Vaccine sceptics lose case against Govt

A group of Covid-19 vaccination sceptics yesterday lost a High Court case directing the government to provide them with information on the safety and efficacy of vaccines against the novel coronavirus.

The Health Defence League (HDL) and four members of the organisation lost their case in a judgement in which High Court deputy judge president Hosea Angula found that it has not been shown that the HDL properly authorised the legal action taken in its name.

The HDL and four of its members – Monika Ruppel, Manfred Förtsch, Werner Gertz and Paul du Plessis – wanted the court to order the minister of health and social services, Kalumbi Shangula, to provide them with the source of information and also the information itself on which Shangula informed the Namibian public that Covid-19 vaccines are safe and effective for people with chronic illness and that the vaccines prevents serious illness, hospitalisation and death from Covid-19.

They also asked the court to order Shangula, the government and the other respondents in their application to provide them with all of the information in their possession on all possible adverse effects of Covid-19 vaccines administered or authorised by the government.

On top of that, they asked the court to declare that Shangula, the government and other respondents permitted the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine to be administered to people in Namibia unlawfully, and to declare that indemnification forms signed by HDL members before they received Covid-19 vaccinations were null and void.

The organisation and the four members sued the health minister, attorney general, minister of education, arts and culture, the government, president and Namibia Medicines Regulatory Council as respondents in their application.

HDL chairperson Martin Wucher alleged in a sworn statement filed at the court that the government has consistently refused to provide answers to questions from the organisation about the safety and lawful authorisation for the use of Covid-19 vaccines in Namibia.

Wucher also claimed the government has, by refusing to supply the information requested by his organisation and its members, prevented HDL members from exercising their rights to be fully informed about the effects and risks of Covid-19 vaccines before they agreed to be vaccinated.

He further alleged that the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine was administered unlawfully in Namibia, as it was not registered in terms of the Medicines and Related Substances Control Act or exempted from registration under the act.

Shangula claimed in an affidavit also filed at the court that most of the information that the HDL wanted from the government was available in documents published by the World Health Organisation and the Ministry of Health and Social Services.

He also informed the court the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was exempted from the operation of the Medicines and Related Substances Control Act and denied that the vaccine was administered unlawfully in Namibia.

Angula noted in his judgement that a resolution filed at the court recorded that the HDL steering committee authorised Wucher to “depose to all relevant affidavits” in the matter.

However, according to the HDL’s constitution, the organisation has only an executive committee and not a steering committee, Angula said.

He also noted that the resolution filed at the court did not authorise Wucher to bring the application on the HDL’s behalf. The resolution was defective, Angula said.

With respect to the four HDL members who were also applicants in the case, Angula said none of them stated that they requested information on Covid-19 vaccines from the government and that their requests were refused.

They failed to show they were aggrieved persons and had the required legal standing to apply for the orders they asked the court to make, the judge found.

The applicants were represented by senior counsel Raymond Heathcote and Yoleta Campbell, instructed by Richard Metcalfe.

Tinashe Chibwana represented the respondents.

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