3 Nov 2021

Covid-19 : Aggressive demands for vaccine exemptions

3:57 pm on 3 November 2021

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says the actions of people aggressively demanding vaccination exemptions are 'unacceptable', as the government moves to create a central process for approving medical exemptions.

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Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins Photo: Robert Kitchin

At today's 1pm Covid-19 briefing, Chris Hipkins said there have been reports of people aggressively demanding an exemption, which he said is not acceptable.

"Anybody seeking to exert pressure in the way that we have seen, that is a matter that the police will be involved with if necessary," Hipkins said.

Health and educational leaders have been calling for urgent clarity over vaccine exemption certificates as the cut-off date looms for teachers to get vaccinated.

Some principals have reported being presented with questionable exemption certificates, signed off by homeopaths and midwives.

The Post Primary Principals Association says principals have inadequate information, are under pressure and confused as to how to deal with staff who choose not be vaccinated. Principals estimate several thousand teachers are resisting the government order to get vaccinated.

Hipkins said a central process for approving medical exemptions is being established for people who are required to be vaccinated under the mandatory vaccination orders - working in health, education or corrections settings. There will also be a similar related process for people who need a vaccine certificate.

"That application process and the criteria under which people can apply will be on the ministry of health website and we will publicise it early next week. It will incorporate both applications for medical exemptions as well as those for a service delivery disruption and it will be a centralised process."

Hipkins said people who have been issued with paperwork that is intended to be such an exemption will still need to apply. People who have paid for this paperwork may want to seek a refund.

"This new central process, which has not yet opened, is the only valid process through which anyone can obtain an exemption either because they are required to be vaccinated under the order or because they cannot be vaccinated for a medical reason and want that recorded in their Covid vaccination certificate when that becomes available.

"If someone's offering to sell you an exemption... they are trying to rip you off. There is no other language that I can use than that."

Hipkins said the presence of the Prime Minister in places in Northland combined with large protests in the area, was preventing some people from being able to access the vaccinations they were trying to get.

He said there is a "small but active group of people travelling around the country", and staging protests, which he said suggests there is not an increasing groundswell of protests against vaccinations.

Hipkins also said vaccine certificates systems are being "stress tested" now, and he was reasonably confident they will be up and running for the whole country around mid-November.

He said people will need to create their MyHealthRecord now to make it much faster and easier and so the system does not get overloaded. He said the record is different to the notes available from a GP, and is the most time-consuming part of the certificate.

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