Health worker arrested after Covid vax data allegedly 'misused'
A health worker has been arrested and charged after allegedly misusing and disclosing vaccination data, while spreading misinformation about Covid-19, police told 1News this evening.
The 56-year-old man will appear in the Wellington District Court tomorrow charged with accessing a computer system for dishonest purposes, police said.
It comes after health officials today laid a police complaint against a staff member.
In addition, Te Whatu Ora has been granted an injunction that "prevents any publication of the data" by the Employment Relations Authority. However, authorities are still "working to confirm the full extent" of the man's activities.
Health New Zealand chief executive Margie Apa said earlier today that the agency was urgently working to deal with the "unauthorised disclosure and misuse of data by one of its staff members".
The man involved has allegedly spread misinformation about the Covid-19 vaccine.
Apa said: "What this individual is trying to claim about vaccines is completely wrong and ill-informed and their comments demonstrate this. The person has no clinical background or expert vaccine knowledge and appears to be trying to spread misinformation."
There is no evidence that vaccination is responsible for excess mortality in New Zealand.
More than 12.6 million vaccines have been administered to eligible Kiwis and over 3300 people have died from Covid-19. Only four deaths have been possibly linked to adverse reactions from vaccination.
She added: "From what we have established to date, the individual downloaded a large amount of vaccine-related information. We are still working to confirm the full extent of this activity."
Apa said the data, which was published on an overseas website, "appears to have been anonymised".
"Analysis of the released data is ongoing but work so far has not found any National Health Index numbers or personally identifiable information.
"We sought and were granted an injunction through the Employment Relations Authority that prevents any publication of the data to ensure that we can take all steps to protect the privacy of individuals."
She said the injunction has already been used to "have information taken down from an overseas website".
"Cyber security specialists are continuing to scan extensively for any other places where the information may appear."
The man allegedly involved is no longer at work and an employment investigation is now underway, according to Te Whatu Ora. A police complaint has also been laid.
On Friday, Health Minister Shane Reti told the Herald that he had been briefed about the man's alleged activities and added that "there are many conspiracy theorists out there".
Apa said the former staff member had "worked in the health system for a number of years", and had been "authorised to access data as part of his work".
The man "was locked out of our systems as soon as we became aware of the unauthorised use", she said.
She continued: "We take the security of our data very seriously and are extremely disappointed at this gross breach of trust by this individual and his alleged involvement in spreading harmful misinformation."
Apa said Te Whatu Ora is undergoing a "very detailed analysis of the data that was released". An investigation is also underway to "identify any learnings from the incident".
The public health agency is "working closely with other agencies, including the National Cyber Security Centre, the police, Department of Internal Affairs, and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner", she said.
"We have also been offering advice and support to some individual pharmacies and vaccination sites that were identified in an early video published in relation to the unauthorised disclosure and misuse of data."