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DHB vax deadline nears


Story by Soumya Bhamidipati

While at least 80 per cent of Wairarapa District Health Board staff have been fully vaccinated against covid-19, the organisation does not know how many of its workforce have had just the first dose – despite the first deadline for mandatory vaccination approaching fast.

The news comes after the government’s announcement that vaccinations would be mandatory for health and education workers. High-risk workers in the health and disability sector were to receive their first dose by October 30, and were to be fully vaccinated by December 1.

Wairarapa DHB spokeswoman Anna Cardno said the DHB received the news last Monday and was now awaiting guidance.

“We will make plans to implement this once that national level guidance is confirmed.”

The DHB had not collected data while vaccinations for health workers was voluntary, she said.

“We have strongly encouraged staff to engage in the programme, and continue to do so, and we have good uptake. We were not asked to collect staff vaccination information during the rollout to healthcare workers, and due to privacy reasons we would not have expected to do so,” Cardno said.

“Retrospectively, we were asked for staff vaccination information. At that point, staff were asked to consent to share their vaccination information with the organisation.”

This meant the 80 per cent figure only reflected staff who provided consent.

“There may well be staff that have received their first dose, or are fully vaccinated, that have not yet provided consent.”

Figures made public on Wednesday showed the national percentage of staff fully vaccinated across all DHBs was about 85 per cent. Wairarapa was the only DHB for which first dose rates were not reported.

DHBs spokeswoman Rosemary Clements said under the Privacy Act, DHBs were required to obtain staff consent to record their vaccination status.

In August, the Privacy Commissioner provided a privacy waiver to allow the Ministry of Health to provide information about staff vaccination status to the three Auckland metro DHBs and Waikato DHB, in response to covid-19 outbreaks in their regions.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said vaccination remained the strongest and most effective tool to protect against infection and disease.

“We need as many workers as possible to be vaccinated to allow sectors to respond to the pandemic and deliver everyday services with as little disruption as possible.

“While most people working in these sectors are already fully or partially vaccinated, we can’t leave anything to chance and are making it mandatory.

“It’s not an easy decision, but we need the people who work with vulnerable communities who haven’t yet been vaccinated to take this extra step.

“Vaccinations for children aged 5 to 11 are not yet approved and the health and disability sector includes a range of high risk occupations,” he said.

While exemptions may be possible under some circumstances, the new requirements would include general practitioners, pharmacists, community health nurses, midwives, and paramedics.

They would also extend to certain non-regulated healthcare work, such as aged residential care, home and community support services, kaupapa Maori health providers and Non-Government Organisations that provided health services.

“People have a reasonable expectation that our work forces are taking all reasonable precautions to prevent the spread of disease, and government agencies have been working with them to ensure they are as protected as possible,” Hipkins said.

“Our education and health and disability workforces have done an incredible job throughout this pandemic to keep themselves and people safe.

“A high rate of vaccinations will help to protect staff from getting sick and passing covid-19 on to loved ones.”

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