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In A Worrying Twist, Pharmacies Are Now Being ‘served’ With So-Called Legal Documentation By Groups Opposed To Covid Vaccinations, Writes Terry Maguire.

Just as calm was slowly being restored to the pharmacy network after 20 long months of Covid-19-inspired chaos, a new and potentially serious threat emerged. A video appeared online of an anti-vaxxer group ‘serving’ a pharmacy in West Belfast.

The social media video begins outside the pharmacy; a man holding official-looking paperwork and wearing a high-vis jacket, just like the uniform of the gilets jaunes on Parisian boulevards, discusses strategy and tactics with a woman holding the camera at an acute angle so faces cannot be identified.

All the time a delightful child of about eight, and who seems to be the couple’s daughter, skips around between them, her face unfortunately all too clear and identifiable. He announces he is going to “serve” the pharmacy and states that there will be “no harsh words” and “it will always be within honour”. Entering the pharmacy, he approaches the counter, asks if the pharmacy still offers the booster jab and, when this is confirmed, hands the bemused counter-assistant an envelope telling her she has been “served”.

He then explains that the pharmacy is guilty of “potential genocide” and he is there to protect “our peoples and our communities”. He informs them the action is being videoed as a true record of the “serving”, but faces will not be shown. When staff are heard sniggering, they are admonished about the damage the pharmacy is doing and he confirms that “every one of those vials is a potential crime”. He briefly explains the content of the letter, says he would return the next day and if the pharmacy persists in providing vaccination services, the police will be informed and if they fail to take action, he would himself “confiscate the vials as part of a citizen’s arrest”.

At this point, I think it is the pharmacist who is heard laughing, but our citizen hero admonishes him, claiming the £72 the pharmacy gets for each vaccine is why they are happy to kill people. When the pharmacist challenges the fee, he says he’s not there to argue and as he leaves, his last words are “God bless”.

And all the time the delightful child, her face fully visible, dances and skips between her parents, blissfully unaware that nature has cruelly placed her in the shallow end of the gene pool. It is hard not to giggle uncontrollably when first viewing the video. Stunning examples of brainless ignorance are always good for a laugh, and this one is up there with the best.

Yet there is something strangely menacing and dark about it all. These individuals clearly believe this nonsense and they are motivated to take action and are happy to absorb the ridicule heaped on them. They believe, and belief is too often the most dangerous thing in the world. They behave as a cult behaves and tragically, it is such a small step from where they are currently to where their action might be more sinister perhaps even violent. Our negotiating body CPNI, recognising this, were quick to respond and to support pharmacies should additional ‘servings’ take place. Their advice was helpful and timely.

They clarified the situation where an individual ‘serves’ a pharmacy with ‘legal papers’. Without a court stamp, the papers have no legal basis and indemnity insurance companies can confirm the situation where proceedings are threatened. The advice reassured staff and prepared them to handle these fixed-minds, should they visit. Engagement with individuals, we were advised, should be kept to an absolute minimum; certainly, we should not debate, because you can’t reason with the rationally deaf. It’s also a good idea if staff make it clear that they have patients to see and prescriptions to dispense and therefore do not have time for a discussion. Pharmacy teams should not accept documents if they can.

CPNI also advises that if these individuals are not in the pharmacy for a commissioned service, they should be asked to leave. This latter option is less clear and might involve confrontation, so back to minimal engagement and getting them out as quickly as possible. Anti-vaccination sentiment across the world is very real and increasing, and these groups and individuals often cite a right to direct action against those of us who are actively vaccinating the public.

Stunning examples of brainless ignorance are always good for a laugh

I am the first to say that people who oppose vaccination are entitled to their opinions, but nothing I have heard from the anti-vaxxers has merit and they can never be justified in resorting to aggression, or worse still, violence. Many who did think as I do have more recently lost their liberal sympathies with these Flat-Earthers and have gone on the offensive. Australia prevailed, after nearly bungling their objectives, and kept Novak (‘Novax’) Djokovic out of the country in January. Neil Young, my musical idol who ironically (given the subject under discussion) penned the masterpiece Needle and the damage done, views anti-vaxxers with aggressive contempt, demanding his back catalogue be deleted from Spotify because they platform alleged anti-vaxxer Joe Rogan.

Few Baby Boomers like me have heard of Joe Rogan, but the young have equally not heard of the older Young, which for Spotify means it is less commercially damaging letting old Neil go. Neil Young as a child suffered with polio, so you can see he is hardly dispassionate about vaccination and its benefits. But vaccination is not a debating society topic; the evidence needs to be the only thing that directs us in our decision to vaccinate or not. We need to stick to the science and the science is pretty clear from what evidence we do have. But a slight problem here. I am forced to agree with Joe Rogan that not all the data on vaccine ADRs is available in the public domain.

Covid-19 vaccines are licensed for ‘emergency use’ and do not have a full license as other medicines do. Only some of the data for the Phase III clinical trials is available. Moderna may make all its clinical trial data available later in 2022, but Pfizer will only make the data available in 2025. Researchers have looked at the ADRs from vaccines and a study in JAMA in late 2021 suggested that 75 per cent of ADRs reported for the vaccine were due to the ‘nocebo’ effect; the expectation of an ADR the patient was told about. This was deducted from the very high rate of ADRs in the placebo groups. But Rogan is saying, how do we know the real prevalence of ADRs if the Big Pharma companies refuse to publish the data, and this is a fair point. However, he does give too much air time to guests who talk anecdotally about possible side-effects they may have experience because of vaccination and that, for me, risks being an anti-vax position. It is, however, nowhere near suggesting that vaccine use is genocide. The pharmacy network, along with General Practice, across N Ireland is readying itself for a surge in Covid-19 vaccinations this May to boost the over-75 patients. So we should expect more anti-vaxxer challenges. The tragedy and the irony is that anti-vaxxers believe passionately that Covid- 19 vaccines are dangerous and that they are doing a public good, when in fact they are causing great harm and potentially killing the very ‘peoples and communities’ they claim to be protecting.