Book review: Busting Anti-Vax Myths

I had higher than usual expectations whilst I was awaiting my free review copy of this 2022 book by Prof. Oisín MacAmadáin (Expert), not least because the author’s Dublin agent turns out to be related to me by a marriage in Queen Elizabeth I’s time. How unlikely is that? (Well, not that unlikely, since 20 generations ago both of us have 1 million ancestors, around the total population of Ireland at that time, though the fact that both ancestors were Archbishops of Armagh might change the odds a little). Still, that human connection with the author certainly warmed me to the book in advance.

But I have to say that in the end I found the book somewhat of a disappointment, mainly because in a number of ways it didn’t go far enough. To be sure, Prof. MacAmadáin is an Expert among experts, as his correspondence to some of the great figures in the COVID saga, like Anthony Fauci and Justin Trudeau, testifies, not to mention his singlehanded vaccination mission to one ex-Soviet republic, as documented in Chapter 6. Even were his credentials less, though, to be on the right side of history in itself makes one an expert amongst the army of science-deniers whose “arguments” his book addresses.

Another testimony to his expertise is the regular contribution he mentions making to the Irish Times, but here the first seeds of questioning entered my mind. For he consistently refers to that periodical as the “Oirish Times,” which I take to be an attempt at humour, but which panders to racist stereotypes of the Irish people. Could it be that he is himself tainted by racism, which would totally undermine his case? Admittedly he is an Irishman, but the examples of White Supremacists like Thomas Sowell and Martin Luther King show that birth-race has little to do with true identity, and therefore credibility.

In any case, it can be questioned whether humour is at all appropriate in a book like this. No doubt its target Anti-vaxxers, who never took the virus seriously anyway, have emerged from their frenzied paranoia enough to find amusement in the subject, but well-informed readers are not only still traumatised by what was the worst pandemic since the Black Death, but are justifiably concerned about the next one, which WHO modelling says may only be a year or two away.

Be that as it may, MacAmadáin covers most of the old Anti-Vax chestnuts well enough. On the Great Barrington Declaration he punctures the academic pretensions of its originators, as well as those of signatories like the “Nobel Prizewinner” biophysicist Michael Levitt. Indeed, he includes Levitt’s name in his letter to Anthony Fauci suggesting “a devastating takedown and factcheck” of the whole bunch, which undoubtedly gave added impetus to the independent but uncannily similar communication by NIH Director Francis Collins.

MacAmadáin also quickly debunks the far-right trope of a laboratory leak of the virus in Wuhan, which has sadly turned out to be an error on his part. He was not to know, as we do now, that Xi Jinping is himself a far-right dictator controlling Putin and Israel in order to take over the world, and therefore eager to let viruses run amok. Still, the fact that the author acknowledges that more, and far worse, pandemics are just around the corner makes this only a minor failing of the book.

He deals with the benefits of lockdowns and masks in the next chapter, against the carping of gainsayers, showing how both have benefited everyone and, in particular, children. On masks he even cites the Danish randomised mask trial in order not only to de-bunk it, but to expose its unethical nature in putting subjects at risk by not masking them during COVID. Indeed, throughout the book he demolishes so called “studies” used to push the Anti-Vax agenda as much as three or four times. However, I feel he might have done better to quote the myriad of proper, less random, studies, many of which are familiar to us from the charts put up day by day in the government’s press-conferences during the pandemic. After all, it is charlatans like Prof. Carl Heneghan of Oxford who misleadingly use only randomized studies, as in their pseudo-scientific Cochrane Review of mask efficacy, and they need to be called out for it.

Before getting on to the central matter of vaccinations, the author deals at length with the failure of non-lockdown policies like those of Sweden and Belarus, together with the fake statistics they have used to make their death-rates seem lower than ours. This is an excellent section.

But I would have liked him to say more about mass-testing, especially by naming names of conspiracy theorists as he does on other subjects. One little-noted example in this regard is Sir Muir Gray, “founder” and longtime “director” of the UK “Screening Service,” who described our world-beating £34 billion testing programme as “a mess” in the BMJ. It’s no wonder the government didn’t consult the Screening Service when they rolled out Track and Trace (or was it Test and Track?) with that kind of epidemiological ignorance in its very DNA (or RNA, to be precise). Also unmentioned, perhaps because of the author’s apparent obsession with the tin-foil hat mRNA pioneer Robert Malone, was Keri Mallis, inventor of the PCR test who had said, before his fortuitous death at the outset of the pandemic, that it should never be used for screening. What problems he might have caused had he lived longer!

I suppose that such omissions are inevitable in a small book intended for a popular readership (indeed, it is targeted at the Anti-Vaxxers themselves, whose limited attention span must have been taken into consideration). This is compensated by his masterly treatment of vaccines, in which with characteristic brevity he “demolishes every stronghold” of the “evidence” brought by his opponents questioning that they are safe and effective.

Yet here again his treatment is incomplete, I suppose because the book must have been written even before its publication last year. And so he fails to mention the emerging evidence of the actual harm caused by the British AstraZeneca vaccine. Had he been aware of it, he would no doubt have pointed out that this vaccine, unlike the Pfizer and Moderna types, was produced under the most right-wing government Britain has seen in decades. We should have expected it to fail, for such a government was bound to be in disarray, as the official Covid-19 Inquiry is now demonstrating.

In fact, Britain was only saved because, behind the politicians, stood real experts like Dominic Cummings, who were able to force through sensible policies by their sheer brilliance. By way of a demonstration, one of my relatives worked, at the time, in a completely different department of Whitehall (energy provision), and told me that any civil-servant who suggested any policy move was inevitably told, “We’ll have to run it past Dom first.” Now that’s the mark of a true expert.

After the section on vaccines, the Professor discusses the Anti-vaxxers themselves, and the most scathing part here is his takedown of the horse-medicine Ivermectin. But as in other areas, I feel he would have strengthened his case by pointing out, as others have, how many of the studies supporting Ivermectin are non-randomised, and therefore a priori wrong.

In summary, then, MacAmadáin touches most of the bases in the COVID story, which was a crisis turned into a drama by conspiracy theorists in high places, a fact that might almost lead one to suspect a concerted far-right plot to depopulate the world by disinformation, misinformation, and malinformation. Not to mention ininformation. But he could have done more, especially in covering the period since the pandemic has abated to become merely an ongoing plague. Perhaps Prof. MacAmadáin will produce another book to deal with such issues as the increasing numbers of malingerers claiming late vaccine damage, the manipulation of ONS statistics to give the appearance of ongoing excess deaths, or the economic collapse being blamed, by the usual suspects, on lockdowns rather than on Putin.

But perhaps the book’s final chapter gives us reassurance on that score. For the book closes by describing a vision of the Utopia promised by Klaus Schwab and his corporate and political protégés. The author sees that happy day as imminent, and if he is right there will soon be no shortage of experts managing our affairs and exposing the troublemakers, even if Oisín MacAmadáin were never to set pen to paper again!

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About Jon Garvey

Training in medicine (which was my career), social psychology and theology. Interests in most things, but especially the science-faith interface. The rest of my time, though, is spent writing, playing and recording music.
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