Pharmacist Shane Chafin will have his registration cancelled. Photo / Michael Cunningham
A pharmacist’s registration will be cancelled and he will have to fork out $55,000 in legal fees after he publicly denounced the Government’s Covid-19 response and heckled former Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, forcing her to shut down a press conference.
The Northland healthcare professional also made multiple claims that amounted to conspiracy and when he was formally advised of complaints against him which alleged professional misconduct, he publicly shared the name and address of the complainant.
Shane Chafin moved to New Zealand from America in 2014 and was employed as a pharmacist for the Northland District Health Board (NDHB) in Whangārei until 2019.
In late 2021, Chafin began appearing on podcasts and multiple websites, including far-right media outlet Counterspin Media, voicing his views on the Government’s Covid-19 response.
He also attended a press conference on November 2, 2021, in Kawakawa being held by then Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and heckled her with questions about the safety of the Pfizer vaccine.
This led to her shutting down the press conference.
While at stand-up, Chafin was recorded telling a police officer that Pfizer had developed a vaccine that produced “babies with flippers”.
Five complaints were lodged against him, including one from a Whangārei GP.
This triggered a professional misconduct charge being laid against him by the Professional Conduct Committee of the pharmacy council (PCC), alleging he acted in an unprofessional manner and failed to have regard for his professional responsibilities.
His hearing before the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal was held this week in Whangārei, despite his absence. It is believed Chafin has left the country.
The tribunal heard that between September 2021 and January 2022, Chafin appeared in 14 videos and online posts in which he made various comments about the Government’s response to the pandemic.
The PCC alleged Chafin placed the public’s health and wellbeing at risk by encouraging distrust of the public health response and creating fear about the Covid-19 vaccine.
In multiple videos, he openly stated he was a registered pharmacist and used his title to promote his views.
The PCC said this was concerning and amounted to misinformation.
Around November 15, 2021, the PCC sent a letter marked “private and confidential” to Chafin stating it had received complaints about his online presence.
The letter contained details of the complainants, which Chafin then posted to a public forum.
The PCC’s lawyers ordered him to remove the post but Chafin ignored the order and instead, posted the solicitors’ letter on the same group chat.
In a further disciplinary charge, it stated that by disclosing confidential information and then ignoring official advice, he failed to have regard for his professional responsibilities.
On January 28, 2022, Chafin went on a podcast and made comments about the pharmacy council being “extremely controlled and corrupt”.
One of his comments claimed the body was “used as a Government whip to enslave those people in their practice.”
Chafin was also accused of making a false declaration after he applied to the pharmacy council on June 22, 2022, to be removed from the register knowing that he was under investigation by the PCC.
“I wish to be removed from the register and declare that I am not aware of any criminal or disciplinary investigation or actions pending against me,” his declaration said.
Lawyer for the PCC, Anita Miller, told the tribunal Chafin’s comments across various platforms could be considered malpractice.
“The circumstances of this case justify the cancellation of Mr Chafin’s registration as a pharmacist to protect the public, uphold professional standards and maintain the integrity of the pharmacy profession,” she said.
“It is clear Mr Chafin’s demeanour changed from sceptical and questioning of the public health response to a vocal and potentially divisive conspiracy theorist.
“He became the self-described medical correspondent for Counterspin Media. Mr Chafin’s misconduct involved repeated lapses of fundamental aspects of professional practice over a number of months. This was not a one-off error of judgment.”
The PCC also submitted his behaviour had damaged the reputation of the pharmacy profession and he continued to show no insight or remorse.
“He has shown no willingness to acknowledge wrongdoing and there must be serious reservations about whether he can be rehabilitated.”
The tribunal found the charge against Chafin was established in its entirety.
It indicated they intended to cancel his registration, censure him and order him to pay $55,000 in legal fees. Chafin may also not reapply to be registered for three years.
He has been given a week to respond before the order becomes final.
Shannon Pitman is a Whangārei-based reporter for Open Justice covering courts in the Te Tai Tokerau region. She is of Ngāpuhi/ Ngāti Pūkenga descent and has worked in digital media for the past five years. She joined NZME in 2023.