Think the Baby Transfusion Case Was Only About Vaccinated Blood? Think Again.
We’re more divided than ever.
Baby W’s need for immediate surgery and his parents’ refusal of Pfizer-vaccinated blood captured not only our courts but also the world’s attention. Mum and Dad went on conspiracy maven Alex Jones’s podcast, which didn’t help. Fortunately, Baby W came through his court-mandated surgery okay. But his folks insist the matter isn’t over. Unsurprisingly.
Note: I don’t accept Baby W’s parents’ rationale; the pressing need for surgery outweighs concerns about MRNA vaccinations. But let me also state the blindingly obvious: I’m not them. Due to a suppression order, I know nothing about the family’s history with authority, their circumstances or their worldview.
Of course, none of the above was presented as germane to the debate. We heard from people who said the blood service couldn’t accommodate their request, even though they were prepared to supply their blood. Misinformation was blamed. Commentators tut-tutted.
Once again, we were back in 2021 when the choice to vaccinate was presented as one based solely on data. What does the science say? What’s the medical consensus? End of discussion.
Sorry, vaccination isn’t always decided that way. For many, personality plays a part; history weighs in; worldview is dominant. Yale academic Dr Saad Omer and a group of scientists have found that many vaccine sceptics share a sociological profile: a highly developed sense of personal liberty and less deference to authority.
Turns out that the way authorities treat people affects how they treat authorities. The marginalised tend not to like being told what to do.
This matrix may help explain why Māori vaccination rates are significantly lower than non-Māori. Think their interactions with power have gone well? Turns out that the way authorities treat people affects how they treat authorities. The marginalised tend not to like being told what to do.
Furthermore, the COVID response could be said to be an exacerbator. Economic inequality has worsened, some say, supported by a redistribution of Government money to the wealthy via wage subsidies. Kids are falling behind at school. Crime is rampant. We’re more divided than ever.
It’s a trust issue as much as a scientific one. And our institutions have done little to build this precious, quickly expended quality. As Maxim Institute research notes, the overuse of urgency in passing legislation eroded trust. Trust in experts, trust in Government, and trust in media have taken a big dive. As Constitutional scholar Andrew Geddis says, our institutions’ behaviour has created, rather than dissipated, paranoia.
Given all of the above, what might have been a prudent response to Baby W’s parents’ concerns? Discussion, flexibility, compromise. Reports do suggest hospital staff tried personally, but perhaps an exception to the rules (within a limited period, in the same way guardianship occurred) might have been more fruitful. Ultimately, Baby W’s parents got a court order, police, disparagement, and coercion dressed as kindness. Little wonder they doubled down.
Let’s try to think more deeply. Let’s read the room better. We’re in this together.
We haven’t heard the last of these disputes. Until we make a better fist of understanding people who respond this way, we’re only going to create more opportunities to antagonise them. Let’s try to think more deeply. Let’s read the room better. We’re in this together.go back