Are these Aussies our worst COVID threat?

 

In six short months, the pandemic has changed the world we live in, as other pandemics have done throughout history.

The far-reaching physical, economic and emotional toll has, for the first time in recent history, seen a world-wide scientific collaboration for a vaccine that could help life return to somewhat normal.

Most people understand this, but the people that stand in the way are the "pro-choice" anti-vaxxers, conspiracy theorists and COVID-19 deniers who are spreading misinformation and fear regarding vaccination on social media and threaten to derail one of the most ambitious health initiatives to date.

Here are Australia's main contenders.

Taylor Winterstein

Taylor Winterstein is a proud anti-vaxxer.
Taylor Winterstein is a proud anti-vaxxer.

Instagram influencer Taylor Winterstein, wife of football player Frank Winterstein, calls herself "a respected truth warrior" and has long been against mandatory vaccines.

Like many anti-vaxxers, she makes money out of selling her thoughts on the subject. With 60,000 followers, she aims her online courses at mothers. Winterstein calls COVID-19 a "scamdemic" and denies its seriousness.

Along with sister Stevie Nupier Winterstein, the wag became the Australian face of Vaxxed, the shockumentary plugging the debunked vaccines/autism link produced by disgraced and struck off doctor Andrew Wakefield.

Winterstein's online courses perpetuate myths - conspiracies that undermine the science of vaccination.

Her Fortify Your Vibe online course currently sells for $2499. Winterstein has also run her two-hour vaccination-specific "making informed choices" online course for $77 and recently boasted "almost one thousand free-thinkers" have signed up. Her eight-week online course called Liberate her sells for $1499.

Ms Winterstein has no medical education but has done a course at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, as has Pete Evans. The Institute sells health coach courses for between $5000 and $9000 and if interested parties "jump onto my referral list" Ms Winterstein receives a cash bonus.

"We, the people, have spoken and WE WILL NOT COMPLY," she posted recently in response to Australia"s deal with AstraZeneca to obtain the Oxford University vaccine.

Pete Evans

The former celebrity chef and recently dumped My Kitchen Rules host does not believe in coronavirus or the pandemic - "it"s a F$$$en scam" - he wrote. Despite this, he was fined $25,000 by the Therapeutics Goods Administration for claiming the light-recipe machine, the BioCharger, could treat coronavirus.

Pete Evans during Covid isolation. Picture: Instagram
Pete Evans during Covid isolation. Picture: Instagram

Evans has recently identified himself as a believer in the QAnon conspiracy that the world is run by paedophiles.

He thinks wearing a mask lowers your immunity and COVID-19 is a "scamdemic" and that Bill Gates, who gives away 90 per cent of his wealth, is part of the giant conspiracy to pin everyone down and stick them with toxins in the form of vaccines.

Evans claims he is not anti-vaccine but "pro-safe" - the new language adopted by antivaccine proponents.

Pete Evans. Picture: Chefpeteevans/Instagram
Pete Evans. Picture: Chefpeteevans/Instagram

He uses his social media platforms with his 1.5 million followers to promote the most extreme anti-vaccine ideologues like Del Bigtree, Robert F Kennedy Jr, Sherri Tenpenny, Dr Shiva Ayyadurai, David Avocado Wolfe and just last week, he boasted he had interviewed disgraced, struck off doctor Andrew Wakefield who is behind the universally panned Vaxxed film.

Kate and Antony Golle

Northern NSW husband and wife team Kate and Antony Golle were behind the anti-vaccination spamming campaign, which bombarded politicians with letters protesting vaccination back in June. Mr Golle, a former chiropractor, has been a long time anti-vaxxer.

A social media post by Anthony Golle.
A social media post by Anthony Golle.

He is currently encouraging Victorians to download a cease and desist letter to protest the lockdown.

The couple are part of, and are encouraging their 44,000 followers to join, a class action with Melbourne lawyer Serene Teffaha against the lockdown.

Kate and Anthony Golle.
Kate and Anthony Golle.

Assorted Conspiracy theorists

A collection of like-minded conspiracy theorists connected on Facebook regularly change their group names to outsmart social media algorithms. They are behind the 5G, lockdown and "mandatory vaccination" protests planned for next week.

Fanos Panayides and Raphael Fernandez run various Facebook groups with thousands of members, promoting conspiracies around vaccinations and 5G technology which have been inexplicitly linked during the pandemic.

Photographer and conspiracy theorist Matt Lawson and 5G protester from Mullumbimby Zev Freeman are behind the Worldwide Unified Peaceful Action Against 5G, Millions rise for Australia and United collective Facebook groups.

Informed Medical Options Party

IMOP founder Michael O'Neill
IMOP founder Michael O'Neill

Michael O'Neill is the founder of the Informed Medical Options Party and failed NSW Senate Candidate in the federal election last year. He has protested No Jab No Play laws. He is married to Barbara O'Neill and the couple run a health retreat on the NSW mid-north coast. Mrs O'Neill was permanently barred from providing any health service last year after the Health Care Complaints Commission found she told people cancer was a fungus that could be cured with bicarbonate soda rather than through conventional medical treatment, and gave misleading and dangerous pregnancy and child-rearing advice on her website, online lectures and consultations with clients.

Barbara O'Neill.
Barbara O'Neill.


Candidates in the IMPO party include Tom Barnett from Brunswick Heads who claims to be a "holistic health practitioner" who holds no legitimate degrees or diplomas and claimed earlier this year that "You can"t catch a virus; it's impossible," in an online clip disputing the existence of coronavirus.

Queensland candidate Allona Lahn - a well-known vaccine refuser and "Natural Health Advocate and Freedom of Choice Ambassador" - calls Australia's vaccination program a "mass drugging agenda" and has organised community playgroups/schooling cooperatives for unvaccinated children.

Celebrities

Hollywood has Robert De Niro, Jim Carrey, Jenny McCarthy and Jessica Beal and Australia has Isabel Lucas.

Lucas lost her ambassadorship with charity Plan International Australia in April after posting on social media that she "didn't trust the path of vaccination".

The Home and Away and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen star appeared in a black mask and hoodie in a zoom call with conspiracy theorists Pete Evans, Matt Lawson, Zev Freeman and Serene Teffaha last weekend. "I'm here and I don't want to be anonymous, I do need to be careful about being outspoken because you can get dropped from charities," she said.

Lawyers

Melbourne lawyer and natural health advocate Serene Teffaha has organised a class action for people affected by COVID-19 measures including returned travellers, cross border travellers and "by all proposed mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations and/or threats to deny essential benefits, if the vaccination is not taken."

Serene Tehaffa.
Serene Tehaffa.

Nathan Buckley from G&B lawyers in Sydney insists he is not anti-vaccine but "pro-choice" and is crowd-funding his own legal fees to embark on various high court challenges to the Victorian lockdown, South Australia's No Jab No Play laws and recent new laws requiring flu vaccination for aged care facilities visits.

Mr Buckley also provides legal letters to aged care workers who wish to be exempt from mandatory flu vaccination and continue working with vulnerable elderly people.

Lawyer Nathan Buckley.
Lawyer Nathan Buckley.


Pauline Hanson

Hanson has courted controversy on vaccination since 2017 when she said it should be up to parents to do their own research and decide whether or not to vaccinate their children, but her point blank refusal to have an upcoming vaccine for COVID-19 last week served to play into the hands of the anti-vax movement.

Pauline Hanson. Picture: Alix Sweeney
Pauline Hanson. Picture: Alix Sweeney

"You have no right to say I have to have this vaccination, I won't be having it.

"To put a vaccine into my body that hasn't been tested, it's not happening. I will not have it, you will not force me to have it," she said.

Originally published as Are these Aussies our worst COVID threat?



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