Elderly patient receives an AstraZeneca vaccine from a practice nurse in Melbourne on April, 7, 2021 (William WEST / AFP) (AFP / William West)

Viral post misleads on health insurer’s response to Covid-19 vaccine coverage

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Facebook posts shared hundreds of times claim a major New Zealand health insurer said it “will not pay out on Life Insurance policies or medical if one has had the Covid vaccine”. The claim is misleading; Southern Cross Insurance told AFP health and life insurance policies will continue as normal for  people who have received a Covid-19 vaccine. New Zealand's government-run Accident Compensation Corporation also said that they cover vaccine-related injuries.

The claims were posted by a New Zealand-based user here. The post was shared more than 500 times before it was removed.

A screenshot of the post, taken April 9, 2021.

“Just passed to me from a highly reliable source,” the post reads.

"I have just made contact with Southern Cross Life and Health Insurance and they have confirmed with me that they will not pay out on Life Insurance policies or medical if one has had the Covid vaccine."

"The reason for this is because it is a experimental medical procedure of high risk that has not been proven to be safe or effective (sic)."

Southern Cross Health Insurance, part of the Southern Cross Group, is one of the largest private healthcare insurers in New Zealand. 

The claims have been shared by other New Zealand-based Facebook users here, here, here and here

The claims, however, are misleading. 

No change to coverage if you get vaccinated

Contacted by AFP, a Southern Cross Insurance spokesperson said that customers’ policies will not be affected if they receive a Covid-19 vaccination.

“We would like to reassure our Health Insurance and Life Insurance policy holders that their policies will continue in the usual way and in no way be impacted if they receive a MedSafe approved COVID-19 vaccine,” the company said in a statement on April 4, 2021. 

Major vaccine-related injuries are a standard exclusion in health insurance plans in New Zealand because they are covered by the government-run Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC).

“If you develop symptoms from the COVID-19 vaccine or any other Medsafe approved vaccine and require treatment, you can lodge a claim with ACC,” the Southern Cross Insurance spokesperson said.

The ACC, which manages the country’s compensation programmes, told AFP in an April 16 email they provide coverage for vaccine-related injuries. 

Under ACC legislation, the injury must be clearly caused by a vaccination and must not be a normal side effect, a spokesperson said.

“For example, inflammation around the site of the injection is common with vaccinations and is unlikely to be covered”. 

“Infections [such as cellulitis or septic arthritis] due to the vaccination, and anaphylaxis resulting in injury are not ordinary consequences and are likely to be covered,” the ACC spokesperson said. 

As part of the ACC’s no-fault cover, people who suffer a severe reaction to a Covid-19 vaccine are eligible to have their medical bills, treatment, help at home or work and income assistance covered. 

Covid-19 vaccines are safe and effective

Approved Covid-19 vaccines have been tested in large, randomized controlled trials and have been shown to be both effective and safe, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization.

Covid-19 vaccines available in New Zealand are reviewed and approved by the medical regulator MedSafe. The only jab to be given the green light by the health body is Pfizer’s mRNA vaccine, as of April 16, 2021. 

According to the New Zealand Department of Health website, both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines are “95% effective against symptomatic COVID-19, seven days after receiving two doses”. 

However, on April 9 the Australian health authorities recommended the AstraZeneca vaccine in Australia only be given to people over the age of 50

The move came after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) stated unusual blood clots which have been reported in patients who received the AstraZeneca vaccine should be listed as a very rare side effect of the jab.

Despite the development, health authorities in the UK and the EMA say the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the small amount of risk posed for most age groups who receive the vaccine.