Mandatory vaccinations announced for health, education sector workers

By RNZ.co.nz. Republished with permission.

School staff who work with children and students must be fully vaccinated by 1 January 2022.

Cabinet has also moved to mandate the vaccination of high-risk workers in the health and disability sector by the earlier date of 1 December 2021.

Those high-risk workers include general practitioners, pharmacists, community health nurses, midwives, paramedics, and all healthcare workers in sites where vulnerable patients are treated.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says the new requirements also cover people who work at aged residential care, home and community support services, kaupapa Māori health providers and Non-Government Organisations who provide health services.

These workers need to receive their first dose by 30 October, Hipkins said.

The Covid-19 Public Health Response (Vaccinations) Order 2021 will be updated to enforce the vaccine requirement.

Vaccine rules for education sector

All school staff, including home-based educators, teacher-aides, administration and maintenance staff and contractors, who come into contact with children and students must be vaccinated by the start of 2022.

Schools and early learning services will need to maintain a register of vaccinated staff from 1 January.

These employees need to have their first dose by 15 November 2021, Hipkins said.

All school staff in Auckland and other regions at alert level three will also be required to return a negative Covid-19 test before returning to work onsite.

Schools in Auckland were due to return on 18 October, however, Cabinet has decided schools in the region will remain closed after the school holidays finish at the end of this week, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced this afternoon.

Staff who are not fully vaccinated before 1 January 2022 will also be required to get a weekly Covid-19 test.

Work is continuing on whether mandatary vaccinations will be required in the tertiary education sector, Hipkins added.

Cabinet has also decided secondary schools and kura will be required to keep a vaccine register for students.

Students who do not produce evidence of vaccination will be considered unvaccinated, Hipkins said.

Under certain circumstances exemptions may be possible.

‘Not an easy decision’ – Hipkins

Hipkins said most people who work in these sectors are already fully or partially vaccinated but nothing can be left to chance.

“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.

“Vaccinations for children aged 5 to 11 are not yet approved and the health and disability sector includes a range of high risk occupations.

“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.”

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