30 Apr 2021

Mandatory vaccination rule for border workers to come into effect

6:16 pm on 30 April 2021

About 135 managed isolation workers will be redeployed after missing a deadline to be vaccinated for Covid-19.

MIQ and border workers getting Covid-19 Pfizer vaccine.

An MIQ or border worker getting the Covid-19 Pfizer vaccine. Photo: Supplied / Ministry of Health

From 11.59pm today, all workers in managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) facilities and government agencies at the border will need to have been vaccinated.

All public and private MIQ workers, contractors and visitors will have to provide proof of vaccination each time they enter a facility from tomorrow, 1 May.

But initially, current workers will be considered vaccinated if they have had one dose of the vaccine. All current workers must have had two doses of the vaccine by 5 June 2021.

Joint Head of Managed Isolation and Quarantine, Brigadier Jim Bliss told Checkpoint about 50 appeared to have refused the vaccine.

"The workforce in MIQ is nearly 5000, and so 97 percent of that workforce has been vaccinated. A further 1 percent has an appointment booked to be vaccinated and they won't be on site until they have been vaccinated.

"Leaves just over 100 people that are currently unvaccinated and of that close to half have declined the vaccination, and then the remainer ... have a valid reason not to be vaccinated."

Reasons for declining included through health advice, or because workers were on leave of some sort - including sick or parental - or already planned to leave their job, he said.

"We've got assurances from all of our employers ... that it won't actually have a negative effect on our operations in MIQ"

New workers will need to have their first dose before starting work, and then have 35 days from starting work to receive their second dose.

The new requirement was introduced under the Covid-19 Public Health Response (Vaccinations) Order 2021, and Bliss said it was a "big milestone".

"We always expected there would be a small percentage who wouldn't [get vaccinated]. On any given day we have around 4500 people working in our 32 MIQ facilities from over 300 different employers.

"Anyone not vaccinated... will be redeployed by their employer. These are individual employment discussions for employers to have with their employees. We have supported them with assistance from the Ministry for Social Development to explore other employment options.

"This is the largest immunisation programme ever undertaken in this country and MIQ and border workers were first in line. They are among the people most at risk of exposure and I'm really proud so many of them have stepped up and led the way for the country."

Workers could provide proof of vaccination in several ways, he said.

"So they have their vaccine record card which is a purple card [given] at the time of vaccination; there is using an app called manage my Health which is available through some of the GPs or district health boards; we could have a letter from a GP confirming their vaccination; or we have what is called a Covid MIQ vaccination certificate which we have issued to each of our employees."

They would also need photo identification, he said.

"We'll match those as they come onto the site, we also have a backup team ... available 24/7 who can reach into the databases and check any vaccination records."

New Zealand Customs Service chief executive Christine Stevenson said the new requirements would also apply to workers employed by government agencies at the border who interacted with international arriving air passengers (not including quarantine free travel) and crew or ship's crew, or who spent more than 15 minutes in an enclosed space on board ships.

"Government border agencies will have a duty to ensure that only people who have been vaccinated are permitted to carry out work, or other activities, at our international airports and ports", Stevenson said.

The Covid-19 vaccination roll-out started on 20 February.

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