Covid-19 NZ: Sweeping vaccine mandate for teachers and most healthcare workers
11 October, 2021
Teachers and healthcare workers who refuse a Covid-19 vaccine will soon be out of a job.
The Government have introduced a sprawling vaccine mandate that will cover hundreds of thousands of workers in education and healthcare by the end of the year.
In the meantime, teachers who are not already vaccinated will be required to undergo weekly Covid-19 tests.
Covid-19 Minister Chris Hipkins made the announcement after Cabinet met on Monday.
He said most people in both sectors were already vaccinated, but the mandate was required to make sure all were protected.
“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,” Hipkins said.
“It’s not an easy decision, but we need the people who work with vulnerable communities who haven’t yet been vaccinated to take this extra step.”
“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.”
And secondary schools will be required to keep a vaccination register for students.
The mandate for healthcare workers will cover everyone in “high-risk” work in the health and disability sector.
This includes all healthcare workers in sites where vulnerable people are treated such as hospitals, as well as GPs, pharmacists, community healthcare nurses, midwives, and paramedics.
It will also extend to those in the private healthcare sector – including aged residential care staff, home and community support staff, and other non-governmental healthcare staff.
Some limited exceptions will be allowed, but it is not clear what the accepted grounds for these will be.
These workers will be required to be fully vaccinated by December 1, after having a first dose by October 30.
Hipkins said DHB workers were already at about 75 per cent vaccination.
The teacher mandate will cover all teachers and other support staff would have any contact with children or students.
It will also covered early childhood centre staff and home-based educators.
Secondary will be required to maintain a register of their students’ vaccination status, and require masks for assemblies.
This mandate kicks in slightly later: The workers must be fully vaccinated by January 1 2022, after having a first dose by November 15.
But those who are not vaccinated will need to return a weekly negative Covid-19 test in the meantime.
Even vaccinated teachers in Auckland will need to return a negative test before coming back to work.
Hipkins said work was ongoing on whether or not to require vaccinations for the tertiary education sector.
Liam Rutherford, president of the main education union NZEI, said the union supported the mandate.
“We have always encouraged our members to get vaccinated to help protect themselves, their colleagues and in particular our younger tamariki who are currently unvaccinated,“ Rutherford said.
“NZEI Te Rui Roa will represent members who need employment support to be able to comply with this health order.”