An unvaccinated teacher says she's refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine because the mandates are a human rights issue.
Rachael Mortimer is the head of English and social sciences at a south Canterbury school. She says she has a blood condition which means getting the vaccine is dangerous for her despite not being eligible for an exemption.
"I actually have a blood condition which has a peer-reviewed study on it talking about how if I take the vaccine I am at higher risk of developing blood clots. So that puts me in a really bad position considering there have been quite a few people with blood clots from this vaccine.
"I can't get an exemption, I've tried that. The criteria is too narrow so even with this blood condition I don't qualify. I am in a rock and a hard place: do I go and get this vaccine which could potentially do major damage to me, or do I lose my job? And my health is a little bit more important to me."
While there have been rare examples of people developing blood clots after the AstraZeneca vaccine, that is not the case with Pfizer - which is the main vaccine New Zealand is using in its rollout.
Medsafe says at this stage, there is "no evidence of a risk of TTS (Thrombosis with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome) with the Comirnarty (Pfizer/ BioNTech) vaccine".
It's unclear which "peer-reviewed study" Mortimer is referencing.
She went on to say even if she didn't have the blood condition she wouldn't get the vaccine because she thinks mandates are a "human rights" issue.
"They are being bullied and coerced into taking something they do not want to have in their bodies. To me, one of the biggest issues is the human rights issues.
"I've been teaching human rights for a very long time, I've taught all about the Government systems and what is right and what is wrong... and what I am seeing now is actually really devastating.
"It feels like all our rights are being taken away. "
Mortimer has been stood down from her job after the deadline for all teachers to have their first jab passed on Monday. She says despite how "soul-destroying" it is to wake up and not go into school, she's not going to change her mind.
"How can a Government do this to people... we've got teachers who've been there for 20 or 30 years and they literally get handed a one-week stand-down [period] or you're out. It's barbaric, it's revolting.
"I've spent 15 years working to get where I am...I love my kids. I have kids turning up in my classroom because they want to hang out with me, they want to talk, they feel safe.
"They are waking up today and they are going to school and I am not going to be there... That's probably the most devastating, just the fact I am picturing their faces and just how upset they are going to be."
Mortimer says she doesn't consider herself to be anti-vaccine, instead claiming she is "pro-science".
She went on to question how transparent Medsafe was, before conceding "I am not a scientist so I am not going to go into that, [but] I just think people should look into it themselves".
Medsafe, the Ministry of Health, the World Health Organization and a slew of scientists and health organisations around the world have unequivocally said the Pfizer vaccine is safe and effective.
There have been 7.51 billion doses of COVID vaccines administered around the world and 52.1 percent of the world population has received at least one dose.
Mortimer says she's not sure what's next for her and she needs to "rethink" her career.