DUNCAN MCMILLAN AGAINST STUFF

Case Number: 3192

Council Meeting: JANUARY 2022

Decision: No Grounds to Proceed

Publication: Stuff

Ruling Categories: Accuracy
Columnists Opinion
Comment and Fact
Misleading

Overview

CASE NO: 3192

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

FINDING: INSUFFICIENT GROUNDS TO PROCEED

DATE: JANUARY 2022

Stuff ran an article on January 17, 2022, headlined Children’s Covid-19 vaccine is safe and effective. The article was an opinion piece by Dr Siouxsie Wiles, a microbiologist and associate professor at the University of Auckland.

Professor Duncan McMillan complained the author’s claims that these vaccines are safe and effective were arbitrary, gave a false sense of security and contradicted what had been reported in overseas media such as Reuters.

Reuters noted that after two doses of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines the efficacy against symptomatic infection from Omicron is only about 30 percent. Statistics had also revealed that increases in Covid-19 were unrelated to levels of vaccination across 68 countries and 2947 counties in the United States.

He said the author was either incompetent or deliberately misinforming the public. The author had not examined all available data before making sweeping statements. It was misleading and irresponsible and he believed it would only cause more spread by people who think they are bullet-proof.

The Media Council considered this complaint under Principle 4 (comment and fact) and 5 (columns, blogs, opinion and letters). The article was opinion and clearly identified as such. The author’s view that the vaccine was safe was based on the results of a child vaccination programme in the United States where 8.7 million doses were administered in November and December. Just 100 serious adverse reactions were reported – most related to fevers and vomiting, 12 children had seizures and there were no deaths related to the vaccine.

She did not cite evidence to support her view that the vaccine is effective. However, her view is consistent with Ministry of Health advice that:

The Pfizer vaccine is highly effective. That means if immunised children and young adults do develop COVID-19, they’re far less likely to fall seriously ill and less likely to transmit the virus to others.

For children aged 5 to 11, clinical trial results showed the Pfizer vaccine was 90.7% effective against getting COVID-19 symptoms, and no participants developed severe COVID-19.

Professor McMillan may disagree with the author, but a difference of opinion does not prove that her article was not factually based or that Stuff breached any of the Media Council’s principles.

There were insufficient grounds to proceed.

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