Jacinda Ardern leaves press conference after being heckled by anti-vaccine group

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern left an open-air press conference in the Northland town of North Island on Tuesday after being heckled by at least two anti-vaccine activists.

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Ardern was explaining details of the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine in Northland, the region with the lowest rate of immunisation against the coronavirus in New Zealand, when a woman started chanting loudly in Maori to disturb the audience.

During the press conference, American Shane Chafin of Counterspin Media, a talk show linked to far-right groups based in New Zealand, asked the leader to tell him the mortality rate of the COVID-19 vaccine and to name a woman who had died after receiving the drug, according to the news website Stuff.

Chafin, who was not accredited for the press conference, repeatedly asked and interrupted Ardern, “Why the vaccines aren’t working in Israel?” referring to the COVID-19 cases in Israel, and accused the leader of “lying” to citizens.

Ardern, visibly upset and after trying to ignore Chafin’s words, apologized to the accredited media and decided to end the press conference.

New Zealand seeks to speed up the vaccination, especially among the Maori population, in the face of the reopening of the New Zealand economy and in the midst of a fight against an outbreak with the delta variant detected in August and since then forced the confinement of Auckland, the most populous city in the oceanic country, which remains isolated from the rest of the country.

The country has administered the two doses of the Pfizer vaccine to 75.5% of the target population and has accumulated some 6,723 infections since the beginning of the pandemic, including 28 deaths.

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