The Covid Cash Splash

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Dear government, please stop wasting our money

Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is the definition of insanity attributed to Einstein. This quote returned to me on Budget night as the government unveiled its Covid-related spending for the year ahead.

As we head into what feels like the hundredth wave of Covid, Australians are encouraged, once again, to roll up their sleeve and get their booster because ‘it’s our best protection’ against infection and serious disease. To date, there have been almost 40 recorded variants and this number will rise. What’s driving the mutations is a question for another day, but we can safely say that never before in the history of the world have we ever, ever, boosted with such unabated enthusiasm against a virus that is now endemic and will likely be with us … forever.

Meanwhile, the government seems blinkered in focusing solely on its pharmaceutical toolbox, essentially playing an expensive game of ‘whac-a-mole’ using our money on Covid countermeasures that could only be described as having dubious benefits. Over $2 billion of our money to be exact. Yes, you read that right.

Let’s take a look at how our money is being spent and what kind of bang we can expect for our buck.

‘The National Covid Vaccination program will continue to enable vaccinations to prevent severe disease ($598.9 million)’ the government announced. ‘That includes $490 million over 4 years from 2024-25 and $107.4 million per year ongoing.’

Who can forget the endless ‘safe and effective’ mantra? We soon learned how effective the jabs were in stopping transmission, not surprising given that injected vaccines are notoriously bad at stopping transmission of respiratory viruses. Pfizer was too busy moving at the speed of science to test for transmission. Something Australia’s experts knew before the ‘vaccines’ were rolled out.

The current bivalent vaccine, engineered against Omicron XBB1.5 which is no longer the dominant variant on our shores, has unknown efficacy against current Omicron strains including JN.1 and the newer FLiRT subvariants which are taking off fast. But we’re told not to worry, the new FLiRT subvariants are ‘not a major issue’ for most adults, according to some within the university sector.

‘From the evidence that we know so far, it’s pretty similar to JN.1 in terms of the severity of infection, in terms of the types of symptoms – it’s much of the same.

‘(For) most adults, really and truly, there’s nothing to worry about. If they’re careful, then they’ll get an updated booster shot if they haven’t had one in the last 12 months.

‘If they do get infected, chances are (it will be) just like a nasty flu, and for many people be no symptoms at all.’

If the current variant poses little threat to ‘most adults’, and has unknown efficacy against current variants, why then the recommendation for boosters?

Even the US Centre for Disease Control’s own data showed negative efficacy (that is negative effectiveness) of the vaccine, by lineage period, against Covid hospitalisation in immunocompetent adults.

And what of the effects of repeatedly boosting the population? The unexpected association of increased risk of Covid with more prior vaccine doses, as suggested by the Cleveland study, certainly warrants further attention before we funnel the population into a lifelong program of endless boosters. Not to mention what repeated boosting might be doing to our immune systems. Could it be making things worse?

As for ‘safe’, the recently released Australian CDC surveillance report of adverse events following Covid vaccines concludes ‘there was an unprecedentedly large number of AEFI reports observed following the introduction of Covid-19 vaccines in 2021’. Meanwhile, the significance of the alarming number of adverse event reports is summarised succinctly, by scientist Dr Andrew Madry, at the recent Senate Inquiry into Excess Mortality.

‘Covid medicines account for 23 per cent of all adverse events reported in the whole 53-year history of the DAEN (Database of Adverse Event Notifications) for all medicines. It takes up 38 per cent of all cardiac disorders in the 53-year history.’

It seems many Australians have either a) worked out the above, or b) moved on from Covid jabs with only 3.9 per cent of 18-64 year-olds lining up for a booster in the past 6 months.

Let’s look at ‘vaccine’ wastage. The Australian government purchased over 267 million Covid vaccine doses. Enough to vaccinate Australia’s population ten times over. But it was recently reported that of these 267 million doses, only 26 per cent have been used and the wastage rate (as of May 2, 2024) was 37.8 per cent, mostly due to expiry. This wastage rate is within the World Health Organisation’s ‘acceptable wastage parameters’.

With over half a billion being injected into the Covid Vaccination Program, one wonders just how much has been committed to the pharmaceutical companies on our behalf. It seems, however, the government doesn’t feel inclined to share the exact breakdown of vaccine inventories, or prepayments as these details are ‘not appropriate for release as they contain confidential and commercially sensitive information.’ Moving on.

Next up in our Covid spend: antivirals.

‘Access to Covid-19 oral antiviral treatments through the PBS will be extended ($1.3 billion), reducing the risk of hospitalisation and death in vulnerable people,’ we are told.

That’s a lot of money, dear government. I assume there is solid evidence they work? Wrong.

The evidence base for the two antiviral products listed – Paxlovid and Lageviro – is ‘shaky’ at best. And that’s being generous. A November 2023 Cochrane review of Paxlovid (nirmatrelvir/ritonavir) concludes it ‘may lead to fewer deaths and improve patient conditions … for unvaccinated outpatients at increased risk for disease progression’. Why unvaccinated patients? Because much of the research was generated early in the pandemic, against early strains when populations were unvaccinated. Another analysis of Paxlovid in reducing mortality or hospitalisation in mild to moderate Covid concludes the effectiveness is ‘uncertain’ with up to one in five harmed through virologic rebound. A recent study published in the peer reviewed New England Journal of Medicine raised serious questions over the usefulness of Paxlovid in both vaccinated and unvaccinated outpatients. Even Australia’s guidelines stop short of recommending the drug for all, giving a ‘conditional recommendation’ in unvaccinated adults.

The evidence of effectiveness for Lageviro (molnupiravir) is even worse. Let’s just skip straight to the Australian Guidelines which advises ‘do not routinely use molnupiravir for the treatment of Covid-19’. Enough said. Now, I’m not suggesting that these drugs do not work at all or under any circumstances, I’m just saying that at over $1,100 a pop for a course I’d like a little bit more research on the effectiveness before the government starts spending $1.3 billion of Australian’s hard-earned tax dollars.

It seems I’m not alone. Former Deputy CMO Nick Coatsworth blasted the government’s spend, saying molnupiravir ‘has a very dubious evidence base’ and ‘the government needs to fund a proper study to work out whether (it’s) effective or not’. ‘The cost of a research study would be about $10million to $15million,’ he adds.

‘So you pay $10 million to $15 million to work out whether the $1.3 billion was the right amount of money to spend.’

Last, but by no means least, we come to PCR testing.

‘Covid-19 pathology testing will be permanently added to the MBS,’ we are told, ‘with $335 million allocated over four years for Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) pathology testing for Covid-19 and other respiratory pathogens.’

My question is: Why? Questions have been raised over the utility of routine PCR testing in viral respiratory illnesses. Unless of course the result is used to determine the treatment pathway to, for example, antivirals. Well then, that makes perfect sense.

Let’s turn our attention to research. On examining the budgeted Covid cash splash I could find no specific allocation of funding for research into the treatment of Covid using off-patent (ie cheap) repurposed drugs. Meanwhile, the government’s response to the report into Long Covid and Repeated Covid infections – Sick and Tired: casing a long shadow – acknowledges, ‘The Covid-19 pandemic continues to have direct and indirect health impacts for people.’ To that end:

‘The (Medical Research Future Fund) MRFF has invested $130 million in Covid-19 research … which includes $13 million in funding for (long Covid) research. These grant opportunities cover a variety of themes, including vaccine development, antiviral treatments, public health, and prevention.’

Is this research going to be asking the questions that need answering? Perhaps not. Dr Rado Faletic, co-director of Coverse, an Australian organisation for those suffering Covid ‘vaccine’ injuries, says, ‘Between 2020-24 the NHMRC and MRFF supported a grand total of ‘one’ project researching Covid vaccine injuries. Yet they funded 11 projects on vaccine hesitancy.’

Meanwhile, the Covid Vaccine Claims Scheme is set to wind up on September 30, 2024, with a mere $20.5 million paid to a small fraction of all the injured people in Australia.

When you compare the budgeted $2 billion allocated to measures that essentially keep the pharmaceutical wheels turning, one thing becomes clear. Covid certainly is the gift that keeps giving … to the pharmaceutical industry.

One has to wonder, is there a better spend for Australia’s health billions?

This article is a republication of an article originally published here by the Spectator Australia.

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  • Dr Julie Sladden

    Julie Sladden is a doctor (retired) and writer with over 25 years clinical experience across multiple disciplines in Australia and the UK. She is a passionate advocate for professionalism, ethics and transparency in healthcare.

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