Maverick Citizen

VACCINE CONTROVERSY OP-ED

Aseem Malhotra’s visit to South Africa raises concerns over public healthcare safety

Aseem Malhotra’s visit to South Africa raises concerns over public healthcare safety
UK based cardiologist Aseem Malhotra. (Photo: Supplied)

The current visit, lecture tour and associated social media campaign by UK based cardiologist Aseem Malhotra in South Africa has raised public safety concerns among clinicians, scientists, and public health specialists in South Africa and beyond. 

Statement by vaccine scientists, cardiologists and public health specialists in South Africa

Malhotra is known to have strong and controversial views on Covid-19 vaccines and his claims that the risks of Covid-19 vaccination outweigh benefits have been expressed in public forums, including here in South Africa.  

Read: Health officials slam talk for parliamentarians by mRNA…

While Malhotra states that he is presenting evidence-based data, his “evidence” is cherry-picked, anecdotal, or comprises falsely linked side effects to Covid-19 vaccination. 

Malhotra, a cardiologist at the ROC Private Clinic in the UK has specifically claimed that Covid-19 vaccines have harmful cardiac effects, a view refuted by the British Heart Foundation who told the Guardian that “The scientific consensus is that the benefits of Covid-19 vaccination, including a reduced risk of severe illness or death, far outweigh the very small risk of rare side-effects.” 

Furthermore, cardiologists and cardiology associations worldwide have reviewed and restated that despite very rare and most often self-limiting effects, the benefits of Covid-19 vaccination far outweigh the risks. Read European Society of Cardiology consensus statement; American College of Cardiology statement and consensus document; South African Heart Association 2021 statement.

Malhotra’s views represent a tiny minority and giving him a platform in South Africa undermines the public health interest for Covid-19 vaccination and could inadvertently compromise the childhood vaccination programmes that save thousands of children’s lives annually in South Africa alone.

To date, more than 13.3 billion Covid-19 vaccinations have been administered worldwide. A recent modelling study estimated that 14-20 million lives were saved by deploying Covid-19 vaccines since late 2020, and hospitalisations continue to be averted in individuals who are boosted. 

Ensuring that reliable, relevant, and updated information is given to the South African population is critical, but it is also important to ensure that distracting, unreliable and incorrect information is not elevated to create confusion and fear. 

The misleading and false information purported also creates unwarranted doubt about other vaccines, with serious consequences, including decreased vaccine uptake and the resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases (for example the current measles outbreak in SA). There is overwhelming evidence that vaccines have been a transformative tool for controlling or even eradicating infectious diseases generally, as well as specifically in relation to Covid-19

For example, smallpox, which once caused millions of deaths, was eradicated thanks to a global vaccination campaign, while 23 million deaths were prevented between 2010-2018 by the measles vaccine alone. Similarly, vaccines have helped reduce the incidence of diseases such as polio, rotavirus, pneumococcus and many others, saving millions of lives annually.

Malhotra most recently visited prominent provincial political leaders and addressed the public at the invitation of members of the Western Cape Parliament. Whilst the talk was on ethically based health care, it is well known that Malhotra has called for the halting of Covid-19 vaccination due to “horrific and unprecedented covid vaccine injuries”. He stated in a tweet related to the event that “change is coming”. 

Whilst freedom of speech and freedom to hear a variety of views is an important part of the South African constitution, giving apparent political and leadership endorsement to views that are not substantiated, and delivered unopposed without opportunity for rebuttal by health experts, undermines sound public health messaging, and is a direct threat to public safety. 

In addition, Malhotra is allied to known conspiracy groups such as Health Advisory and Recovery Team and the Children’s Health Defense, which is an organisation opposing vaccination.  Many of his followers and supporters are avid anti-vaxxers. Giving Malhotra opportunities for public forums also elevates the anti-vaccination lobby and amplifies their dangerous campaigns which potentially undermines all vaccine programs. 

This group below representing South African vaccine scientists and public health specialists categorically reject Malhotra’s views, which lack evidence and scientific validity. We strongly endorse the importance of vaccination as a critical public health intervention. 

Covid-19 vaccination is safe and effective and whilst there are very rare vaccine-related side effects, the overall benefits of Covid-19 vaccination, and other vaccines available to the public in South Africa, far outweigh these risks. 

Signed by:

Ashraf Kagee, Professor of Psychology and Co-Director, Alan Flisher Centre for Public Mental Health, Stellenbosch University. 

Benjamin Kagina, Associate Professor and Director, NITAG Support Hub (NISH), University of Cape Town.

Blanche Cupido, Immediate Past President of the South African Heart Association.

Brian Eley, Professor, Paediatric Infectious Diseases, University of Cape Town.

Carolyn Williamson, Professor of Virology, University of Cape Town.

Charles Shey Wiysonge, Senior Director, Cochrane South Africa & the HIV and other Infectious Diseases Unit, SAMRC.

Fareed Abdullah, Director, Office of AIDS and TB Research, South African Medical Research Council.

Francois Venter, Professor, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand.

Glenda Gray, Research Professor, University of Witwatersrand, CEO & President, SAMRC.

Graeme Meintjes, Professor of Medicine, University of Cape Town and Groote Schuur Hospital. 

Gregory Hussey, Emeritus Professor, University of Cape Town.

Guy Richards, Emeritus Professor of Critical Care, University of the Witwatersrand. 

Hassan Mahomed, Stellenbosch University.

Ian Sanne, Assoc. Professor, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand. 

Linda-Gail Bekker, Professor and Director, The Desmond Tutu HIV Centre, UCT.

Marc Mendelson, Professor of Infectious Diseases, University of Cape Town.

Mark Hatherill, Professor and Director, South African Tuberculosis Vaccine Initiative, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town.

Mark Tomlinson, Co-Director, Institute for Life Course Health Research, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town. 

Marvin Hsiao, Principal pathologist, National Health Laboratory Service.

Mpiko Ntsekhe, Professor and Chair of Cardiology, University of Cape Town.

Ntobeko Ntusi, Professor and Head of Medicine, University of Cape Town and Groote Schuur Hospital.

Patrick Commerford, Emeritus Professor of Cardiology, University of Cape Town.

Quarraisha Abdool Karim, Professor and Associate Scientific Director: CAPRISA & Pro Vice-Chancellor, University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Salim S. Abdool Karim, Professor and Director: CAPRISA & Pro Vice-Chancellor, University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Shabir Madhi, Professor of Vaccinology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand.

Thumbi Ndung’u, Director for Basic and Translational Science, Africa Health Research Institute.

Dr Tony Hawkridge, Public Health Medicine Specialist, Director: Rural Health Services, West Coast District, Western Cape Government Health and Wellness.

Thomas Scriba, Professor, Division of Immunology, Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine, University of Cape Town.

Valerie Mizrahi, Professorial Director, Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine, UCT.

Wendy Burgers, Professor of Virology, University of Cape Town.

Wendy Stevens, Professor, Strategic Director: National Priority Programs, NHLS, University of the Witwatersrand.

Willem Hanekom, Executive Director, Africa Health Research Institute.

Zameer Brey, Groote Schuur Hospital board.

DM/MC

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Glyn Morgan says:

    Much ado about nothing.

  • virginia crawford says:

    Extremists, conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers have far too much in common and they should not be given visas or entry. This kind of disinformation is a danger to public health and order.

    • Karel Vlok says:

      Audi alteram partem for those who may want to have their own opinion/s. No?

      • Ed Rybicki says:

        When your “own opinions” lead to you giving “advice” that may be harmful, and which flies in the face of established evidence – no, you are not entitled to it. Any more than a flat earther or climate change denialist.

  • Karl Sittlinger says:

    While I understood to some degree the position to not spread fear or misinformation during the actual COVID pandemic, we are now way past the pandemic and it should be absolutely permissible to have a open discussion about this and the COVID vaccine.

    As far as I have read, he is not against vaccination per se, but very specifically the mRNA COVID vaccine. Seems that the very people complaining about misinformation have no qualms about presenting their own. If these medical experts feel they need to rebutt any statements Malhotra made, they are absolutely free to do so.

    The vehemence of those opposing any such discussions, down to the ad hominem attacks on anyone even considering it, is very concerning. When did we get to a point where the mere suggestion of a discussion of a topic leads to such intolerance? Surely if it’s all just conspiracy theories the true facts should speak for themselves?

    • Nick Robert says:

      A Fair comment. I sense that the “conventional” medical fraternity and government doth protest too much. If there are arguments for or against, lets see them both and then allow the individuals to make their own conclusion.

      • Aslam Dasoo says:

        Don’t know why you think the information pointed out by the ‘conventional’ medical fraternity is not available. It is all there prominently in the public domain.a simple google search or the links in the article will help your enquiry tremendously. It’s even more interesting that you swallow the codswallop that passes as ‘scientific’ arguments from these anti-vax, conspiracy-laden carpetbaggers coming to our shores, after they failed utterly to make even a minor dent in the public response elsewhere in the world. Coming here is a neo-colonial exercise to make common cause with reactionary and right wing elements in SA who also failed in their efforts to blunt the response.
        Moreover, setting yourself up as some adjudicator on the various arguments, as though the scientists must present their case as supplicants, without indicating that you’re scientifically qualified to so is just silly and rightly ignored.
        These charlatans need no rebuttal or intolerance of their ‘views’ by anyone, any more than flat earthers or those fearful of nano bots being injected into them to bring them under the mind control of Bill Gates or the Illuminati, need no help. They do the damage to their mendacious cause all by themselves, as always.

        • Nick Robert says:

          so, to sum it all up, you totally ignore the content of the message to attack me, knowing nothing about me, assuming that I am an anti-vaxer or worst and then accusing me of wanting to be an adjudicator? amazing. I think my point is well made. Let people disseminate the information for themselves.

    • Barbara Mommen says:

      So right Karl. Have we become so used to shutting down opposing views that the tolerance of alternative opinions is not allowed?? Very worrying indeed. Tolerance does not assume concession nor adherence, but may in fact require that contradiction be allowed to be weighed by its perceived value or otherwise.

      • virginia crawford says:

        Tolerating intolerance and disinformation is used by extremists of every stripe. The storming of the Capitol on January 6th was largely due to conspiracy ‘theorists’ convincing people that the vote was stolen. The same could happen here! Unlimited freedom of speech has led to and measles outbreaks and polio making a return. Dr Malhotra is free yo believe whatever he wants, but the DA giving him a platform and thus credibility is a different issue. What next? Holocaust deniers?

        • Karl Sittlinger says:

          Comparing holocaust deniers to someone that specifically doubts the COVID mRNA vaccine is an absolute fallacy. Assuming that people who doubt the COVID vaccine specifically are antivaxers is another logical fallacy. There is no connection between the insurrection on the 6th of Jan in the USA, and people that doubt the COVID mRNA vaccine. Another fallacy based on your personal prejudices. Right now you sound more like a conspiracy theorist than the doctor.

        • Theresa Avenant says:

          I agree with you Virginia. Extremism is dangerous. Having a debate with the likes of Aseem Malhotra and a vast array of established and well respected members of the medical profession – many of them esteemed academics – is tantamount to entering into a debate with people who believe that the Earth is flat, or that the world as we know it was “created” 6,000 years ago.

        • David Forbes says:

          oh come on Virginia! I personally know at least three people who have had very adverse reactions over a very long period to vax. I got vaxxed and I was fine. Allow the debate. We have freedom of speech here and people are robust enough to deal with it. Next minute you will be believing every word that Biden or Zelensky says!

    • Timothy Van Blerck says:

      If he has evidence of harm then gather the data, perform the statistical analysis, go through peer review, publish and have your predictions borne out by real world observations. Instead he is holding public rallies and using his lobbying gain credibility for his expensive “alternate treatments” and lectures

  • Peter Berlyn says:

    Published medical research review article, peer reviewed, co authored by esteemed , world renowned experts and academics . The mandatory declaration of conflicts of interest is missing. Which of the signatories has financial links or funding from vaccine manufacturers and vaccine investors such as BMGF ?

    • Ed Rybicki says:

      WHAT mandatory declaration of conflicts of interest? This is a letter, not a peer-reviewed scientifica article. And what does the BMGF have to do with this? Does running the clinical trials of vaccines for HIV and/or COVID, which many of these signatories have done, disqualify them from making a statement on them or any other vaccine, when they are probably the best qualified people to do so? As in, ACTUAL vaccinologists or infectious disease physicians or virologists, unlike Malhotra, who is none of these things?

      It is very strange that people insist on conditions for those who oppose charlatans, and do not apply them to the charlatans. The arch measles vaccine opposer, Andrew Wakefield, was believed by millions of the public – when HE was pushing his own vaccine, a fact conveniently forgotten at the time he was publishing his now-retracted lies.

  • Vijay Pillay says:

    The Journal of Insulin Resistance published Dr Asseem Malhotra’s article ‘Curing the pandemic of misinformation on COVID-19 mRNA vaccines through real evidence-based medicine – Part 1’ in September 2022.

    The gist of Dr Asseem Malhotra’s argument is that it would be prudent to pause the roll-out of mRNA vaccines, especially in the younger age groups, until the cause of the current all mortality excess deaths (in the UK) has been explained.

    Perhaps your esteemed writers can comment on the validity of the data, and the logic of his argument in the above article.

  • Gregory Scott says:

    Do we not have freedom of speech and association in SA?
    If so, there is no story here.
    A diversity of points of view and discussions are healthy in comparison to cow-towing to the whims of one-sided views politicians adopt world wide.

  • Agf Agf says:

    It’s about time that the alternative viewpoint is aired. I’m pleased to see that the DM is finally allowing comments on COVID vaccines after banning any comments for years citing the excuse that they are protecting themselves and the commentator from some obscure piece of legislation. Moving on, I think it extremely lazy to simply paint anyone voicing concern as an anti. – vaxer or flat earther. There is growing concern at the excess deaths worldwide. The muzzling of doctors like Robert Malone and Peter McCulloch is a scandal. And what of the thousands of doctors, many of them cardiologists, who signed the Barrington Declaration? Well done DA for allowing Dr Malhotra to visit and present his findings.

  • Karel Vlok says:

    We need to allow all opinions to be heard, lest the old Persraad removes all references to Sussex. Who will be the gatekeeper? AI?

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