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Health worker spreads Covid-19 vaccine misinformation: Te Whatu Ora launches employment investigation

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After a health worker tried spreading misinformation, Te Whatu Ora says vaccines are safe and effective and people should keep up to date with their shots to protect themselves and their communities. Photo / Warren Buckland

Te Whatu Ora has launched an employment investigation after saying a health agency worker spread misinformation about Covid-19 vaccines.

The worker had no clinical background or expert vaccine knowledge, Te Whatu Ora said.

He is no longer at work.

The chief executive of the health department, Margie Apa, said: “What he is claiming is completely wrong and ill-informed and his comments demonstrate this.”

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Apa said Te Whatu Ora wanted to remind people vaccines were safe and effective and they should keep up to date with their shots to protect themselves and their communities.

“Sadly, we have continued to see conspiracy theorists disseminating false and harmful misinformation,” she said.

Te Whatu Ora Health New Zealand chief executive Margie Apa. Photo / Samuel Rillstone
Te Whatu Ora Health New Zealand chief executive Margie Apa. Photo / Samuel Rillstone

“We assure people there is no evidence whatsoever that vaccination is responsible for excess mortality in New Zealand and that they can continue to have confidence in the vaccine.

“Publicly available data shows that four deaths in New Zealand are possibly linked to adverse reactions following Covid-19 vaccination.

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“This is in the context of 3361 people whose deaths have to date been directly attributed to Covid-19 in New Zealand, with more than 12.6 million vaccines administered to eligible New Zealanders as of October 2, 2023.”

Apa said there was a chance some people would fall ill or die from pre-existing conditions shortly after vaccinations, “especially if they are elderly”.

“The Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring, in conjunction with Medsafe and the Independent Safety Monitoring Board, reviewed all reports of deaths to determine if the person experienced any events that may have been linked to vaccination and had the potential to cause death,” she said.

“In addition to this, the Covid-19 Vaccine Independent Safety Monitoring Board has reviewed data published in safety reports to compare natural death rates to observed death rates following vaccination.

“In the monitoring period for the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine [February 19, 2021, to September 30, 2022], the observed number of deaths was less than the expected number of natural deaths.”

Apa said it was “extremely disappointing” that a staff member was misusing data to spread misinformation.

“We take the security of the information we hold extremely seriously, and this is a significant breach of trust. We are considering the privacy implications related to the staff member’s actions,” she said.

An inquiry into New Zealand’s response to Covid-19 is currently under way and being hailed as a vital exercise to help prepare for future pandemics.

Raphael Franks is an Auckland-based reporter who covers breaking news. He joined the Herald as a Te Rito cadet in 2022.



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