Coronavirus: Unvaccinated teacher stood down for a year with no pay reacts to Government scrapping mandate

The rollback of some COVID-19 vaccine mandates means those who refused to be vaccinated can head back to work.

While there'll still be masks, distancing, and handwashing, unvaccinated teachers can return to schools from April 4. But there might be some roles which you need to be vaccinated to do, like working with vulnerable children.

"We will need to have available teachers in schools to cover general winter illnesses and sicknesses and things like that," says Principals' Federation president Cherie Taylor-Patel.

Geraldine teacher Rachael Mortimer was stood down for a year with no pay.

"A lot of us who did lose our jobs, we're still very much in limbo. We have no idea if we can walk back into our schools."

She was at the Parliament protests and believes the COVID-19 vaccine is experimental. 

She's now had COVID and wants even the whiff of another mandate to be ruled out.

"I just want to walk back into my job," Mortimer says.

But the removal of mandates for teachers has the parents of immunocompromised children worried.

For mum Rachel Shaw, New Zealand isn't a safe place for Zayden and Sklyah at the moment. They have spinal muscular atrophy and Shaw has kept the whole family home for four months to protect them.

"Basically we've been stuck at home 24/7," she says.

It's been hard. People required to isolate as a COVID case get support, but she's had none for trying to avoid the virus and being a combination of "teacher, maid, mum, and cleaner".

Rachael Mortimer.
Rachael Mortimer. Photo credit: Newshub.

Newshub asked Mortimer what she would say to mums like Shaw who were comforted by the mandates that protected her vulnerable children.

"It's ripping through our country and at the end of the day, having a vaccinated teacher or an unvaccinated teacher in the classroom probably is not going to make much of a difference," Mortimer says.

In the last 10 days alone, there's been more than 41,000 reported COVID-19 cases across 1200 ECEs and schools.

But the Government is adamant it's safe to go to school - vaccinated teachers or not. 

"I understand the concerns of parents of immunocompromised children but there are huge benefits to keeping their children in school," says Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall.

Mandates for police, soldiers, and anyone who worked in a vaccinated-only venue are gone too.

"Mandates and passes were undoubtedly one of the reasons we reached 95 percent of the eligible population vaccinated," says Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

But healthcare, aged care, border, and Corrections staff will all still need to be vaccinated to keep their jobs - for now.

The Government's considering narrowing who will continue to be mandated.

"These are either workers supporting our most vulnerable, or they work in high-risk environments where spread would be rapid or exposure to new variants is high," Ardern says.