COVID-19 vaccine: Government announces early jab criteria for people travelling overseas on compassionate grounds, 'reasons of national significance'

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins.
COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins. Photo credit: Getty/The AM Show

New Zealanders leaving the country before August 31 will need to meet criteria on compassionate grounds or have reasons of "national significance" to be eligible for an early COVID-19 vaccination, the Government has announced.

The first group to be immunised against COVID-19 is New Zealand's 50,000 border workforce and their household contacts, followed by frontline workers and high-risk people. The general population rollout is not due to start until July.

But people who need to travel overseas on compassionate grounds or for reasons of national significance will be eligible for an early vaccine under "strict" conditions, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said in a statement.

Hipkins said the criteria for early vaccinations has been carefully considered and a high threshold has been set.

"These provisions will not extend to vaccinations for new arrivals or returnees," said Hipkins.

"It does not include private or recreational travel." 

Compassionate grounds that would be considered for an early vaccination for overseas travel:

  • Needing to provide critical care and protection for a dependant
  • accessing critical medical care that is not available in New Zealand; and
  • visiting an immediate family member who is dying.

Early vaccination eligibility for overseas travel for reasons of national significance includes representing New Zealand:

  • In an official capacity
  • at significant international events; and
  • in an official non-Government capacity.

"The final consideration is the level of risk travellers will be exposed to COVID-19 in the destination country," Hipkins said.

"Underlying these decisions is a fundamental recognition that while where there are legitimate urgent reasons to travel overseas, it is also in all our interests to ensure New Zealanders are protected against COVID-19 to the best extent possible when travellers return home."

The Government says further information will be available in the coming week and applications will open next Wednesday.

COVID-19 vaccine: Government announces early jab criteria for people travelling overseas on compassionate grounds, 'reasons of national significance'
Photo credit: Getty

To get early vaccine access:

  • The applicant must be a New Zealand citizen or resident, or visa holder, or someone who has been unable to leave New Zealand since closure of international borders
  • not be able to delay or conduct the proposed activity through any other means
  • be required to travel on or before August 31, 2021
  • where appropriate, they have made arrangements for returning to New Zealand
  • be able to be fully vaccinated before departure in accordance with best practice (at least three weeks between doses for the Pfizer vaccine) where practicable; and
  • be able to provide supporting evidence for all requirements.