A Bay of Plenty social worker says vulnerable people are being targeted by a scam paying them to get a Covid-19 vaccination in someone else’s name.

The warning comes after one of her clients almost fell victim in Katikati.

The social worker, who did not want to be named due to privacy and safety concerns, said her client and the client’s daughter were offered $200 each to get a vaccine for someone else.

They told her they were recruited by a homeless man who was offered $50 cash to find willing participants.

The woman and her daughter are both unvaccinated and initially thought it was an incentive to get the vaccine, she said.

The social worker was driving the woman to another appointment when they stopped for the meeting.

“It seemed really dodgy. They met in [a store] carpark.”

The worker said her client was met by a well-dressed woman and asked to memorise the woman’s details including a name, birth date, email, and address.

“She wanted my client to go to the vaccination clinic, register under the other woman’s name, get the vaccination and the vaccination certificate would be issued the scammer’s [name].”

The client was told she would get the $200 once the vaccine certificate had been handed over.

“She had a gut feeling it wasn’t good so she decided not to.”

The advocate said her client had been approached by a homeless man she knew personally but was not homeless herself.

“She really needed the money,” the social advocate said.

“It’s really awful if they’re approaching vulnerable people who are homeless who have no money, offering to pay them to recruit other people to then get vaccinated.

“It’s not going to go on their own health record, it’s going to go on the scammer’s health record and they can move around freely, unvaccinated, while this vulnerable person is actually vaccinated but doesn’t have any record of it.”

The social worker was not part of the meeting but saw it happening. She saw her client meet with a woman, who looked well dressed and “put together”, and someone who she believed to be the woman’s daughter.

Her client realised it was not what it seemed when the client was asked to memorise the details of the person she was meeting.

Area Response Manager for the Tauranga South police area Senior Sergeant Edward Lyttle confirmed the incident had happened and police were investigating.

He said he was not aware of any similar incidents in the area.

It’s the latest in a series of vaccine scams across the country.

Last week, a report was made to the NZ Herald about a person offering to take someone else’s vaccination for money.

Earlier this year, police also investigated reports of two people going door-to-door in Christchurch offering Covid jabs for $100.

Ministry of Health Covid-19 vaccine and immunisation programme national director Jo Gibbs said it had warned police people might be getting vaccinations on behalf of others.

However, Gibb said strengthening the identification process before vaccination “may risk reducing participation in the programme, and work directly against our goal of vaccinating as many people as possible”.

Gibb said vulnerable groups such as homeless, transient, elderly or young people, as well as those with disabilities, were disproportionately those without photo identification.

“We don’t want to create barriers to their vaccination,” she said.

“We are aiming to be one of the most highly vaccinated countries in the world.

“Having an inaccurate vaccination status not only puts you at risk, it puts your friends, whānau, and community at risk, and the healthcare teams that treat you now and in the future.”

Gibbs said medical practitioners operated in a high-trust environment and relied on people to share information accurately.

“To assume another person’s identity and receive a medical treatment is dangerous for both the person that got the vaccine and the one that did not.”

If a person received a vaccine under an assumed identity, their health record would not show they were vaccinated and could affect how their health was managed in the future, Gibbs said.

The same applied to a person incorrectly recorded as being vaccinated.

“If they presented with any symptoms or illnesses, a medical professional would be working with inaccurate health records.”

Speaking to the NZ Herald last week, Malaghan Institute of Medical Research director and Vaccine Alliance programme director Graham Le Gros warned against the practice of people receiving excess vaccinations for others, saying there was a “great potential for harm and it should not be done”.

“You could actually take the immune system to a level that’s not healthy,” the immunologist professor said.

“It could even be counter-productive, you can actually be hyper-immunised, which may not be helpful.”

Asked what would happen if someone received a multitude of vaccinations over a short period of time, Le Gros said it was hard to speculate, given it was not a commonly investigated topic.

However, he said it was likely it would cause an inappropriate immune response, which might have unintended consequences.

“It doesn’t make you any more protected, it actually can make you vulnerable to other conditions.”

Le Gros said there was a clear distinction between the potential benefits of a booster shot or third shot for immunocompromised people, and the excessive administration of vaccines, which was not advised.

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