Coronavirus: Experts say only 'a tiny group' shouldn't get vaccinated against COVID-19 - so who are they?

Experts say there would be very few Kiwis with a genuine medical excuse not to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

With growing concern the Delta variant of the virus might be here to stay, getting as many people vaccinated as possible is seen as key to reopening the country and lifting Auckland's tough level 3 restrictions as soon as possible

But there are groups and individuals spreading false information about the vaccines - some of them being health professionals, others unqualified but with significant online followings.

"Early on we had lots of people with lots of other health problems saying, 'I really want to get the vaccine, can I have it?" Peter McIntyre, a medical advisor to the Immunisation Advisory Centre, told The Project. 

"And now we're at the point where you've got people who actually are reluctant and not sure because they've got these health problems. We really need to reassure them it's okay." 

At present in New Zealand, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has been approved for everyone aged 12 and over. So far fewer than half of all eligible Kiwis have been fully vaccinated, with the rate of uptake slowing down after spiking in August. 

While some people are opposed to having the vaccine on moral or ethical grounds, there are very few who can't have it for genuine medical reasons, experts say. 

"The only people who shouldn't take this vaccine are those who are allergic to the ingredients on the vaccine," said Siouxsie Wiles, a microbiologist at the University of Auckland. "Usually that's something called polyethylene glycol - which is in the little fatty coat the vaccine is wrapped up in. It's safe to take this vaccine if you have other allergies - like food allergies and things."

Few people would know if they have this allergy before getting vaccinated. That's why people are typically kept on site for 20 minutes after a jab to make sure nothing's wrong. 

Dr McIntyre said it would be just "a tiny group", who shouldn't get at least the first jab - who "might have had a really bad anaphylaxis, which is a really bad immune reaction to a vaccine in the past".

Having another common allergy - such as to peanuts or another food, or latex - is no reason to avoid it, he said, as it doesn't contain either of those - nor does it have animal products, antibiotics, DNA, eggs, human embryos, gluten, pork, soy, 5G, microchips or graphene.

The evidence to date suggests the Pfizer vaccine is also safe for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers and people with cancer and offers better protection than natural-acquired immunity via infection. 

"For some people who are immunocompromised or do have some forms of cancers, the vaccine might not be as protective as it is for everybody else. That's why you should still get vaccinated, but it's also why everyone around you needs to be vaccinated too," said Dr Wiles. 

"There's no disease, there's no other problem that prevents you from having this vaccine," said Dr McIntyre. 

"We've had so many hundreds of millions of people who've received the Pfizer vaccine now. We know that the benefits so far exceed the risks, particularly if you've got other health problems." 

Pfizer is currently seeking approval in the US for use of its vaccine in children as young as five, with trials suggesting it's safe for them too, and hopefully in time it'll also be proven safe in children down to six months.