A "rebel GP" who quit her practice in Hawke's Bay last year was part of a group which successfully questioned the legality of New Zealand's Covid-19 vaccine rollout.
Havelock North's Dr Alison Goodwin has been a part of the court case in the High Court at Wellington by applicant Nga Kaitiaki Tuku Ihu, which had sought a declaration that the vaccine rollout is unlawful.
Their argument focuses on whether the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine rollout fits within the provisional consent legislation in the Medicines Act.
In a decision released today, Judge Rebecca Ellis said: "it is reasonably arguable that the decision to provisionally approve the vaccine for much wider use is problematic" and went beyond the powers of section 23 of the Medicines Act.
Doing so could undermine public confidence in the vaccine and waste vaccine stock that is already in New Zealand.
What Ellis said could be problematic was the vaccine being granted for a limited number of New Zealanders - namely those aged over 16.
"While I acknowledge that this is a more "limited" class of persons than "all New Zealanders", a class of that size seems well beyond what is contemplated by a straightforward, purposive, reading of the section," she said.
However, Ellis declined to grant interim orders stopping the vaccine rollout - sought by the plaintiff - on the basis that the repercussions "are too great, by some very considerable margin".
In response, Health Minister Andrew Little said the Government was making an urgent "technical amendment to modernise the law".
Little said section 23 had been used over 40 years by successive governments to grant early access to approved medicines when there was public good.
Goodwin told Hawke's Bay Today that the court case argues it is inappropriate to roll a medicine out to the whole population when its safety profile and risks have not yet been determined.
"Common sense would suggest that a precautionary approach should apply."
The vaccine has been formally tested on more than 40,000 people - half received the vaccine, the other half a placebo which consisted of slightly salty water. Since it started being used widely, tens of millions have now received the vaccine.
Speaking on the "Voices for Freedom" podcast in January, Goodwin - who was described by the hosts as a "rebel GP" - said the vaccine needs to be tested for years, not months.
"To my mind, the testing period of only a few months is far too small to be able to say hand-on-heart that it's safe for the whole population," she said. "I don't think a doctor can say it's proven safe."
However, Goodwin said everyone should be encouraged to make their own decisions on whether to get the vaccine, depending on their health, immune system strength and personal factors.
The ministry's vaccine advice states that MedSafe "robustly assess all vaccines" to ensure they meet international standards and local requirements for quality and safety.
"No vaccine will be made available for public use in New Zealand until MedSafe complete their assessment and it's been approved.
"We're moving swiftly but without taking any shortcuts or compromising safety."
Goodwin said MedSafe granted provisional Section 23 approval, not full Section 20 approval, because there are too many outstanding unknowns.
"Most of these [risks] remain unknown, with data not expected until July, by which time many people will have been vaccinated and exposed to unknown risks," she said.
"These are not medicines that are appropriate for the whole population due to their risks."
Fellow counsel for the applicant, Nelson-based lawyer Sue Grey, had told the hearing that people would be unable to consent if they didn't know the "risks".
"There's no evidence that they've been given any other alternatives - it's all 'vaccine, vaccine, vaccine'," she said.
Goodwin resigned as a practising GP in October 2020 due to her concerns that the health system was focusing on managing chronic disease and not on health and wellbeing.
The doctor questioned the 2020 lockdown and said if she was the Minister of Health, her priority that would "potentially half our health budget" would be to scrap fizzy drinks from supermarkets.
"If we can ground Air New Zealand, can't we get rid of Coca-Cola?" she said.
"Surely people needed to be outside, in the sunshine and fresh air, getting exercise. Human beings are social creatures and need social interaction.
"In Hawke's Bay in April, it's sunny and we generally have nice weather. I thought shutting the beaches, shutting our cycle paths and taping up the playgrounds – what were we doing?"
- additional reporting NZ Herald