Labour under fire for using party branding to promote Medsafe vaccine decision

Labour is under fire after using its party branding to promote Medsafe's decision to approve another COVID-19 vaccine.

Earlier on Tuesday, it was announced that Medsafe - New Zealand's independent regulatory authority responsible for approving medical products - had granted provisional approval for the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine.

This was trumpeted by Labour, which tweeted the news in a graphic coated in Labour branding. But this decision is being criticised by scientists, politicians and legal experts.

Senior law lecturer at Victoria University Dr Eddie Clark explained on Twitter why this was unwise.

"This is bad from the NZ Labour Party because taking credit for the decision of an independent regulator suggests control over it, which suggests lack of independence. And you don't want a political party (*not* the govt; a party) to control a regulator," he wrote.

Others described it as "absolutely inappropriate" and that Medsafe branding should have been used instead.

"Is it just me or is it entirely inappropriate for a political party to be boosting and branding what is an entirely independent regulatory decision?" Auckland University neuropsychopharmacologist Dr Suresh Muthukumaraswamy tweeted.

Auckland University public policy lecturer Dr Sarah Hendrica Bickerton warned it risks politicising the pandemic and vaccination response.

"The dangers of the politicisation of these things may cause non-compliance or lack of uptake of required policy approaches, and I think the risk is too large," she wrote on Twitter.

"The moment this tweet appeared in my feed today I found myself quite uncomfortable with it, and the risk of politicisation of this specific topic is where my concern lies. I feel this is a misstep."

The tweet is also under fire from the Opposition, with National's COVID-19 spokesperson Chris Bishop calling it "poor form from Labour".

"If they will take credit for independent decisions by a regulator will they also take responsibility for the slowest vaccine roll-out in the developed world?"

And ACT leader David Seymour says the Government should be focusing on the vaccine rollout instead.

"It shows a Government that sees COVID as an opportunity for marketing and communications rather than practical steps to get our way of life back," he says.

"What would be more helpful is if the Government had anticipated the Medsafe approval and had a plan to buy it and distribute it as soon as approval was given. Instead, the Prime Minister tells us that we'll have to wait until Cabinet works out what to do."

Medsafe and Labour have been contacted for comment.