‘Deeply misleading’ NZ covid-19 leaflets cause distress to at-risk resident

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A NZ covid vaccination booth 140621
The Christchurch woman complaining about the Voices of Freedom leaflet says she had jumped at the chance to be fully vaccinated. Image: Simon Rogers/RNZ

By Katie Doyle, RNZ News reporter

A Christchurch woman is furious a flyer from the New Zealand disinformation group Voices For Freedom ended up in her letterbox.

It contains nine false or misleading claims about covid-19 and the vaccine, and asks readers “are you fed up with covid yet?”

The woman, who RNZ News has agreed not to name, said she had health problems that put her at serious risk of dying from covid-19.

She is now fully vaccinated, and said she had jumped at the chance to do it.

“My doctors have told me it’s what I should be doing, my specialists and all the people that take care of my health,” she said.

“I have a big team because my condition is rare and really severe and they’ve all told me to get it done.”

In a statement, Voices For Freedom said: “Over 500,000 Fed Up Flyers have been printed and distributed nationwide by thousands of Voice For Freedom supporters.”

Emotive language
Associate Professor and vaccinologist Dr Helen Petousis-Harris at the University of Auckland said the flyer was misleading and contained a lot of emotive language.

“Such as ‘banned’ and ‘we’re not allowed to know’ and ‘health authorities are ignoring this’ and ‘experimental’,” she said.

“So those are all sort of things that provoke an emotion, and the statements are sort of quite vague.

“But it leads you to kind of think that ‘maybe there must be some conspiracy going on here’, so it’s very misleading.”

Dr Petousis-Harris pointed to several claims in the flyer, including one stating that the Pfizer vaccine was “experimental”.

“The vaccine completed it’s efficacy and safety assessments and there were no steps missed,” she said.

“As with all vaccines, studies can go on for sometime after that to make sure you use those very precious participants for as long as you can.”

Vaccine studies in play
Dr Petousis-Harris said vaccine studies were always in play when products were being used, and studies would always be going on.

“It’s not experimental. I think that’s deeply misleading,” she said.

“It’s authorised all over the world and hundreds of millions of people have received it, so many lives have been saved.”

Dr Petousis-Harris said people need to be very careful when researching the vaccine and seek information from places of expertise, like research institutes.

The Advertising Standards Authority confirmed it had received three complaints about the flyer.

It has also received a complaint regarding a separate mask leaflet also printed by Voices For Freedom.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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