COVID-19 vaccine mandate for teachers and healthcare workers: 10 questions and answers

The Government has mandated COVID-19 vaccination for high-risk workers in health and disability and in education - two sectors that now join managed isolation and border workers. 

The mandate raises a lot of questions about who it applies to, what date these workforces need to be vaccinated by, and what happens to those who refuse.

Below are 10 questions and answers to provide some clarity. 

Question 1: When does the healthcare vaccine mandate kick in?

Answer: December 1. They'll need to receive their first dose by October 30. 

Question 2: Who does the healthcare vaccine mandate apply to?

Answer: This includes general practitioners (GPs), pharmacists, community health nurses, midwives, paramedics, and all healthcare workers in sites where vulnerable patients are treated, including intensive care units (ICUs). Also included are some non-regulated healthcare workforces, including aged residential care, home and community support services, kaupapa Māori health providers, and non-Government organisations that provide health services. 

The full list will be provided in the next few days.

Question 3: When does the education vaccine mandate kick in?

Answer: January 1. They'll need to receive their first dose by November 15. 

Question 4: Who does the education vaccine mandate apply to?

Answer: It includes all teachers, home-based educators, all those who support people in schools and early learning services such as teacher-aides, administration, and maintenance staff, and contractors. 

Question 5: Do teachers need to be tested regularly?

Answer: All education workforce employees in Auckland and other alert level 3 regions will be required to return a negative COVID-19 test result before they can work on-site, when their schools and early learning services are able to reopen. 

Those who are not fully vaccinated in the period leading up to January 1 will be required to undergo weekly COVID-19 testing until they are fully vaccinated.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has confirmed schools will not reopen in Auckland on October 18 as initially planned, due to the need for further preparation. Distance learning will instead recommence at the beginning of term 4.

Question 6: Do university educators need to be vaccinated?

Answer: "Work is continuing on what the vaccination requirements, if any, around the tertiary education sector should be," Education Minister Chris Hipkins said. 

Question 7: Do parents have to be vaccinated?

Answer: According to Education Minister Chris Hipkins, parents must be vaccinated if they intend to spend time at the school, such as volunteering for sports or other activities involving contact with students. 

"If parents are volunteering in schools, i.e., spending more time in school than just doing pick-ups and drop-offs, then yes, they would need to be vaccinated to continue those volunteer roles."

Question 8: Do students have to be vaccinated?

Answer: No, but secondary schools and kura will be required to keep a COVID-19 vaccination register of their students, the same as measles. Students that don't produce evidence of vaccination will be considered unvaccinated. 

The Pfizer vaccine is currently only avaialable for people aged 12 and above. 

The United States Food and Drug Administration is considering an application from Pfizer to allow the jab for 5-11 year olds. 

Medsafe told Newshub it was waiting for Pfizer to submit an application and when it does, it'll be a priority. Newshub also understands that could happen by the end of the year, and when it does, we're good to go. 

Question 9: Does the vaccine mandate only apply to public schools?

Answer: No, all schools are covered by the mandate. Remember, the Government's vaccine mandate on border workers covers both public and private employers. 

Question 10: What happens if teachers or healthcare workers don't get vaccinated?

Answer: "Ultimately, in the health workforce they will not be able to work in those roles," Education Minister Chris Hipkins said, adding that the same applies to the education sector. 

"One of the reasons we chose 1 January was because it does give the schools the month of January to sort their staffing arrangements for next year."