Of around 5,500 GPs in the country, the Royal New Zealand College of GPs estimates less than 30 are anti-Covid-19 vaccine.
But the organization’s medical director says a very small group has the potential to do a lot of harm.
Former anti-vaccine doctor Jonie Girouard was fined $300 by the Department of Health on Thursday for seeing patients face-to-face when they were not vaccinated against Covid-19 .
The North Canterbury GP and owner of the weight loss clinic was also filmed handing medical certificates to his Kaiapoi clinic as exemptions for the Pfizer vaccine in early December.
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On Monday, the Medical Council of New Zealand confirmed that she could no longer practice medicine in New Zealand after asking that her registration as a general practitioner be removed from the council’s register.
Royal NZ College of General Practitioners medical director Bryan Betty said when it came to doctors, very few held anti-vaccination views.
“There are around 5,500 GPs in New Zealand, and the vast majority are pro-vaccination.
“Physicians have a leadership role in the community, in terms of providing care…they must work from a solid scientific base.”
Hearing some choose to work on the basis of “pseudoscience” was “very disappointing”, he said.
“It’s a very, very small number, but [they are] disproportionate to their impact.
Medical Council Chairman Curtis Walker said there was no place for anti-vaccination messages in professional practice, “nor any promotion of anti-vaccination claims, including on social media and advertising by health practitioners”.
Practitioners who were struck off the register of the statutory body could no longer practice medicine in New Zealand, even if they applied to be struck off themselves – as Girouard had done.
Walker said if they wanted to re-register, the board had to be satisfied they were fit to practise.
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“The Board retains the ability to take action on any information it receives about the conduct of any practitioner during their registration.”
The Department of Health said it issued Girouard the $300 offense for breaching the 2021 Covid-19 Public Health Response (Vaccination) Order, an offense under the 2020 law. on the Covid-19 public health response.
“Specifically, it was for an unvaccinated [health practitioner] provide in-person health services,” a spokesperson said.
The ministry previously refused an exemption for Girouard to continue practicing without being vaccinated.
“It is essential that staff working in the health and disability sector are vaccinated as they deal with people who are at increased risk of serious illness from Covid-19.
Girouard narrowly dodged a much larger fine.
The infraction occurred on December 2 and, at the time, the infraction fee was set at $300.
Violation fees for such infractions were increased from $300 to $4,000 shortly thereafter.
Girouard was filmed by news center last month, offering an alternative option to people who opposed vaccination.
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A department spokesperson said that based on the available evidence, no further offenses appeared to have been committed under the orders it was responsible for enforcing.
“The ministry also wishes to remind New Zealanders that there is no statutory provision allowing a GP or other healthcare professional to grant exemption from vaccination… only the Chief Health Officer or Minister has this power.”
Police also confirmed they are not currently investigating the case.
New Zealand Medical Association president Dr Alistair Humphrey said he did not think a $300 fine was a deterrent and welcomed the increase.
“For those who saw the video, there were probably half a dozen people in that waiting room all paying $50 per pop for a consultation, all of whom appeared to be for the issuance of an exemption.
“So these people paid the fine.”
Humphrey filed a complaint with the police about Girouard’s activities, for fraud.
Girouard’s health chocolate business, Jonie G’s Guilt Free Chocolate, is also being questioned by the Department for Primary Industries over its use of a sugar substitute not yet approved in New Zealand.
The products are sweetened with allulose, a naturally occurring sweetener extracted from plants like corn or wheat, and extremely low in calories.
MPI has confirmed that Girouard’s use of allulose may not be legal.
Deputy General Manager of Food Safety Vince Arbuckle said any food company operating under the Food Act must ensure the food it makes is safe and appropriate.
“This includes compliance with Australian and New Zealand food standards code.
“As allulose is not currently authorized for sale, New Zealand Food Safety will work with the Waimakariri District Council [the local registration authority] look into this food business to ensure compliance.
Allulose is not technically banned, and the substance is permitted as a sugar substitute in some other countries.
A spokeswoman for Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) said allulose was considered a “novel food”, meaning further evaluation was needed before it could be used in food in Australia or New Zealand.
Additional reporting by Cate Broughton.