National leader Judith Collins is defending former MP Matt King after he voiced anti-vaccination opinions in a lengthy social media video.
King, who was voted out as Northland MP in the 2020 election, posted the 40-minute video last week. In the video, King was joined by University of Auckland epidemiologist Simon Thornley.
The video contained several conspiracy theories including COVID not being any worse than the flu and misinformation about the vaccine. It has been slammed as dangerous by University of Auckland epidemiologist Professor Rod Jackson.
"This is a severe disease and we have an evidence-based treatment where there is definitive evidence that it reduces the risk of severe disease and death by 95 percent, in that order," Jackson told RNZ.
"And we have someone who is questioning that evidence, who doesn't know what they're talking about, talking to an epidemiologist who doesn't know what he's talking about. I think it's dangerous, because people could die."
But on Wednesday, King's former boss Judith Collins defended him, telling The AM Show he's a "lovely guy".
"Matt King is a lovely guy and he genuinely is concerned about some of the information that he has received.
"It's not National Party policy, he's not an MP but I also think that if people have got information or misinformation that it is best to sit down and talk to them as best you can, but sometimes people are not going to change their minds until they see what happens in an unvaccinated pocket of the world when COVID gets there.
"It's like mandates, when people don't trust the Government and clearly they are not trusting all the information provided but let's not bag someone for not necessarily sharing our views."
King defended his video and criticised the media coverage of it in a Facebook post on Tuesday.
"I stand by my comments previously that I am against mandates, and I believe that the COVID response needs to be multi-layered - vaccinations are part of the response, not the only response.
"My views are mine, and I consider it my duty to have an open and honest conversation with people looking for an avenue to discuss the issues that they have questions or concerns about. There is an avalanche of information in the public arena - however, it lacks any critical thinking.
"The ability to debate issues can often alleviate concerns - discussion is a way to debate the issues. That is my intention, and I will continue to advocate for people who are looking to have an open and honest discussion, irrespective of which side of politics or issues they sit on."
He also took aim at the Government's vaccine rollout and mandates.
It's not the first time King has shared anti-vaccine opinions. In August King shared an anti-vaccine article which he described as "highly informative".
The article incorrectly claimed the COVID-19 vaccine was dangerous and downplayed the dangers of the virus. At the time Collins spoke out against King saying, "It's better to be vaccinated than not vaccinated".
The Pfizer vaccine is safe and effective against COVID-19. So far 3,806,051 first doses of the vaccine have been administered in New Zealand and 3,427,732 second doses. Ninety percent of the eligible population has had one dose while 81 percent is fully vaccinated. There have been 9088 cases and 35 deaths in New Zealand.