Mandatory Vaccination Order for Nurses

On October 11, the Government announced that it is revising legislation to make COVID-19 vaccination compulsory for ‘high risk’ workers in the health and disability sectors. This will require every nurse covered by the revised Order to:

  • receive their first vaccine dose by 30 October 2021; and
  • be fully vaccinated by 1 December 2021.

Some exemptions will be available; for example, those who cannot be vaccinated for personal health reasons.

Does this Order cover all nurses?

The revised Order that sets out the specific details of who must be vaccinated is still being drafted. At this point, we know that it will cover nurses working in community health, and “all healthcare workers in sites where vulnerable patients are treated”. Intensive care has been provided as an example of such a work setting.

As nurses work in a variety of health settings, not all of you will be covered by this Order. The Ministry of Health will be releasing specific information on who is covered by the Order in the coming days, and we will update this page when that information is available.

If you are unsure whether or not the Order is likely to apply to you, talk to your employer or contact the Ministry of Health.

I don’t work for a DHB; does this Order apply to me?

Yes. The Order will apply whether or not you are working in the public health system, a for-profit company, or a charity or other non-government organisation.

Do I have to be vaccinated to practise as a nurse or renew my APC?

No. This Order only applies to nurses who work in particular settings or care for particular types of patients. If you are not vaccinated by the above deadlines you may still practise outside these areas. Similarly, being vaccinated is not currently a requirement of renewing your Annual Practising Certificate.

The Nursing Council does, however, strongly encourage all nurses to be fully vaccinated as soon as possible.

What if I believe I should be exempted from these requirements?

The specific grounds on which people can be exempted from these requirements have yet to be released. However, if you believe you should be exempted from the Order we recommend that you discuss this with your employer as soon as possible.

What happens if I breach the mandatory vaccination Order?

This Order has legal authority, and will set down specific penalties for not complying. This may also have implications for your current employment.

Complying with relevant legislation is part of both the Council’s code of conduct, and the competencies for each scope of practice. Failing to observe this order if it applies to you may therefore be grounds for a formal complaint, and lead to disciplinary proceedings under the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003.

How is the Nursing Council involved in this Order?

This Order has been put in place by the Government, not the Nursing Council. The Council was consulted by the Ministry of Health during preparation of their advice to the Minister and Cabinet on this issue.

The Council has no role in monitoring nurses’ vaccination status, and is not involved in directly investigating or enforcing compliance with this Order. Doing so is the responsibility of your employer and the Ministry of Health. However, as noted above, non-compliance with this order may be grounds for a complaint to the Council about a nurse. This would be investigated in the same way as any other complaint to the Council.

I’d like to know more about this Order

The COVID-19 Response Minister’s press release announcing this order is available at https://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/mandatory-vaccination-two-workforces

For further information about how this order might affect your practice or your workplace, talk to your employer.

For further information about the Order itself, contact the Ministry of Health or see their website at www.health.govt.nz

Is there anything else I need to know?

We have released a guidance statement on vaccination and the professional responsibilities of nurses. You can find this here.

The Council firmly believes that vaccination is a critical part of Aotearoa New Zealand’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Getting your COVID-19 vaccination not only helps protect yourself, but also your patients, your whānau, and the wider community. We strongly recommend that all nurses take up the opportunity to be vaccinated unless there are clear medical reasons not to do so.