Here’s What’s Really Going On In Those Craig Kelly Vaccine Spam Messages

We went down the rabbit hole so you don't have to.

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Did you receive another unwanted text over the weekend from Craig Kelly? If you haven’t, count yourself among the few — because it seems like plenty of Australians have been hit with the message.

We don’t advise you to click through of course — clicking on mysterious links in strange United Australia Party texts is not our jam — but we had to see what was going on, so we did this time. And, as expected, what we saw was a little questionable.

Sounds Scary, But It Isn’t

If you hit the link, you’ll be taken through to a report by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) called the ‘Database of Adverse Event Notifications — Medicines (DAEN)’. The report includes a list of 46,438 adverse event notifications relating to a search of Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and a third, which was unspecified. These adverse events include seizures (183 cases), cardiac arrest (40 cases), and acute kidney injury (20 cases).

This might sound scary — until you actually look at the details.

Firstly, it states up top that multiple adverse events may have been reported by some patients, the report of it doesn’t mean that the vaccine necessarily caused it. The list includes things like fatigue (6591 cases), headaches (16339 cases) falls (128 cases), diarrhoea (2278 cases), chills (6794 cases), dizziness (4636 cases). ATAGI clearly lists tiredness, headaches and chills as common side effects.

Also, below this four-page list, is a link to the full 73-page report, which clearly states under “Important information” on the first page, that “An adverse event report does not mean that the medicine is the cause of the adverse event”. The effects may be a coincidence or a symptom related to an underlying health condition.

The TGA told Junkee, “Reporting of an adverse event on the DAEN does not mean that the vaccine caused the event.¬†Information on the DAEN cannot be used to evaluate whether a medicine or a vaccine is safe.”

So Craig Kelly is not really publishing anything new, nor factually incorrect. So what’s this about then?

University of Sydney’s Dr Peter Chen who teaches media politics says it appears he’s engaging in vaccine hesitancy communication strategy. “I think he has identified that there is a constituency that is big enough to get a man like him elected to the Senate. And that is probably true,” says Dr Chen. “They are probably correlated to some degree with either low information voters or people who may not spend a lot of time in mainstream media spaces. And so that would necessitate him going directly to them.”

“I think linking to the Adverse report is a quite interesting strategy,” says Dr Chen. “And it [signals] the way in which people deploy all sorts of evidence to make their political claims.”

“[Linking to the report is] the equivalent of saying, ‘You should trust me because there’s evidence.’ And it’s not uncommon for politicians to say, ‘Look at the evidence to support my position.'”

So Aren’t These Messages Illegal?

While it may feel like it should be illegal for a politician to spam the nation, it’s actually not.

You received these texts because, under the Privacy Act, political parties are not considered an ‘organisation’ so are exempt from the laws — that is, the Do Not Call register.

“He has every legal right to communicate to potential voters,” says Dr Chen. “It’s an extremely, extremely expensive communication strategy…I read that he is actually just using a random number generator to send them, which makes it even more expensive, and completely untargeted. But we’ve seen that Clive Palmer and his campaigning have huge amounts of money to throw in this kind of brute force method in campaigning.”

Dr Chan notes that Craig Kelly is an elected member of parliament and he has a right to speak with the Australian people.¬†“We don’t have to agree with them. But we theoretically are supposed to listen to their perspective, because on that basis, then we make our decision to vote or not vote for them.”