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FACTCHECK: Was Stephen Donnelly right to say Verona Murphy was spreading  ‘anti-vax information’?

Last week, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly, interrupted another TD repeatedly in the Dáil as she spoke about why she believed vaccine passports were scapegoating “those people who decided for whatever reason that they didn’t want or couldn’t take the vaccine”.

Donnelly accused Independent TD, Verona Murphy, of spreading “anti-vax information in the chamber” after she said that there was no evidence that showed vaccine passports were effective in reducing [Covid-19] transmission and that “recent studies have shown that a vaccinated person is every bit as likely to transmit this virus as a non-vaccinated person”.


The Minister continued to interrupt the Wexford TD, prompting the Leas Ceann Comhairle to tell him that “the constant interruption of Deputy Murphy is unacceptable. Let her finish.”

Donnelly accused the Independent TD of reading “false” data into the record and of making “ridiculous” contributions to the debate.

Journalist Larissa Nolan notes that “it seems now if you say anything other than vaccinations are perfect in every way, you’re anti-vax. It’s a handy thought-terminating cliché to shut up and belittle anyone who raises legitimate questions.”

Verona Murphy was, in fact, referencing a study published in the medical journal, The Lancet, which found that Covid-19 can still be transmitted in the household after vaccination. The study found that “the viral load for unvaccinated people was similar to those who were vaccinated”.

So the Wexford TD was quoting from a study that has been widely-reported across the mainstream media. The Health Minister described her information as “anti-vax”.

Was it?



The term ‘anti-vax’ is bandied about a lot these days, but what is it generally held to mean?

Medical News Today and other publications say it’s used to describe anyone who believes that vaccines should not be used and are dangerous.

Does that apply to Deputy Murphy? The evidence shows it does not.

The Wexford TD told  Newstalk that she was “fully vaccinated” and that she believed “very much in vaccinations’ ‘. That would be an unlikely stance for someone who doesn’t believe vaccines should be used.

She also told the Dáil that “We have the highest vaccination rates in Europe. I would like to commend all of the hard-working staff in all of the vaccination centres who have been very confident in their roll out of the vaccine programme.”

But could the information she presented in the Dáil be described as “anti-vax information”.

Again, “anti-vax” information is generally held to assert that vaccines are dangerous, or being used to control people. Deputy Murphy made no such assertion.

As noted above, Murphy was quoting an important study published in the Lancet regarding viral loads in vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

Pointing out that “vaccination reduces the risk of delta variant infection and accelerates viral clearance”, the researchers also observed that: “nonetheless, fully vaccinated individuals with breakthrough infections have peak viral load similar to unvaccinated cases and can efficiently transmit infection in household settings, including to fully vaccinated contacts.”

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan has also warned fully vaccinated people that there are still risks involved with getting Covid-19 “even if those risks are substantially reduced”.  Chair of NPHET’s Coronavirus Expert Advisory Group, Cillian de Gascun, has said that “whilst vaccination reduces the risk of Delta infection, fully vaccinated individuals have viral loads similar to unvaccinated and can efficiently transmit infection in household settings, including to fully vaccinated contacts.

If quoting the Lancet and raising concerns about fully vaccinated people transmitting infection is tantamount to “anti-vax information” then it seems it’s a charge that could be laid against some of the most senior medical professionals in the country.

Deputy Murphy also told Newstalk that she believed that the goal of government policy should be to “minimise transmission”.

“The reality is there is a whole suite of measures Government should introduce to support those who are vaccinated. Ultimately, we have seen now that Government has put all the eggs into the vaccination basket. We do not have widespread antigen testing,” she said.

We find Stephen Donnelly’s charge that Verona Murphy was presenting “anti-vax information” to be FALSE.

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