protest date was incorrectly stated as Sunday, instead of Saturday, during the interview but the correct date was given in a subsequent article.
The aforementioned protestor adds to the concerns about the media. Her research shows there is censorship regarding the hesitancy for taking the vaccine and a lack of reporting on the vaccine adverse events.
Social media platforms are fighting misinformation and censoring conspiracies, with Facebook stating they would remove false claims about vaccines last February.
Vaccine makers’ lack of responsibility
And as the main companies that make the vaccines are barely responsible for the outcomes, the negative outcomes cannot be blamed on anyone.
“The vaccine makers not being liable for mortality from their products may increase these concerns. Especially with Pfizer and AstraZeneca having a long history of settling in litigation for illegal marketing and the concealing of adverse effects,” the protestor said.
On top of that, protestors say the Pfizer vaccine fact sheet uses the word ‘includes’ when describing the ingredients of their vaccine, which creates a possible legal loophole for not giving all the ingredients.
“Saying something ‘includes’ a, b, and c means it includes those ingredients. However, it could also include d, which is nowhere to be written. The word is ambiguous from a legal perspective”, the student argues.
Discrimination, effectiveness and freedom
And that is definitely not all. Some find the current policies discriminatory, as those suffering health issues may not be able to take the vaccine.
Others flag concerns regarding the effectiveness of the vaccine. The vaccine doesn’t necessarily limit the spread, but it limits the impact on the individual. Therefore, being unvaccinated has no impact on the vaccinated population, one anti-vaxxer argued.
There are undeniably many more arguments against making the vaccine mandatory for the entire population, the main one being with regards to basic human rights.
And that is, in the end, what the World Wide Rally was for: freedom. Freedom of speech, movement, choice, assembly and health.
With vaccination benefits slowly increasing around the world, and those that remain unvaccinated facing more and more disadvantages, the feelings of medical discrimination run rampant among those that don’t want the jab.
Disclaimer: I am a vaccinated journalist with the aim to fairly represent all sides of the story. By no means am I vouching to take or not take the vaccination, and it is up to the reader to make up their mind if they have not been vaccinated yet.
What do you make of the sceptical protestors?