Health minister Greg Hunt has urged the community to ‘stick with the facts’ following recent social media posts made by Queensland LNP senator Gerard Rennick about the accuracy of COVID PCR tests, which the Facebook marked as ‘false information’.
Vocal opinions expressed by politicians that run counter to public health advice has become an increasing issue for the government to contend with as defending best practice is forced into a public debate with internal party colleagues.
Even some of the more sanguine views shared by Rennick on his public Facebook account that raise relevant questions about why the government and federal health department is making the decisions it has (such as, for example, querying why pharmaceutical companies are getting paid so much money for a surplus of vaccine supply during a global pandemic).
But other posts, like one published on 18 July attached to a quote from Albert Einstein about the importance of always questioning, had a Facebook disclaimer added to it reminding people that ‘COVID-19 vaccines go through many tests for safety and effectiveness and are monitored closely’.
According to The Guardian, the health minister was queried about Rennick’s misleading Facebook posts on Monday. Hunt said that he had not read all of the posts but was familiar with the 18 July post.
“I’ve been aware of one of them in relation to ivermectin, and I provided the government information … and advice,” Hunt told a press pack.
As for the senator’s other questionable posts, Hunt told reporters that he would need to review the original sources before forming a view. The minister called on all national politicians and the rest of the community to ‘stick with the facts’.
Rennick’s 18 July Facebook post republished an extract from The Spectator which suggested one of Australia’s COVID-19 vaccines was an ‘experimental gene therapy vaccine with plummeting efficacy’. The article also flagged the benefits of common head lice drug, ivermectin, that is not supported by any current legitimate studies (a previous study supporting the case was withdrawn for ‘ethical concerns).
The federal and state governments are ramping up their messaging to the community about the safety and efficacy of vaccines following an announcement by the PM on Friday about the vaccination targets Australia will need to achieve to progress to the next phase of its roadmap back to normal.
Experts have already outlined that in the case of Sydney’s lockdown, it could be weeks still before the benefits of COVID-19 vaccines kick in (for individuals and the wider community) as the risk of transmitting the virus after receiving a single dose is reduced from the 14th day after getting a shot.
The Guardian reports that Senator Rennick has denied publishing misleading information online and has subsequently edited a post marked as ‘misleading’ by Facebook about PCR testing. The senator contended that his original post had not directly implied the PCR tests were ineffective.
“I have said there is a move towards a more accurate form of testing,” Rennick said.
“Personally I think they are playing semantics here. You be the judge.”