A New Zealand man is under investigation by the country's Ministry of Health, accused of receiving up to 10 COVID-19 vaccinations in one day on behalf of those hoping to thwart strict vaccination requirements.
Reports from The New Zealand Herald and Stuff indicated on Friday that the unnamed man had allegedly been paid by several people who were seeking to fake their vaccination records. The man is accused of visiting multiple vaccination sites and pretending to be the individuals who had allegedly hired him.
Astrid Koornneef, the group manager operations for the ministry's COVID-19 vaccination and immunization program, confirmed in a statement to Newsweek that the country's health officials were "aware of this issue" and were "taking this matter very seriously" while working with other government agencies.
The potential medical consequences of receiving 10 vaccines in a single day are unknown, although the risk of side effects from the vaccines are known to increase significantly with increased dosage. Koornneef urged "people who have had more vaccine doses than recommended" to "seek clinical advice as soon as practicable."
Koornneef also noted that those who get vaccinated "under an assumed identify" would not have accurate vaccination records of their own, in addition to any potential legal issues raised by committing fraud and considerations about putting the health of others at risk.
"To assume another person's identity and receive a medical treatment is dangerous," Koornneef said. "This puts at risk the person who receives a vaccination under an assumed identify and the person whose health record will show they have been vaccinated when they have not."
"Having an inaccurate vaccination status not only puts you at risk, it puts your friends, whānau [extended family] and community at risk, and the healthcare teams that treat you now and in the future," she added. "Medical practitioners operate in a high-trust environment and rely on people to act in good faith to share information accurately to assist with their treatment."
Almost 80 percent of New Zealand's population has received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, including 94 percent of the eligible population. The country enacted strict public health restrictions in the early days of the pandemic and had very few cases until a summer surge was prompted by the emergence of the Delta variant.
New Zealand has since shifted its focus away from restrictions like lockdowns in favor of restrictions on the unvaccinated. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern recently introduced a new "traffic light" system for dealing with the ongoing pandemic, with restrictions varying depending on the severity of outbreaks in local areas.
Businesses remain open to the vaccinated only even in the most-restricted "red" areas, with proof of vaccination required. The move enraged anti-vaccine activists, who quickly launched protests. Illegal schemes of paid vaccination-by-proxy to fake records had already started months before the new system was in place, according to Stuff.