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Health staff Barry Young has been granted bail.
A 56-year-old health worker in New Zealand has been arrested for allegedly misusing and disclosing COVID-19 vaccination data.
Barry Young, who worked for public health agency Te Whatu Ora, which runs the country’s hospitals, received plenty of support during his court appearance on Dec. 4—Mr. Young was met with a standing ovation from the public gallery.
He faces a charge of accessing government databases for dishonest purposes, with a maximum penalty of seven years of imprisonment. He has been granted bail until Dec. 6.
The arrest follows revelations by the health agency’s chief executive Margie Apa, that Mr. Young leaked COVID-19 vaccine mortality data on an overseas website.
He had allegedly exposed the number of deaths linked to the COVID-19 vaccination and used it to bolster claims the agency was covering up vaccine deaths.
Ms. Apa remarked that the man lacked clinical expertise and his claims were misinformation.
“What this individual is trying to claim about vaccines is completely wrong and ill-informed and their comments demonstrate this,” she said.
“We assure people there is no evidence whatsoever that vaccination is responsible for excess mortality in New Zealand and that they can continue to have confidence in vaccines.”
She said the man has worked in the health system for several years and was authorized to access data as part of his work.
“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,” Ms. Apa said.
Early analysis found the data was anonymized with no links to National Health Index Numbers or personally identifiable information.
“In addition, a police complaint has been laid, an employment investigation is underway, and the person is no longer at work,” Ms. Apa confirmed.
Furthermore, the health department has taken out an injunction to erase all traces of the leaked data.
Supporters Call for Transparency About Vaccines
New Zealand Loyal Party’s Liz Gunn took to X, formerly Twitter, to call for the New Zealand government to free Mr. Young immediately and give him the honor and respect as a national hero.
She was involved in the release of the information about Mr. Young’s arrest.
“I’ve had a call to say that the whistleblower has had his house surrounded by police at 2:15pm,” she said.
A second person, who contacted Ms. Gunn about the matter, also had her house surrounded by police.
She said that while data privacy is important, the government should not shy away when transparency is needed.
“Yes, the Ministry of Health data is important to protect the privacy but there is a greater importance,” she said.
“The greater importance is if a government is shown to be criminal, then it is absolutely essential that the people of that country find a way to expose that criminality.”
Opposition Warns Against Fueling Conspiracy Theories
Speaking to reporters on Dec. 4, the leader of the Opposition Chris Hipkins expressed apprehension about the data breach.
“I am pretty concerned about the momentum building behind some of these conspiracy theories,” the former Labour prime minister said.
“The new government certainly seems to be giving a bit of a nod to the conspiracy theorist.”
“So things like their reservations about the World Health Organization actually putting in place steps to stop future pandemics I think that will embolden the conspiracy theorist.”
He said that stronger employee vetting should be implemented for the handling of sensitive information.
“I think if they’re going to be handling people’s private and personal information including their health data, there needs to be a pretty rigorous system in place, which includes vetting people and systems that stop people from extracting large amounts of data,” he said.