As New Zealand prepares to go to the polls, the nation's stand-in Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has contended that Covid-19 vaccinations were never obligatory, stating that individuals "ultimately made their own choices."
Hipkins, who took over from Jacinda Ardern after her resignation, had previously served as the nation's Covid-19 Response Minister.
"There was no compulsory vaccination. People made their own choices," he said in a video that has since gone viral on social media.
However, his assertions contradict the tough vaccine mandates imposed across New Zealand, which put people under pressure to get vaccinated or face severe consequences, including job loss and financial hardship. Hipkins isn't the first political figure to downplay the forcefulness of vaccine mandates.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison have also asserted that vaccinations were voluntary, putting the onus of any negative repercussions on those who "chose" to get the jab.