COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins confirms vaccine mandate includes parents volunteering in schools

When the school bells ring at the start of 2022, every teacher in every classroom in New Zealand will be fully vaccinated.

It's been made compulsory and applies to school teachers, early learning teachers, and support staff who have contact with children.

Secondary schools and kura will also have to keep a register of vaccinated students, and any that won't say will be marked down as unvaccinated.

With 35 new cases of COVID-19 registered on Monday, the reopening date for Auckland schools has now been pushed back.

Early learning childhood teacher Linda Petrenko was nervous watching Monday's decision on mass mandates, because she says vaccinating just teachers isn't enough.

"Vaccinated teachers and whānau is the way to go," she told Newshub.

When her early childhood centre in Māngere reopens, she wants it to be fully-vaccinated for peak protection.

"We're not trying to punish people who are not vaccinated. But we are saying, 'Look, we don't feel safe'."

Parents may not be in the mix, but the 'no jab, no job' for educators is a whopping first step.

"It wasn't an easy decision, but we need to have the people who work with vulnerable communities who haven't been vaccinated to now take this extra step," COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said.

From January 1, you have to be fully vaccinated to work at a school, kura or early learning service. That means you need to have your first jab by November 15.

Until you're fully immunised, you need to have weekly tests.

Secondary schools and kura must also keep a register of students' vaccination records - like we already have for measles.

"We can't leave anything to chance so that's why we're making it mandatory," Hipkins said.

But Newshub has spoken to teachers scared if parents aren't mandated "unvaccinated households will pose a risk to vulnerable children", saying big events like prize-giving were a "disaster waiting to happen if unvaccinated parents are allowed to attend".

"It may come to pass that in coming months or years, that in order to attend this school event or that school event you need to be vaccinated," says Papatoetoe High School principal Vaughan Couillault.

Hipkins confirmed: "If parents are volunteering in schools, i.e. spending more time in schools than just doing pickups and drop offs, then yes, they would need to be vaccinated."

The aged care sector is also keen for vaxxed-only visitors.

"It's better that everyone who's working, living and visiting a care centre - if they're eligible - has a vaccine," says Ryman chief executive Gordon MacLeod.

Very soon everyone working on the frontline will also need to be vaccinated. From October 30, they'll need to have had their first jab, and be fully vaccinated by December 1. If not, they won't be able to stay in their role.

"In the health workforce they will not be able to work in those roles. In the education workforce, from next year, they won't be able to work in those roles," Hipkins said.

But to vaccinate the nation, epidemiologist Rod Jackson wants even more mass mandates.

"Education, bus drivers, supermarkets, and then for the high-risk people we need emergency workers, police, anyone who's dealing with anyone who's high-risk. Prison officers - you name it," he told Newshub.

He says even 90 percent vaccination won't keep Aotearoa safe.

"These mandates might seem extreme, but these aren't normal times. It is a race against time to get New Zealanders vaccinated. Only 45 percent of New Zealanders are fully vaccinated. It's not good enough."

The Government is not yet considering extending the mandate, not even to public servants, including police.

"Health and education is a very clear area where those are individuals dealing with vulnerable New Zealanders and we believe we owe a duty of care to those vulnerable New Zealanders," said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.