25 Nov 2021

'Don't rely on social media' - Northland DHB debunks anti-vax illness rumours

6:32 pm on 25 November 2021

Northland DHB's chief executive is dispelling rumours spread by anti-vaxxers he has had a severe heart attack after a Covid-19 vaccination.

Nurses in the Far North Vaccinating during the lockdown

Nurses in the Far North Vaccinating during the lockdown Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Dr Nick Chamberlain said he was shocked about the false claims - which had been heard by his daughter in Wellington.

He said it was another example of how dangerous statements from anti-vaxxers can be, and this time it has affected his whānau directly.

"I've also heard about people from Australia calling to check I was okay."

He said the rumour was that he had had the heart attack after getting a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

However, bookings do not open for booster shots until tomorrow, and start to actually be administered starting Monday.

He encouraged those lacking confidence in the vaccine to speak with a medical provider to get reliable information.

"Don't rely on what you read on social media, please. Instead, speak to a member of your whānau or your local iwi or Māori Health Provider. Or make an appointment with your GP.

"They are offering free appointments to patients who have questions and concerns about the vaccine.

"Yes, you can still get Covid-19 if you're vaccinated the same way you can still get pregnant if you use contraception and the same way you can die from a car accident if you use a seatbelt. That doesn't mean you're not going to use contraception or a seatbelt.

"The vaccine is not a cure. It's a layer of protection - up to 95 percent and protects you from getting severe symptoms from the virus so that you don't die.

"It also reduces the risk of spreading the virus so that other people you care about don't die.

"Unfortunately, we have seen from this latest outbreak how quickly this virus has spread within our region, and we need our population to get vaccinated before our borders open."

Northland's vaccination rate is sitting at 84 percent for first doses and 75 percent for second doses. The rates are lower for Māori with 76 percent for first doses and 61 percent for second doses.

Dr Chamberlain said nearly 10 percent of the population refused childhood immunisations.

"And I suspect we've got about 10 percent in Northland that are anti-vax, which is extremely high."

"So what we need to do is have every person who is not against vaccination, but is still deciding, vaccinated."

The clock is ticking on boosting those rates with thousands of people likely to head north when Auckland's borders open on 15 December.

Dr Chamberlain said he was very concerned about what that would mean for Northland and encouraged unvaccinated visitors to stay away.

He encouraged anyone who is unsure about the vaccine to not just rely on social media but speak to trusted whānau, local iwi or Māori Health Provider, or make an appointment a GP, who are offering free sessions to patients with questions and concerns about the vaccine.

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