DUNCAN MCMILLAN AGAINST NEW ZEALAND HERALD AND STUFF

Case Number: 3191

Council Meeting: JANUARY 2022

Decision: No Grounds to Proceed

Publication: New Zealand Herald

Ruling Categories: Accuracy

Overview

CASE NO: 3191

RULING BY THE NEW ZEALAND MEDIA COUNCIL ON THE COMPLAINT OF DUNCAN MCMILLAN AGAINST STUFF AND THE NEW ZEALAND HERALD

FINDING: INSUFFICIENT GROUNDS TO PROCEED

DATE: JANUARY 2022

 

Professor Duncan McMillan complained he was seeing persistent misinformation on Covid-19 and the promotion of vaccine booster shots. In his view “this is an extremely dangerous thing to be doing” and the media need to cease and desist. New vaccines are needed not the old ones and {promotion of boosters] will lead to a false sense of security and deaths.

He said the World Health Organisation has specifically warned against this. He cited an Al Jazeera brief published on January 11, 2022, which stated Repeating booster doses of the original Covid-19 vaccines is not a viable strategy against emerging variants.

The Media Council has looked at the five-page statement, published by a WHO technical advisory group that day, and finds that Professor McMillan may have been misled by the scant summary of it that he has relied on.

The advisory group statement said current Covid-19 vaccines provide a high level of protection against severe disease and death. However, Omicron was unlikely to be the last variant and vaccines that also had a high impact on infection and transmission were needed and should be developed.

The Media Council finds the complaint was based on a misunderstanding of WHO advice and a misreading of the Al Jazeera article.   The article says that repeating booster shots is not a “viable strategy” against emerging variants. It is not referring to single booster shots and is not saying they are ineffective.

The WHO report is not a warning against information as contained in the Ministry of Health guidance, which said the Pfizer vaccine provides protection against Omicron and that a booster dose provides better protection than the two-dose course.

The complainant has also not made a case against any items published by Stuff or the Herald or advanced any evidence that they have published misinformation on Covid-19 or booster shots.

There were insufficient grounds to proceed.

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