COVID-19: Kāpiti College students confront anti-vaxxers that swarmed school's three entrances

Some students at Kāpiti College were made to feel "uncomfortable" and confused by an anti-vaccination protest held directly outside the school on Thursday morning.

But most were dismissive of material handed out, recognising it as "misinformed", the school says. 

Olive Armstrong, a Year 12 student at the school, told Newshub 20 to 30 people, many holding protest cards, gathered outside the college, at each of its three entrances. 

"As I'm coming around, I see all these people just holding up signs about us getting vaccines and just not to trust it basically. As I'm coming around, I'm just thinking, 'what the hell is going on?'."

Videos provided to Newshub by students show multiple adults standing on the side of the road right before one of the school's entrances holding large blue cards promoting claims by the anti-vaccination group Voices for Freedom. Some students confronted the protesters, calling them a "joke" and asking "what are you doing?"

Students were also given pamphlets by the group, making a number of claims about the vaccine. These fliers have been circulated by Voices for Freedom all year and Newshub has previously had them debunked by scientists

Tony Kane, the school's principal, told Newshub the cause of the protest was that there is going to be a vaccination clinic at the school next week. Dr Shelley Thomson from Kāpiti Youth Support, the local youth health provider, was also  coming to the school to speak to students about COVID-19 and the vaccine and to answer any questions, he said.

"From the school's perspective, we would defend the right of everyone to protest and to make their views heard.  The students generally found the whole thing entertaining and were dismissive of the material that was being handed out," he said.

"They recognised most of it as misinformed. We have kept an eye out for anyone who was upset by it, but we think that there were few."

Armstrong, who is fully vaccinated herself, said it was strange for the protesters to gather outside the school.

"I started talking to one of my friends about it and didn't really understand why they were doing it today, first off, when we are just having an assembly talking about what the vaccine is about," she said.

"It was just like a little bit uncomfortable just having all these people kind of just talking about it… really uncomfortable coming into school."

Armstrong said the protest was the main conversation at school on Thursday. 

"Most people just not really understanding why they were coming today when all we're doing is having an information assembly about it… and just because, we're a school, we're a college, we're not really like a doctor's office.

"It's a one-off thing that we're offering to students that don't have the ability to go out and get it or are living far from vaccination centres or something, and it's just giving them access to it, like [the school] haven't pushed it on us or anything.

"It was just kinda like 'what the heck is going on'."

She praised staff members who made sure students were fine after arriving at school.

"We did actually have teachers be real comforting when me and my friend pulled back into the car park, we were sitting there talking about it and a bunch of teachers were coming up to students just making sure that they're okay and that they felt safe, which was really comforting.

"It was real uncomfortable coming to school, just having a bunch of people forcing their views on you." 

So what's Armstrong's message to anyone considering another protest directly outside a school in the future? 

"It's a school, it's not really a doctor's office, we're just trying to help kids out if they do want it. It's everyone's choice, and a lot of the teachers have just been like, obviously, it's everyone's choice if they want to give it or not, but they're not forcing it on us, they're not forcing us to get it or anything.

"They're not saying, don't come to school if you're not vaccinated, they're just giving us the option and making it more accessible for everyone."

Of New Zealand's 5315 cases since the pandemic began, 686 are aged between 10 and 19, with many of those infected during the Delta outbreak being below 30.

The vaccine, which anyone aged over 12 can receive, is highly effective in reducing the chances of being infected, being hospitalised or dying if you get COVID-19. 

Of 2005 cases during the Delta outbreak, just 91 were fully immunised compared to 1132 who had had no doses of the Pfizer vaccine. Only three fully immunised people have been hospitalised, while 138 people with no doses have been.