A newly-signed health order will soon make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for high-risk workers in the nation’s prison system and health, disability and education sectors.
COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins today confirmed that the order the will mean most people working in the three key sectors will very soon need to be vaccinated against COVID-19 for the sake of themselves, their workmates and their communities.
The extended COVID-19 Public Health Response (Vaccinations) Amendment Order 2021 comes into effect at 11.59pm on 25 October, requiring workers who face a high risk of exposure to COVID-19 and who work in the health and disability and education sectors or in prisons to be fully vaccinated, he said.
“This is a significant development as our vaccination programme continues to roll out,” said Mr Hipkins.
“It’s a comprehensive Order, and will require all health and disability workers and education workers to have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by 15 November 2021.
“General practitioners, pharmacists, community health nurses, midwives, paramedics, and healthcare and disability workers in facilities where vulnerable patients are treated (including ICU), are amongst those included.
“It also covers many workers doing non-regulated healthcare work, for example providers in aged residential care and workers who enter homes to provide community support services.”
In finalising the Order, it has been decided that it will now apply to healthcare and disability workers from 15 November, as the date when they’ll be required to have had their first dose, the Minister said.
The date aligns with the education sector and is a change from the 30 October date initially indicated, following feedback from the health and disability sector.
“We recognise the sector as being supportive of the mandate but we’ve listened to their views on the proposed timeline, including the potential impact on staff rosters and a desire to support all staff to meet the timeframe,” Mr Hipkins said.
“The end result will be that both the health and disability workers and the education sector workers must be fully vaccinated by 1 January 2022.”
For those working in the education sector, the amendment applies to early childhood services as well as registered schools, including State schools, State integrated school and all private schools.
Work is continuing on whether mandatory vaccinations will be required in the tertiary education sector, Minister Hipkins said.
“Prison facilities are also included and the first deadline for those workers is 6 November. In that context, the order applies to prison staff, health care staff working in prisons, psychologists (working in prisons), and many of the people contracted to provide services to prisons,” he said.
“We recognise that the health and disability, education and prison workforces have responded to the pandemic with dedication and an incredible amount of hard work and we thank them for that.
“Because of the nature of their work, these groups are all at particular risk of being infected with COVID-19, and of passing it on to the vulnerable groups they work with, as well as whānau, and members of the wider community.
“While most people in these sectors have already taken the necessary steps to protect themselves and those around them, having complete protection is critical to the country’s successful management of the pandemic.”