New Zealanders who receive COVID-19 vaccines will still be covered by their health insurance policies, Southern Cross confirmed on Thursday.
Misinformation regarding vaccination and insurance cover began circulating on social media earlier this month, with one Facebook user claiming Southern Cross Insurance "will not pay out on life insurance policies or medical [policies] if one has had the COVID vaccine", citing a "highly reliable source".
"The reason for this is because it is an experimental medical procedure of high risk that has not been proven to be safe or effective," the person wrote. "They also said that they do not take directives from [the] Government."
The person who made the claim regularly shares posts online about COVID-19 vaccines, stemming from dubious sources.
The misinformation quickly spread to Twitter, where users spouted the same falsehoods.
Medsafe, New Zealand's medicines regulator, only approves a vaccine for use if it is confident it complies with international standards and local requirements for quality, safety, and efficacy. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is currently the only COVID-19 vaccine to be approved in New Zealand.
But Dr Stephen Child, the chief medical officer for Southern Cross Health Insurance, has debunked the claims, saying they are untrue and the company follows the recommendations of the Ministry of Health and Medsafe.
"We would like to reassure our health insurance and life insurance policyholders that their policies will continue in the usual way and in no way be impacted if they receive a Medsafe-approved COVID-19 vaccine," he said on Thursday.
Dr Child says if people need urgent health treatment after receiving a vaccine, they should go directly to a hospital's Accident and Emergency unit since acute care is provided by the public health system.
"ACC also provides treatment and support to people if they have an adverse reaction to any vaccine if their criteria for treatment injury is met. This is why vaccine-related treatment injury is a standard exclusion in our Health Insurance plans," Dr Child said.
"Therefore, as is current practice, if you develop symptoms from the COVID-19 vaccine or any other Medsafe-approved vaccine and require treatment, you can lodge a claim with ACC."
Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield says COVID-19 vaccines are being held to "exactly the same high safety standards" as all other vaccines in New Zealand. He says there are many reasons why COVID-19 vaccines were able to be produced quickly while still being held to high safety standards.
In an informational video about the vaccine, the Director-General of Health said: "There has been significant investment internationally into the development of these vaccines [and] researchers, policymakers, and Government officials around the world have been sharing information and working together to absolutely speed things up."
"There's been decades of previous research on related viruses that has been used to guide the development," he added.
"And finally, because there is such a large amount of this disease worldwide at the moment, researchers were able to show that the vaccine worked much earlier than when dealing with rarer diseases."
Information on COVID-19 vaccines, including the types of vaccines and how you can get one, can be found on the Ministry of Health's website.