Workers in the health and education sectors must get their first jabs in the coming weeks
The New Zealand government has made COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for two critical workforces.
On Monday, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins announced the amendment of the COVID-19 Public Health Response (Vaccinations) Order 2021 to require that workers in the health and disability sector be fully vaccinated by 1 December.
“Under these new requirements, general practitioners, pharmacists, community health nurses, midwives, paramedics, and all healthcare workers in sites where vulnerable patients are treated (including intensive care units) must receive their first dose of the vaccine by 30th October,” he said.
Hipkins added that the mandate covers non-regulated healthcare work like aged residential care, home and community support services, kaupapa Māori health providers and NGOs that offer health services.
Meanwhile, those in the education sector must receive their first dose by 15 November and complete the vaccination cycle by 1 January 2022.
“From 1 January 2022, schools and early learning services and providers will need to maintain a register, and ensure only vaccinated staff and support people have contact with children and students,” Hipkins said. “This includes home-based educators, and all those support people in our schools and early learning services such as teacher-aides, administration and maintenance staff and contractors.”
Education sector workers who are not fully vaccinated by the target date would need to be tested for COVID-19 every week.
Moreover, students at secondary schools and kura would need to provide proof of vaccination for the vaccination registers to be maintained by these institutions. Hipkins confirmed that discussions were still ongoing on whether vaccines would be mandatory for those working at tertiary education institutions.
The vaccination requirement imposed on the health and disability and education sectors follows the mandate laid down for MIQ and port and airport workers.
“Vaccination remains our strongest and most effective tool to protect against infection and disease, and we need as many workers as possible to be vaccinated to allow sectors to respond to the pandemic and deliver everyday services with as little disruption as possible,” Hipkins explained. “While most people working in these sectors are already fully or partially vaccinated, we can’t leave anything to chance and are making it mandatory.”
He said the government’s call was made in light of the fact that children aged 5-11 could not get the vaccine yet, and in view of the high-risk nature of the work conducted by the health and disability sector.
“People have a reasonable expectation that our work forces are taking all reasonable precautions to prevent the spread of disease, and government agencies have been working with them to ensure they are as protected as possible,” Hipkins said. “A high rate of vaccinations will help to protect staff from getting sick and passing COVID-19 onto loved ones. It will also reassure those who are anxious about their children attending school and early learning services.”
Nonetheless, he confirmed that exemptions to the vaccination requirement may be made under special circumstances.