3 Dec 2021

Temporary exemptions available for those unable to obtain vaccine passes

6:46 am on 3 December 2021

Tens of thousands of people who have had trouble obtaining a vaccine certificate have been issued a temporary pass, as the Ministry of Health struggles to keep up with processing demands.

New Zealand's 'vaccine passport' is likely to be a digital Covid-19 vaccination certificate containing a QR code.

New Zealand's 'vaccine passport' is likely to be a digital Covid-19 vaccination certificate containing a QR code. Photo: 123rf

New Zealand has today moved into the traffic light framework, meaning vaccine certificates will now be used to determine freedoms.

But hundreds of thousands of people who have had both doses are yet to even apply for the pass.

Georgie received two doses of the Astra Zenica vaccine in the UK before moving to Auckland in July.

She wants to enjoy the freedoms that come with being vaccinated.

"I've been in lockdown now for four months, you just want your freedom. You've done everything that's been asked but yeah, I'm kind of stuck because of the problems with the systems."

For more than two weeks she had been contacting the Ministry of Health and visiting pharmacies trying to get her vaccination status recognised so she can get a vaccine pass - but no luck.

She was so desperate to get the pass she got a third dose, despite not yet being eligible - this time Pfizer.

"The only other option is to have that fourth vaccine but I'm not sure if anyone has actually had four vaccines. So I'd be double double vaccinated."

National Party Covid-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop said it was not good enough.

"It's just frankly unacceptable. We deserve and need a much better system than this."

There's now a short-term solution for the 70,000 people - including Georgie - who have had trouble obtaining their vaccine pass.

Just hours before the traffic light system started the Ministry of Health told them they would be emailed a temporary exemption that will be valid until 11.59pm on 14 December.

"The temporary exemption is a pragmatic measure in response to the unprecedented demand our call centres are facing. We have scaled up our processing team significantly."

But the backlog wasn't the only problem.

The latest figures showed 800,000 fully-vaccinated people had not applied for a vaccine pass.

Age Concern chief executive Kevin Lamb expected many of those people were elderly.

"Either they find it difficult or they find it hard to get out to go and physically do it, so for example if they have any issues around mobility or they're just anxious about going out.

"For some older people, there is a concern that they are not going to realise that for all the various things they need to and want to be able to do they will need to have their passport."

Business NZ chief executive Kirk Hope said there hadn't been enough time to prepare.

"Obviously businesses that have not been able to fully operate are really keen to get underway but they are worried about getting the rules wrong and that's because they haven't had time to properly prepare."

Hope said businesses should be given some leeway as they adjust to this new way of life.

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