Interview with Paul Cullen (Irish Times)

After running into Paul Cullen, health correspondent at the Irish Times on October 3rd during the protest march from Custom House, we had the pleasure to deepen our conversation by way of the following interview.

I think your organisation pre-dates the current pandemic. What led you (and others, presumably) to set it up? Was it because of personal experiences and, if so, could you tell me a bit about these?

Health Freedom Ireland pre-dates the current pandemic. Our mission is to empower Irish people to make informed medical decisions for themselves and their families. We aim to provide a resource for impartial up-to-date information on vaccines available on the Irish market, their ingredients, and established potential adverse effects. We seek to inform about illnesses for which there are vaccines, the risk of the illness, established medical treatments and prognosis. 

We are very aware of the increasing HSE childhood vaccine schedule (32 total doses of 14 vaccines in the first 13 months of a child’s life). Many parents are highly concerned about the number of vaccines being recommended, some of their ingredients or adjuvants and also the fact that many Irish children are experiencing side effects (some more serious than others). Many in our community have had direct experience of vaccine injury. 

We direct anyone considering vaccines to up-to-date vaccine information including the Patient Information Leaflet (PIL). Our desire for transparency and unbiased information comes from a wish for others to be able to make fully informed choices. We feel this transparency and unbiased information is not always forthcoming from either the HSE or our healthcare professionals.

Ireland and other countries are currently facing repeated waves of Covid-19 infections. Do you think a vaccine, if developed, can play a role in resolving this problem?

A repeated wave of Covid-19 infection? Or increased SARS-COV2 detection? What is being defined as a ‘positive case’ may not in fact be considered ‘infectious’ depending on the cycle thresholds used in the PCR testing. So will a vaccine play a role in resolving this problem?

Even if considered ‘safe and effective’, a Covid-19 vaccine can only play a limited role in resolving the rise in detected positive cases and ‘Covid-19’. 

The definition of efficacy in relation to Covid-19 vaccines is not what the public expects. The Astrazeneca1Reference:, Pfizer2Reference: and Moderna3Reference: clinical trial protocols reveal that the trials are designed to test whether the vaccines reduce cases of symptomatic COVID-19, not cases of severe disease, such as those that require hospitalisation and can end in death.

None of the vaccines in development can make any claim towards reducing the potential of suspected long-term effects of an infection with SARS-COV2. Wouldn’t it have been better to test whether the vaccines reduce severe disease and death? Or even the possibility of long-term health consequences?

These companies are only aiming that their vaccines stop at least 50% of vaccinated people getting symptomatic Covid-19. This is the definition of success according to the FDA guidelines4Reference: While aiming for 50%, they are hoping for an efficacy of 60% or greater5Reference:

Even at that, 60% is not enough to reach herd immunity, that is, the stage at which enough of the population has vaccine-derived immunity to stop the disease spreading.  With full vaccination coverage, the vaccine would need to be at least 80% effective to extinguish an epidemic without any other measures.  So controlling the spread of the virus under the current strategy is going to require continuation of all other mitigation strategies alongside any potential vaccine. With 80% of Covid-19 cases already being asymptomatic6Reference:, who benefits? 

Do you have concerns about the Covid-19 vaccines under development? Are these specific to this vaccine or general to all vaccines?

Even researchers involved in vaccine safety and design have expressed their reservations when it comes to the development of a Covid-19 vaccine7Reference: so yes, we have concerns. The development of Covid-19 vaccines shines a spotlight on many of the existing issues we have with other vaccines especially in relation to the definition of ‘safety’ and the definition of ‘effective’ in clinical trial protocols.

Several of the Covid-19 vaccines in development are using pioneering technology8Reference: with no previous safety record. With being rushed to market, crucial stages in the clinical trial protocol (animal trials) are being skipped or significantly fast-tracked.9Reference: Previous attempts at making coronavirus vaccines have failed10Reference: and shown significant issues at the animal trial stage.

Some vaccines worsen the consequences of infection rather than protect, a phenomenon called antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE)11Reference: and this has been observed in previous attempts to develop coronavirus vaccines. Furthermore, antibodies typical of ADE are present in the blood of some Covid-19 patients. Such concerns are real.

While pre-clinical trials are likely to include tens of thousands of patients, it is still unclear whether the number will be large enough to evaluate safety.  There have already been serious safety concerns. Several of the vaccines in development have been stopped "out of an abundance of caution", due to severe adverse effects experienced by study participants all of whom were carefully selected for being exceptionally healthy.

Only yesterday, Johnson and Johnson paused all trials of its experimental Covid-19 vaccine after a participant developed an ‘adverse reaction’. Previously the Oxford trial has been paused twice.  Did these participants receive the vaccine or placebo?

Are you aware that none of the candidate vaccines are being tested against true placebos?12A true placebo being an inactive substance, typically a saline solution.

And with such low numbers in trials, it is a significant safety signal if it turns out that two of the Oxford participants have indeed developed transverse myelitis.. One serious adverse event per thousand of a vaccine given to 100 million people means harm to 100,000 otherwise healthy people.

There are also serious questions regarding a potential vaccines ability to protect people from infection.  We know that all vaccines tested to date on monkeys failed to protect any of them from infection of the nasal passages, the primary route of infection.  Previous attempts at vaccines for other deadly coronaviruses also failed to protect monkeys.

We are not all equally susceptible to Covid-19. Those that are more vulnerable to the disease are aged people with multiple comorbidities. The older we get, the poorer our ability to respond to vaccines. Resistance to vaccination begins at age thirty and becomes progressively more profound with time. This is especially troubling given that the over 60 are the population most at risk of Covid-19. 

Will repeated doses have to be administered to the elderly? Will a more potent vaccine be required with more powerful adjuvants? How risky will these more powerful adjuvants be for the very old? It seems foolish to be rushing a vaccine if it only has limited benefit to the population most in need.

Are there any vaccines you think are useful? (On your website, you make a series of assertions about vaccines which are almost entirely negative.) Would you consider yourself, or your organisation, anti-vaccine?

We are curious which assertions on our website you are referring to that seem to be entirely negative about vaccines? The term anti-vaccine is neither useful nor correct. It is often deliberately used to discourage and discredit those that dare to raise valid concerns over vaccine safety and efficacy. 

Most of our community are in fact the true #vaccineheroes of Ireland. Trusting their healthcare provider they have followed the recommended schedule and in turn experienced vaccine injury either themselves or within their family. In some cases more than once, as their concerns and observations were not taken seriously and they were strongly persuaded by medical professionals to continue the schedule despite their prior experiences. 

What are your concerns about the likely introduction of a Covid-19 vaccine? Do you think it will be made mandatory, or that access to, say, creches or schools etc might be barred to people who are not vaccinated? What action would you take in the event of this happening?

We believe that most people, who have researched vaccines would have concerns about an “accelerated to market vaccine”, especially considering the fact that the development of a Coronavirus vaccine has been in progress for over 17 years without success.

We have seen disasters with fast-tracked vaccines in the not so recent past. The H1N1 (Swine Flu) vaccine for example shows how detrimental rushing a vaccine to market can be13Reference:

Ten years later there are still 100 cases in the courts seeking compensation for injuries sustained. It is also concerning, as with the H1N1 vaccine, that the government indemnified the manufacturer (GSK) and they walked away without accepting any liability for the injuries their product caused14Reference: It then fell to the taxpayers to cover the very substantial costs of court fees and damages for both parties of 4 million EUR15Reference: With so many other cases looming in the courts, it is likely that further tax money will have to be diverted to cover damages and expenses.

With regard to the mandating of a vaccine, HFI expect it is more likely that those who choose not to have the Covid-19 vaccine will suffer marginalisation and be excluded from full participation in society like travel, healthcare, education and many other aspects of life. We feel that this is not a proportionate outcome especially for a virus with an over 99% recovery rate and an unknown short- or long-term adverse reaction rate for an upcoming vaccine.

Where there is risk, there must always be choice. We support all Irish Citizens’ rights to bodily autonomy and the freedom to choose when it comes to any medical intervention or protocol.   

Please tell me a bit about HFI: who set it up? who runs it? who sits on the board/council/organising committee? How is it funded?

HFI is a non-profit organisation run by volunteers. All our contributors (which include doctors, scientists, researchers, complementary health therapists and parents that have spent years studying these topics) all work for free and give whatever time they can, outside of their full-time jobs, caring for their families and managing otherwise busy lives. 

We work as a team at all times and currently have no real means of funding.  So, nobody is in receipt of remuneration of any kind. We operate powered by volunteer contributions and donations which we use as per disclosure on our website.

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