Surgical intubation equipment.
Australian doctors are not allowed to vaccinate people without consent while they are sedated. Image by Dan Himbrechts/AAP IMAGES

COVID vaccine without consent claim tries to sedate the truth

Nik Dirga April 21, 2022

The Australian government has given doctors permission to vaccinate people under sedation without consent.


False. Vaccination under sedation is allowed in special circumstances, but consent is always required.

An anti-vaccine mandate activist claims an Australian government document gives doctors permission to vaccinate sedated patients for COVID-19 without consent.

Graham Hood, a source of several false COVID claims debunked by AAP FactCheck (see here, here and here), makes the assertion in a Facebook video posted on April 10 (screenshot here).

Mr Hood’s latest claim is also false.

Experts and the Department of Health told AAP FactCheck the claim misrepresents an Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) statement on sedation for COVID-19 vaccination in special circumstances, but only with patient consent.

Similar claims have been shared elsewhere on Facebook (here and here) and on Twitter (here and here). 

Mr Hood says he was made aware of the information through a Facebook post from Queensland Liberal National Party senator Gerard Rennick, who has a history of sharing anti-vaccine information which AAP FactCheck has debunked.

In the video, Mr Hood says: “This document gives doctors permission to sedate children prior to vaccinating. It says if anyone is anxious, or anyone is upset about being vaccinated – and why would that be? It would normally be because they’re coerced into doing it … The other most sinister thing in this document is doctors who are conducting a medical procedure in hospital – if you’re going in to have your appendix out, for example, and you’re sedated for that surgery, doctors have permission to vaccinate you without your consent” (video mark 2min 45sec).

He later says: “Under the Australian government health department letterhead is a document that enables doctors to sedate people to be vaccinated and vaccinate people while they’re under anaesthesia undergoing other procedures against their will” (video mark 7min 13sec).

The document Mr Hood refers to is an ATAGI statement from April 6 which provides guidance for the use of sedation when administering COVID vaccines for people with anxiety disorders, needle-phobia and behavioural disorders.

ATAGI, which advises the federal health minister on immunisation issues, states that sedation can be an option “in some special circumstances”, but “should not be used as a first line option” or “as a measure to enforce compliance with vaccination requirements”.

The statement also provides advice on vaccination during unrelated elective procedures, adding it “may be appropriate for some patients and should be strongly promoted when possible as it could avoid the need for a separate episode of sedation”.

But the document makes clear that consent “must be obtained prior to each dose from the patient” or “where the patient does not have capacity to give consent, from the parent, guardian or substitute decision-maker”.

A Department of Health representative told AAP FactCheck in an email that Mr Hood’s claim is false, confirming the details of the ATAGI document.

“There is no truth to the claim that doctors have permission to vaccinate a person under sedation without consent,” they said.

Daryl Cheng, medical lead for the Melbourne Vaccine Education Centre, had his 2018 paper on paediatric immunisations under sedation cited in the ATAGI advice.

“Opportunistic immunisation under sedation is not the same as immunisation without asking for consent,” Dr Cheng told AAP FactCheck in an email.

“Sedation and/or general anaesthetic has its own risks, and so is not something clinicians do without due consideration and consent from parents/guardians.”

Dr Cheng added: “Any test, immunisation or procedure, just like surgery, requires informed consent before it is undertaken.”

Adjunct Associate Professor Bob Davis, chair of the Specific Interests Disability network for the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, has spoken in favour of the advice.

He told AAP FactCheck that the Facebook video was misleading.

“He (Mr Hood) has clearly misquoted the ATAGI document which clearly states that doctors need consent of the patient or their medical decision maker,” he said in an email.

“I guess if you shake a piece of paper hard enough it will support your argument no matter what it says.”

The Verdict

The claim the government is allowing Australian doctors to administer COVID vaccines to people under sedation against their will is false. The claim misrepresents a federal government document which provides guidance for vaccinating people with anxiety disorders, needle-phobia or behavioural issues. Experts and the Department of Health confirmed to AAP FactCheck the document explicitly states consent is required.

False – The claim is inaccurate.

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