New Zealand police expand COVID-19 vaccine mandate to volunteers, suppliers and visitors

The COVID-19 vaccine mandate for police has been expanded to contractors, volunteers and suppliers, while victims, witnesses and people held in custody will be exempt. 

It comes just a day after the January 17 deadline for police and Defence Force staff to have had their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. The deadline for a second dose is March 1. 

The new expanded policy means everyone else covered by it will be required to have had their first dose of the vaccine by February 11 and their second dose by March 11.

Anyone visiting a police station to access essential police services, and people brought to a station in relation to enforcement activities - such as victims, witnesses and those held in custody - will be exempt.

Deputy Police Commissioner Tania Kura said police were "committed to ensuring that our staff and the people we engage with are safe and vaccination is the best defence against COVID-19 and its variations."

She added: "Our frontline staff work in close proximity with police employees and this policy will provide safety for our employees while reinforcing the safety of our frontline staff and of our communities."

The new policy was approved by the Police Executive Team on Monday and follows consultation with staff in December and feedback from the Police Association. 

Deputy Commissioner Kura said ahead of the February 11 deadline, those affected would be contacted and encouraged to get their first dose. 

As of Friday, 98 percent of the 10,500 staff covered by the police staff mandate had had one dose while 94 percent were fully protected. 

New Zealand police officer receives the COVID-19 vaccine.
New Zealand police officer receives the COVID-19 vaccine. Photo credit: Getty Images

More than 200 police officers were yet to get their first dose - far less than the 900 unvaccinated police staff in November. 

Police said a small number of staff members were expected to be stood down on Monday. Discussions were to be had about redeployment, leave without pay or medical exemptions.

Police Minister Poto Williams has backed vaccine mandates. 

"I've already been on record as wanting to keep the police safe," she said in November

The Government has already mandated COVID-19 vaccination for about 40 percent of the workforce, including border and healthcare workers, education staff, Corrections, and all close contact businesses, such as hospitality, events and gyms. 

Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said in November he wasn't concerned about losing cops due to the mandate

"Oh, not particularly," he said. 

"Clearly the whole point of this is that we want them to be vaccinated and when we reach the endpoint of those discussions, if they aren't vaccinated, then they won't be able to undertake the duties of frontline police officers. 

"We've been purposefully working through mandates here. We take these decisions very seriously. We do not want to issue mandates where we don't believe there is a very pressing need to do so, and obviously with the police and the Defence Force they find themselves in situations where we believe it's appropriate."

Fire and Emergency staff had to have had their second dose by January 14. Hundreds of unvaccinated firefighters have since been stood down.

Fire and Emergency NZ said almost 95 percent of paid staff and 90 percent of volunteers had received two doses of the vaccine.