Coronavirus: National MP Mark Mitchell backs vaccine after accidentally appearing to endorse anti-vax views

A National MP says an email circulating online in which he appears to express anti-vaccination views was the result of misreading a question, and he's "not someone who holds anti-vax views".

Anti-vaccination group Voices for Freedom shared a screenshot of an email exchange between Mark Mitchell and a person called 'Sarah' on its Twitter page on Friday afternoon.

Sarah asks a number of questions predicated on misinformation about COVID-19 and the Pfizer vaccine, such as children not being at risk of the disease, that protection from the vaccines only last five months and that countries with high vaccination rates are experiencing the "highest" number of cases.

In one question, Sarah asks why there are vaccine mandates if the vaccinated and unvaccinated are "just as likely to pass on the virus", especially since - in Sarah's view - the vaccinated "are more likely to attend work/events while infectious". 

Responding, Mitchell said "National completely agrees", saying that's why the party wants to know when the mandates on various workforces will end. 

Real-world data has shown unvaccinated people are far more likely to contract the virus and spread it, and also more likely to die from COVID-19

Voices for Freedom, whose members have attended illegal protests during the Auckland lockdown, said on Twitter it showed "politely expressing your concerns with our elected officials is one way to shift the dialogue". 

Mitchell told Newshub as an MP, he deals "with large amounts of correspondence from a broad range of individuals and organisations".

"Often this correspondence is in relation to portfolio areas an MP may not be directly involved in and may promote views we do not necessarily agree with or endorse.

"National has made its position on vaccination and vaccination mandates very clear. The answer in which I said that National completely agreed with the statement was based on an incorrect interpretation of the question. This is not my view, nor that of National."

He went on to say the vaccine is the "best way for people to protect themselves, their whanau and the country", and that National supports the vaccination rollout.

"However, Government mandates that require use of proof of vaccination should be limited and cease to be used after vaccine targets are hit.

"National believes in private property rights, free enterprise and freedom of choice. We are comfortable with businesses requiring proof of vaccination for entry - for example, a bar deciding they will only serve vaccinated customers, or a music festival deciding vaccination is required to attend. However, this should be over to the business to determine and over to individuals to decide.

 "I'd like to take this opportunity to be clear that I am not someone who holds anti-vax views. I ask my Whangaparāoa community and all New Zealanders to go and get vaccinated. It is the most important tool in our fight against COVID and is perfectly safe."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Saturday told Newshub Nation use of vaccine certificates wouldn't be permanent, and would be lifted once high vaccination rates were achieved nationwide.  

Earlier this week, National MP Harete Hipango was spotted at an anti-vaccination protest in Whanganui. She later claimed she thought the protest was about something else.