Mayor cancels screening of video opposing vaccination

Nelson Mayor Rachel Reese. Photo: NZME
Nelson Mayor Rachel Reese. Photo: NZME
A South Island mayor has stepped in and ordered the cancellation of a community event where a controversial Covid-19 vaccination video was to be screened.

Belgian virologist Dr Geert Vanden Bossche, who is in the video, has come under fire recently after he published a "manifesto" criticising the global response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

He also wrote an open letter to the World Health Organisation outlining his stance around the "public health emergency of global concern".

Vanden Bossche called for the "immediate cancellation of all ongoing Covid-19 mass vaccination campaigns".

He goes on to say the current vaccinations won't work and will only see the pandemic increasingly get 'out of control'.

He believes that vaccinations that work in a different way are needed instead.

A major US university has described the manifesto as "alarming" and "scary and misguided".

A screening of a video of Vanden Bossche was set to screen at a meeting scheduled at a community centre in Stoke, near Nelson, last week.

An ad for the event ran in a local newspaper, and pamphlets were distributed in the Nelson area.

It is not clear who was organising the event, to be held at the Greenmeadows Community Centre, owned by the Nelson City Council.

Dr Geert Vanden Bossche. Photo: Supplied via NZH
Dr Geert Vanden Bossche. Photo: Supplied via NZH
The Herald was alerted to the event by a concerned local and others complained to the council.

Mayor Rachel Reese took action, directing the booking to be cancelled.

"The booking was accepted by the centre staff without knowing the topic of the meeting, and once council staff were made aware of the nature of the talk they raised health and safety concerns with the mayor," a council spokesperson said.

Reese told the Herald she could not provide support for an event booking that "undermines critical public health outcomes".

"Vaccination will provide the greatest health benefit that the community can participate in and I support a relentlessly positive approach to combating Covid-19," she said.

"When I reflect on the efforts of our community over the last year, from the dedication of medical staff to the efforts of essential workers and the commitment of every household, I know Nelson is committed to doing what is right when it comes to Covid-19.

"So much effort has gone into our successful response so far, the last thing we want to do now is to allow false information to undermine our strong position."

"Nelson City Council will do everything it can to support the vaccine rollout, and I am looking forward to Nelson residents getting the protection they need."

Nelson Marlborough Health's chief medical officer Dr Nick Baker told the Herald he did not support the provision of information that was "not based on evidence and that might mislead our community".

"New Zealand is about to roll out a substantial, and well-organised vaccine programme," he said.

"Millions of people have safely received their vaccine already and the science shows that it is safe and effective.

Baker said there was further "vaccine misinformation" circulating around the Nelson area.

He urged people to look to the authorities and credible experts for the right information.

"There is more information, both reliable and unreliable, available than ever before," he said.

"It's important that people are selective about the information they use to make decisions, it can be easy to be taken in by scams and hoaxes.

"We all need to seek out good and evidence-based information to influence our key decisions like who we give money to and vaccination."

Baker said vaccination is one of the most successful actions in public health "since the separation of sewerage from drinking water".

"It has saved countless lives and endless misery for millions and will continue to do so," he said.

"Although the Covid-19 vaccines we have access to have been developed quickly - no shortcuts were taken with regard to safety and effectiveness.

"There is a lot of very good evidence-based information available, and to varying degrees of detail."

He urged people to visit the Unite Against Covid-19 or Medsafe NZ websites for accurate information on New Zealand's vaccine situation.

"Whether a summary, or a full scientific report, these information sources are the ones you can trust - unlike a random flyer put in your mailbox or under your windscreen wiper that does not even say where it has come from," Baker said.

"Misinformation and conspiracy theories are circulating in this way.

"It is not accurate or useful information. It's junk mail and can be treated as such."

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