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‘‘I have grave concerns that mandating all staff to receive a Covid vaccination is both potentially dangerous and unethical,’’ Ilka Beekhuis wrote in an email to SDHB chief executive Chris Fleming this month, before government mandates had come in.
Ms Beekhuis said she had been told of various reactions to the Covid-19 vaccine and people had complained to her that those were not being acknowledged by their doctors.
SDHB medical officer of health Dr Susan Jack responded yesterday that the benefits of the Pfizer vaccine greatly outweighed the risks of both Covid-19 infection and vaccine side-effects.
Any adverse reactions after vaccination could be reported to the Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring (Carm), Dr Jack said.
‘‘You don’t have to be a health professional to submit a report and you don’t need to be certain that the reaction was caused by the vaccine,’’ she said.
Medsafe was constantly reviewing and reporting on possible adverse events.
Complaints about clinical care could be made to the Medical Council of New Zealand, Dr Jack said.
The Pfizer vaccine was safe, effective and had gone through all the usual safety checks in many countries, including New Zealand, she said.
University of Otago immunologist Prof James Ussher said there were few adverse effects and they were very rare.
There had been close monitoring across hundreds of millions of doses.
Writing on October 7, Mr Fleming said the Government was likely to make it mandatory for health staff to be vaccinated ‘‘at some stage’’.
‘‘I am now asking all staff, in all roles, whether clinical, non-clinical, behind the scenes, or on the front line, to ensure you are double-vaccinated against Covid-19 as a matter of urgency.’’
The virus was very transmissible, he reasoned.
Ms Beekhuis told Mr Fleming she was not anti-vax, but she did not support mandating the Covid-19 vaccine for staff.
‘‘Most medical interventions have risks, and where there is risk, there must be choice.’’
Ministry of Health chief medical officer Dr Andrew Connolly said the vaccine dramatically reduced a person’s risk of needing hospital treatment, significantly reduced the risk of spreading Covid-19, massively reduced the risk of death and there was growing evidence vaccination dramatically reduced the chances of ‘‘long Covid’’.
‘‘Each person needs to make their own decision, but I just ask everyone to consider the societal benefits of vaccination vs personal concerns about risks from the vaccine,’’ he wrote on October 8.
Ms Beekhuis said she had been approached by ‘‘an alarming number of people in our community who are experiencing life-changing reactions to the Covid vaccination’’.
‘‘I’ve personally been told of heart attacks, blood clots, renal problems, unexplainable pain, a loss of menstruation, and breast pain.’’
Dr Jack said people could have illnesses after vaccination, but most would be coincidental.
‘‘However, any illnesses or conditions that come on after a vaccination should be reported through the Carm system so that they can be reviewed.’’
Prof Ussher said background rates of such conditions needed to be considered.
Mr Fleming said he understood some staff would be vaccine-hesitant and people had free choice ‘‘in normal settings’’.
‘‘We are not in normal times and we must do everything we can to protect you, your colleagues, our patients and the wider community.’’