Health groups back New Zealand's vaccine mandate for high-risk workers

Health workers need to be fully immunised by December

Health groups back New Zealand's vaccine mandate for high-risk workers

More health organisations are coming out in support of mandatory vaccinations for high-risk workers in New Zealand.

The government has mandated a range of health workers to have their first dose of COVID-19 jabs by October 15, and then be fully immunised by December 1. It covers doctors, pharmacists, community nurses, workers at aged residential care, home and community support services, as well as non-government organisations that provide health services.

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said the mandate was "not an easy decision," but a necessary extra step to protect the vulnerable communities the health workers serve. The New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) welcomed the move in its statement, saying the mandate will save lives.

"All doctors should be vaccinated, and we know the vast majority are," added NZMA chair Alistair Humphrey. "Principle 1 of the Code of Ethics for the New Zealand Medical Profession is that the health and well-being of the patient is a doctor's first priority."

According to Humphrey, doctors and healthcare workers are more likely to be exposed to the virus because of their work, and are likely to spread the virus to their patients who could be immunocompromised.

Read more: Call for inquiry after two nurses infected with COVID-19

Humphrey said the NZMA previously urged doctors working in patient care to be vaccinated and is "pleased that the government has come to the same view".

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) echoed a similar sentiment as it welcomed the mandate, saying the requirement will be a "crucial support" for communities at risk. It also reflected the threat of the highly transmissible Delta variant in New Zealand, according to Glenda Alexander, industrial services manager of the NZNO.

Alexander said that while the "right to choice" is important, it is also the responsibility of health workers to keep their patients and the wider community safe.

"The best thing we can do to minimise the spread of COVID in our hospitals and in our communities, is to get vaccinated," Alexander said in a statement.

Previously, New Zealand's largest education union also welcomed the mandate which also covers teaching staff. However, the government has been called upon to expand the mandate to all businesses that include customer-facing roles.

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