Ex-prime minister Jacinda Ardern (r) and other "elites" were not the recipients of the exemptions. Image by Mark Mitchell/AAP PHOTOS

‘Elites’ exemption claim is conspiratorial nonsense

David Williams January 5, 2024

11,000 politicians and elites from New Zealand received an exemption for the COVID-19 vaccine.


False. The 11,000 figure refers to healthcare workers and the exemptions were temporary.

It’s being claimed that 11,000 politicians and elites in New Zealand were granted exemptions from the COVID-19 vaccine. 

This is false. The exemptions were for health and disability sector workers, not “elites and politicians”.

The exemptions were also temporary.

Many Facebook posts featuring the viral claim share a screenshot from the English translation of a German blog post, examples here, here, here, here and here

Exemption claim
 Many of the posts feature images of a German blog post 

The headline reads: “11,000 politicians and elites received an exemption for the Covid vaccination: This is shocking.”

The blog reports on a video conversation posted on X by British independent MP Andrew Bridgen featuring former NZ broadcaster and political candidate Liz Gunn, playwright Michael Gray Griffith and suspended doctor Paul Oosterhuis.

“Also, that thing’s come out from New Zealand was that Freedom of Information (FoI) that showed that they had 11,000 exemptions, most of them the politicians and the elite, really,” Mr Griffith says at video mark 1min 45 secs.

The FoI document referenced by Mr Griffith was a Te Whatu Ora Health New Zealand response to a question about applications for vaccine exemptions for healthcare workers.

It states that 478 applications for what is known as a Significant Service Disruption Exemption (SSDE) were received, and 103 granted, covering about 11,005 workers between November 13, 2021, and September 26, 2022.

Winston Peters
 The 11,000-figure rose to prominence after politician Winston Peters mentioned it during a debate. 

Te Whatu Ora Health New Zealand official Matt Hannant told AAP FactCheck the 11,005 figure had subsequently been revised down to 8051 after an audit.

But whatever the actual figure, the exemptions were for healthcare workers – not elites and politicians – and they were only temporary.

As AAP FactCheck has previously covered, all NZ MPs were fully vaccinated by the end of 2021.

This obviously includes former prime minister Jacinda Ardern, who features in many of the posts (see here).

Mr Hannant said NZ’s district health boards applied for SSDEs, which lasted from seven days to eight weeks, on behalf of workers.

“The SSDE allowed workers covered by the health and disability sector vaccine mandates a set period of time to get themselves vaccinated for COVID-19,” Mr Hannant told AAP FactCheck in an email. 

NZ parliament
 Contrary to the claim, all MPs during the pandemic were vaccinated by the end of 2021. 

He said the temporary exemptions enabled the continued operation of essential health services.

A second type of exemption, called Temporary Medical Exemptions (TMEs) was available for all New Zealanders who met certain clinical criteria.

Mr Hannant said the number of granted TMEs, which aren’t referenced in the Facebook posts, was 6410.

Some 5684 of those were people with COVID-19 who couldn’t be fully vaccinated until the recommended interval between illness and the vaccine had passed.

AFP FactCheck has also debunked the claim that 11,000 NZ politicians and elites were exempted and a similar check was published by Logically Facts. Related checks have been published here and here.

The Verdict

The claim that 11,000 politicians and elites from New Zealand received an exemption for the COVID-19 vaccine is false.

The figure – which has since been revised down to 8051 – refers to temporary exemptions for healthcare workers.

All NZ MPs were vaccinated by the end of 2021.

False – The claim is inaccurate.

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