Anti-vaccination stance by doctor could lead to Medical Council action

A New Zealand doctor who advised his patients he didn't support COVID vaccines for "children and pregnant and fertile women" could face action from the Medical Council.

The doctor, identified as Dr Matt Shelton by New Zealand filmmaker and documentarian David Farrier, operates out of Plimmerton Medical Centre.

The message, according to Farrier, was unsolicited and the woman who received it isn't pregnant.

Shelton says the views are his own and not the consensus and signs off "with gratitude, and respect for the informed decision this has to be."

That, however, may not be enough to avoid potential sanction.

Dr Curtis Walker, the chair of Medical Council of New Zealand, told Newshub there is no place for anti-vaccination messages in professional practice, nor any promotion of anti-vaccination claims including on social media and advertising by health practitioners. 

"The Medical Council has received a number of notifications this morning about a GP who sent a text message to patients that said he does not support COVID vaccinations." Walker told Newshub.

"Council takes this matter very seriously. We are taking immediate steps which include communicating with the doctor today. Our primary focus is public safety."

The Medical Council expects doctors to comply with its published standards of clinical and ethical practice and has the ability to review a doctor's compliance "whenever it has reason to consider a doctor is failing to do so."

"If a doctor is not complying with the standards set by Council, there are a number of options available to Council," Walker continued.

"In the most serious cases [this] can include suspension or placing conditions on a doctor’s practice to protect the public from harm and referring the notification to a Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) for further investigation."

Any investigation would be carried out by a PCC, which is independent of the Medical Council.

The PCC would determine whether or not charges would be laid, with the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal (HPDT).

"The HPDT hears and determines disciplinary proceedings brought against health practitioners, including deciding what sanctions should be put in place," Walker said.

In the text message, Shelton directed those that received it to a website called New Zealand Doctors Speaking Out with Science (NZDSOS).

He was one of the signatories of an open letter the group sent to the New Zealand Government, expressing concerns about the Pfizer vaccine.

The site uses language common among anti-vaccination groups, with carefully worded statements on the effectiveness and legality of the vaccine. 

It also contains a prominent link to the Nuremberg Code, a set of principles for human experimentation created as a result of the Nuremberg trials at the end of the Second World War.

Shelton previously appeared on Peter Williams' talkback show in July, as reported by Stuff.

On the show "Shelton claimed authorities were hiding the truth about adverse reactions to the vaccines. He provided no evidence to back this up," Stuff reported.

The website said Shelton also told Williams the roll-out of the vaccines should be stopped as it was "indefensible in the light of science".

Plimmerton Medical Centre has been contacted for comment.