Saturday, November 27

Covid-19: Call on Auckland DHBs to get tough on employees who refuse to get vaccinated

Auckland District Health Boards (DHBs) must take a tougher line to ensure that all staff are vaccinated, says a public health expert.

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - SEPTEMBER 16: People walk to a vaccination center on Dominion Rd, Balmoral on September 16, 2021 in Auckland, New Zealand.

Archive image.
Photo: Getty Images 2021

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins announced Monday that high-risk workers in the healthcare sector should be fully vaccinated by December 1 and should have received their first dose by October 30.

It includes general practitioners, community health nurses, midwives, paramedics, and all health workers at sites where vulnerable patients are treated, including intensive care units.

Data released by DHB on Wednesday shows that Manukau counties have the lowest level of staff vaccinations in the Auckland region, with 92 percent of employees fully vaccinated and 95 percent having received a vaccine.

That compares with 94.3 percent of Auckland DHB staff who have received two doses and 93 percent of Waitematā DHB employees.

But University of Auckland professor of epidemiology Rod Jackson said that while DHBs in the region had done a great job so far, they needed to take a tougher stance to make sure all their staff were targeted.

“I think the Auckland DHBs have done incredibly well and anything over 80 percent without a mandate is good,” he said.

“I understand that everyone has worked incredibly hard to do that and has worked one-on-one with their staff. But their job now is to make sure that anyone who resists now leaves.”

Now that DHBs had government backing for mandatory vaccinations for high-risk workers, the goal had to be 100 percent immunization for all staff, he said.

Some people may not like your call to take a harder line. But he said a no-jab, no-work approach was a way to get the message out to people who were procrastinating, Jackson said.

“People say it is extreme, but this is an extreme situation and we are in a race against time. If we don’t have a higher vaccination rate, we are going to have a major public health crisis.”

The Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS) welcomed this week’s announcement on mandatory vaccinations for healthcare workers.

“This will give everyone who works in a hospital or healthcare setting peace of mind about their own personal risks and safety.” Executive Director Sarah Dalton said.

He said most patient-related roles would be covered by the government’s mandatory vaccination order, but said some should be analyzed on a case-by-case basis.

“It depends on the role and service a person is working in,” he said. “Ending someone’s job should be the last step.”

Speaking on behalf of DHBs in response to Jackson’s comments, Rosemary Clements of Central Region Technical Advisory Services (TAS) said the country’s district health boards were pleased with the Covid vaccination levels. -19 of its staff, particularly since it has not been a legal requirement for most people to date.

“In Auckland and Waikato, due to Covid-19 outbreaks in their areas, DHBs were granted a privacy waiver so that they could receive information from the Ministry of Health’s Covid Immunization Registry on the vaccination status of their personal, “Clements said.

“We are working with the Ministry of Health to understand the new mandate of the health workforce and will work with our staff to ensure maximum vaccination rates.”

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Local Democracy Reporting is a public interest news service supported by RNZ, the Association of News Publishers, and NZ On Air.

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