Coronavirus: Thousands of doctors and health professionals sign open letter urging Kiwis to get vaccinated

More than 6500 Kiwi medical professionals have signed an open letter urging Kiwis to get vaccinated, hoping to drown out the tiny minority who have expressed doubt. 

This Saturday has been dubbed 'Super Saturday', an effort to get six-figures' worth of jabs into arms with vaccination events across the nation, Auckland in particular. A televised 'Vaxathon' will also kick off at 12pm with famous faces lining up to push the vaccination message.

Experts say a vaccination rate above 90 percent will be required to return to any kind of normality where we don't have to go into lockdowns to stop COVID-19.

But anti-vaxxers have stepped up their efforts recently, spreading misinformation and falsehoods about the vaccine, which studies - and worldwide experience - have shown to be safe and highly effective at preventing serious illness and death

They've been boosted by renegade doctors like Peter Canaday, formerly of the Taranaki District Health Board; Matt Shelton, formerly of Plimmerton Medical Centre; and Elena Bishop, an anatomical pathologist at Southern Community Laboratories. 

"You might have heard of a doctor sharing anti-vaccination views on social media," an open letter signed by 6535 doctors, surgeons and other medical professionals published by Stuff on Saturday reads.

"There was a psychologist who did something similar. You’ve probably heard a lot less about the many, many more medical professionals who stand strongly in favour of vaccination against COVID-19. Here they are." 

All are currently registered with the New Zealand Medical Council. 

An expert in conspiracy theories told The AM Show on Friday we live in an "extremely anxious, frightening time", much of it spent online - particularly in lockdown - so it's easy to fall prey to misinformation.  

"A lot of people are not only searching for easy answers to that, but they're finding answers in certain communities. Conspiracy theories often provide people connection and community in a way that they haven't found before," said Nina Jankowicz, an internationally recognised disinformation researcher who's written a book on the topic and appeared before US government as an expert witness. 

"The stuff that keeps us most engaged online is often the craziest stuff, it's the most enraging stuff, it's the stuff that's going to make us react and click and share and send to our friends," said Jankowicz. "Unfortunately that is often conspiratorial content, and it's often disinformation and hate speech." 

So far, 82.7 percent of eligible Kiwis (12-plus) have had their first jab, and 59.3 percent their second. Elderly and Asian populations lead the way, with Māori and youth lagging behind.

Māori political leaders told The AM Show on Friday they understand why so few tangata whenua are getting vaccinated, but it has to change. 

We understand the apprehension and the lack of trust. But we do ask that you trust in us. Those that know us and those that know the front lines we have been on, we would never go on a front line that we didn't say we needed to be in it to actually look after our whanau and protect ourselves," said Te Pāti Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer.

"I absolutely acknowledge the generations of people feeling that they haven't always been part of the team of 5 million," Davidson said, appearing with Ngarewa-Packer and other political leaders on The AM Show. 

"We can look to our Māori experts, our kaupapa Māori health experts and doctors, who have stood up against the inequalities… I'm asking people to trust our kaupapa Māori experts… our tupuna had the wisdoms and the insights to understand how important it was to protect each other collectively. Our Māori health experts, who have fought for us forever, are very, very clear - do this to protect our whakapapa."