Covid 19 Delta outbreak: Medical groups say 'no jab, no job' for healthcare workers will save lives
Medical groups are strongly backing the Government's decision for workers to be fully vaccinated in the health and disability sector, saying it will save lives.
Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners president Dr Samantha Murton said "given the speed at which Delta is spreading throughout our country, this is a bold, but necessary call to make".
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said it was not an easy decision to give hundreds of thousands of education and health staff the choice of being fully vaccinated in the coming months or face losing their jobs.
"But we need the people who work with vulnerable communities who haven't yet been vaccinated to take this extra step. Exemptions may be possible under some circumstances," he said.
Healthcare workers will have to be fully vaccinated by December 1 and will need to have had their first dose by October 30.
The public health order requiring this will include general practitioners, pharmacists, community health nurses, midwives, paramedics, and all healthcare workers in sites where vulnerable patients are treated (including intensive care units).
"These requirements also include certain non-regulated healthcare work, such as aged residential care, home and community support services, kaupapa Māori health providers and NGOs who provide health services," Hipkins said.
Director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said he has a high level of confidence that health staff will get vaccinated, particularly those in isolated communities.
Among the medical groups to support the Government's decision are the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners, NZ Medical Association, NZ Nurses' Organisation, and ProCare, the country's largest network of primary healthcare professionals.
The NZ Council of Trade Unions has previously cautioned that a blanket vaccination order could do more harm than good because it might create a sense of coercion.
Nurse' Organisation industrial services manager Glenda Alexander said the mandate reflects the significant risk the Delta strain poses to Aotearoa New Zealand.
"While we recognise the need to balance people's right to choice, as health workers we have a responsibility to follow the best health evidence and most importantly to keep our communities 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.
Medical Association chairman Dr Alistair Humphrey said the Government's announcement will save lives.
"All doctors should be vaccinated, and we know the vast majority is. 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."
Doctors and other healthcare workers are more likely to be exposed to Covid-19 in the course of their work, he said.
It follows that their patients, many of whom are debilitated or immunocompromised, are more likely to suffer serious complications if they are infected by the doctor.
"We called a month ago for all doctors involved in patient care to be fully vaccinated – we're pleased the Government has come to the same view," Humphrey said.
ProCare chief executive Bindi Norwell said the decision will provide certainty for the healthcare sector in terms of a legislated approach; so that everyone knows where they stand, what the rules are and that there will be no areas of confusion.
Metlifecare, one of the country's largest retirement village providers, said close to 92 per cent of employees and the vast majority of village and care-home residents are now vaccinated.
Chief executive Earl Gasparich said residents and their families have been clear that having contact with employees who are unvaccinated is a source of significant concern and given the potentially devastating effects of Covid-19, they are not willing to accept that risk.
"We are delighted with the Government's decision, we believe it has the potential to save lives and will allay the concerns of thousands of senior New Zealanders, who are most at risk of negative outcomes should they be infected with Covid-19," he said.