Booster deadline extends over fears ‘thousands’ of nurses would be stood down as Omicron hits

February 15, 2022

NZNO and other unions have convinced the Government to push back the deadline for nurses and health workers to get boosted by 10 days, amid fears of losing “thousands” of nurses amid an Omicron surge.

Health workers eligible for their COVID-19 booster now have until February 25 to get boosted, instead of February 15.

Kate Weston
Kate Weston

NZNO acting manager professional and nursing services Kate Weston said while NZNO urged members to get boosted as soon as possible, it had argued for a more supportive, less hardline, approach by the Ministry of Health (MoH).

“We wanted to make this workable, so the mandate is upheld and those within the 183-day window are actually supported and encouraged and given an opportunity to get vaccinated.”

With an estimated shortage of up to 5000 nurses nationwide, and another 25-40 per cent of the workforce likely to be absent due to Omicron, New Zealand could “ill afford” to stand down nurses, Weston said. “We need to have the strongest possible numbers in the workforce at this time.”

By early February an estimated 8000 nurses and health workers were yet to be boosted – but that number was rapidly dropping, Weston said.

NZNO and other health unions have been meeting with MoH over the deadline which could have seen thousands of nurses stood down just as community COVID-19 cases begin to soar.

The Government on January 23 updated its COVID-19 Public Health Response (Vaccinations) Order to require a wider variety of frontline workers to be boosted, including workers in managed isolation/quarantine facilities and across the health and disability system.

Those fully vaccinated by August 16 last year, now have until February 25 to get their booster shot. Others must get their booster within 183 days (six months) after their second jab.

NZNO associate industrial services advisor Iain Lees-Galloway said there had been some confusion about the deadline, but the most simple message was “get boosted as soon as you want to after you become eligible. You must get boosted within six months of your last shot”.

NZNO supported the vaccine mandate and encouraged members to get their booster shots, he said.

‘… get boosted as soon as you want to after you become eligible. You must get boosted within six months of your last shot’.

While mandate requirements must be adhered to, everyone was entitled to a fair and reasonable employment process, Lees-Galloway said. “NZNO will make sure that happens for our members.”

Members with concerns should speak to their delegate or call NZNO support on 00800 28 38 48 or email nurses@nzno.org.nz.

NZNO has stated its view was that those who declined the vaccine were potentially putting their jobs at risk. There were not many options for those who chose not to be vaccinated for reasons other than a legal exemption.

Advice on the public health mandate can be found here www.nzno.org.nz.

NZNO membership support centre acting lead advisor Georgina Araboglos said the number of calls from members concerned about the booster had been on the increase this month.