Covid-19: compulsory vaccination for health personnel “will save lives”, according to a health organization
A decision to make vaccination against Covid-19 compulsory for healthcare workers and workers with high risk disabilities is the “right thing to do” and “will save lives”, according to major health agencies.
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins announced on Monday that high-risk health and disability workers will need to have received their first dose by October 30 and be fully immunized by October 30. December 1.
Sarah Dalton, executive director of the union of senior physicians and dentists, Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS), said the union was “really happy” that the step had been taken.
“I’m sure the vast majority of our members will appreciate this, and so will we,” said Dalton.
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The new requirements cover general practitioners, pharmacists, community health nurses, midwives, paramedics and all health workers in sites where vulnerable patients are treated (including intensive care units).
It also includes some unregulated health care workers, such as those in residential care services for the elderly, home and community support services, Maori Kaupapa health providers, and nongovernmental organizations that provide health care services. health. The full list will be provided in the coming days.
Dalton said the next question for healthcare workers was whether any booster shots were on the horizon.
Healthcare workers were among the first groups to be vaccinated, and new evidence shows that the effectiveness and protection may wane over time, she said.
Dalton said there had been some concern among senior clinicians about unvaccinated staff working in hospitals and health departments.
“It was additional stress in an already stressed environment. This will reassure all those who work in a health establishment or a hospital as to their personal risks and their safety ”.
From a union perspective, the conscientious objection of hospital doctors to not getting the vaccine was “so weak it wouldn’t even register,” said Dalton.
However, if this were to happen, the union was in favor of a redeployment, if possible.
There would be situations where redeployment could not take place, but Dalton did not imagine that would be a common problem.
National Hauora Coalition clinical director Dr Rawiri McKree Jansen (Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Hinerangi) said all staff working in frontline roles should be vaccinated.
He said there were additional public health measures that should be mandatory, such as scanning (or recording attendance), safe distance, ventilation, masks, hygiene and the fact to stay at home if you feel unwell.
The Royal College of General Practitioners of New Zealand has also supported the call for compulsory vaccination.
Wellington-based College President and General Practitioner Dr Samantha Murton said as healthcare professionals, “we need to keep our patients, communities and colleagues safe”.
“Considering the speed at which Delta is spreading across our country, this is a bold call, but a necessary one,” she said.
People working in the health and education sectors were in close contact with “our most vulnerable members of the community”, including those who are too young to be vaccinated or who have significant underlying medical conditions. .
Murton said most GPs were already fully vaccinated, but this was an opportunity to “make a last ditch effort” to be fully vaccinated before the deadline.
The New Zealand Medical Association said the move was “welcome” and “important” news.
“Today’s announcement will save lives,” said NZMA President Dr Alistair Humphrey.
All doctors should be vaccinated and the vast majority are, he said.
Healthcare workers are more likely to be exposed to Covid-19 in the course of their work, potentially infecting “weak” or immunocompromised patients, and more likely to suffer from serious complications.
“We asked a month ago that all doctors involved in patient care be fully immunized – we are glad the government has come to the same point of view,” he said.
ProCare, the country’s largest network of primary health care professionals, also “warmly welcomed” the announcement.
Group chief executive Bindi Norwell said the vaccination requirement would bring certainty to patients and ensure the most vulnerable are protected.
“We also hope this will mean that patients feel safe going to see their doctor, rather than postponing a visit until absolutely necessary.”
Norwell said it would also bring certainty to the industry, so everyone knows where it stands, and that there will be “no areas of confusion.”
New Zealand Disability Support Network chief executive Peter Reynolds said the warrant was an important step to protect people with disabilities from Covid-19.
People with disabilities often have conditions that can make them less resistant to Covid and are exposed to close contact with caregivers and other healthcare and disability workers.
“Covid in the community presents a serious threat to people with disabilities, and all steps must be taken to protect them,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds said the network wanted to work with the ministry on implementing the mandate, to clarify the roles covered and to increase the immunization rate for people with disabilities – because it had “not been without problems.”
To date, vaccination against Covid-19 is not mandatory for DHB staff, except for those covered by the Covid-19 public health response (vaccinations) order. This command will now be extended.
In September, Thing found that the proportion of fully vaccinated DHB staff varied widely, from 49 percent (West Coast) to 90 percent (Tairāwhiti).
This is all board of health staff, as organizing communications reporting these rates would not break them down into how many frontline health workers have been vaccinated.
West Coast and Bay of Plenty DHBs had the lowest rates of fully immunized staff, with just 61% of Bay of Plenty DHB staff receiving both doses.
Canterbury DHB was not far behind, with 65% of staff fully immunized.
Health Director-General Dr Ashley Bloomfield said there will of course be health workers who cannot be vaccinated for one reason or another, so there will need to be a basis of exemption – but there is will also have an obligation to look at the nature of the work they are doing.
If, for example, a general practitioner in a small town refused to be vaccinated, which could impact access to health care in an isolated community, “we would take it on a case-by-case basis,” he said. he declared.
Bloomfield had a “very high level of confidence” that health workers would be vaccinated, “especially those working in isolated places”.
“Of course there is an exemption for health reasons, but I expect that number to be very low,” he said.