Medical professionals have distanced themselves from the views expressed by family doctor Jean Karl Soler in an interview with The Times of Malta last Monday in which he said that “other doctors agree” with his controversial views but “would not speak out”.
“Doctors who have opinions that differ from mainstream scientific consensus should go to medical journals for peer review,” the president of the Medical Association of Malta (MAM), Martin Balzan, told The Shift. He stressed that the association’s comments were not “about the individual but about what he is saying”.
Soler has repeatedly criticised health authorities for promoting vaccinations with children as well as imposing standard measures such as the use of face masks. Soler has also argued against lockdowns, in spite of evidence broadly concluding that lockdowns and face masks are effective at quelling the spread of the virus.
“If you have ideas that go against what entities like the European Medicines Agency are saying, they should be submitted to an academic journal. I disagree with him for going to the newspapers with this; I would have sent them where such medical opinions belong,” Balzan said.
“We disassociate ourselves from what he is saying and give our full support to Superintendent of Public Health Charmaine Gauci and her team. We only intervene when the health authorities take decisions that go against medical advice,” Balzan added, explaining that such interventions are meant to stimulate discussion, ideally before measures are issued to avoid confusing the public.
Fellow doctor Anthony Buttigieg argued that “the raw data” from “billions of vaccine doses dished out across the world” is irrefutable, arguing that Soler was engaging in a “one-man mission to spread misinformation about COVID-19 from before the beginning of the pandemic”.
“Contrary to what Soler said in the interview he had with The Times of Malta, he is the only medical professional I know who shares his opinions,” Buttigieg said.
“Every single health authority in the world, including the World Health Organisation, is advocating taking the vaccine. Logically, one has to ask: why would they do that if they are not effective? Because if they are not effective, then they would be better off spending their health budgets on trying to help people who are sick with COVID, not prevention,” he continued.
“Countries and international authorities are spending billions of euros on vaccines, including many countries that can’t even afford them, because vaccines save lives,” he added.
Buttigieg, pictured in the featured photo, also explained that from both personal experience working with COVID patients as well as from the rich data-sets gathered from mass vaccination programmes such as the one in Malta and in the UK, a vaccinated person has 50% less chance of contracting the virus.
“As for the other 50% of vaccinated individuals who do contract it, their viral load will be too low for active transmission. Individuals who are not vaccinated carry a far higher risk of transmitting the virus due to a higher viral load,” Buttigieg said.
‘Viral load’ is a measure of the concentration of COVID-19 in one’s body, represented by the amount of viral particles present. Vaccinated individuals will carry less viral particles even when infected since their immune system is now trained to target a key protein COVID-19 viral particles use to attach themselves to human cells so they can infect them and make more copies of themselves.
This leads to fewer, less severe symptoms, along with a highly reduced chance of transmitting COVID to another person since the virus will struggle to fully infect its host, let alone spread to others.
“If everyone were vaccinated, we would eventually kill any outbreak,” Buttigieg added, explaining how the more the number of non-vaccinated people shrinks, the lesser the amount of viable hosts with a viral load high enough to fuel an outbreak.
‘This is the first time I was suppressed’
Buttigieg, whose past stint in politics with Partit Demokratiku and regular updates on COVID-19 have earned him a following on social media, was recently targeted by anti-vaxxer groups using online swarming tactics on public Facebook threads.
Buttigieg also said that Soler had, since the pandemic started, begun attacking every single post Buttigieg wrote about COVID “in a very hysterical manner”. Buttigieg has also been targeted by groups who have adopted vaccine scepticism.
Buttigieg added: “The last Facebook post I uploaded was shared on five different fora: my personal profile, my page, and three Facebook groups, ‘is-Salott’, ‘il-Kotra’, and ‘Expats Malta’.”
“Unfortunately, there’s a large number of vaccine sceptics in one of the groups I mentioned. I posted in those groups to reach out to these sceptics. Instead, my post was flagged via mass reporting in Expats Malta and on my personal profile as well,” he added.
When asked why he believes there was such a concerted effort to shut down the debate using swarming tactics, Buttigieg pointed out that this was the first time he had been shut down in this way.
“Since I’ve been involved in politics, for the past four and a half years, I’ve never had one of my posts flagged like this, even when I alienated both sides of the political spectrum with what I was saying. This is the first time someone effectively tried to suppress my point,” he said.
“They did so because they do not have a solid argument to stand on. If you have an argument, you will argue. They did so because they don’t have the courage to defend the indefensible,” Buttigieg added.
Buttigieg expressed his reservations about Soler’s tactics: “He shouldn’t be allowed to broadcast those opinions without somebody more specialised than him, such as a virologist, in the same room to rebut his claims.”
“If you read the interview transcript, even though some of the questions were very pointed, he just rebutted claims or brushed them off because he had no answer. There wasn’t anyone else in that interview to give the scientific perspective on why he couldn’t answer,” he concluded.
Soler and the group of anti-vaxxers with which he is associated also reacted strongly to a report by The Shift that was critical of his views expressed in his interview with The Times of Malta and focused on debunking myths associated with vaccines.
Reacting to The Shift’s article, Soler insisted: “Every claim I made in the interview with Times of Malta is substantiated with peer-reviewed publications by top scientists in major, high impact medical journals.” He accused The Shift of making “wild” assertions when reporting his claims were “dubious”.