Concerns over unregulated vaccinators

May 1, 2021

Questions remain over plans to use lay people in the Government’s ambitious COVID-19 vaccination rollout.

NZNO acting manager nursing and professional services Kate Weston said there was no “conversation or consultation” with the organisation over how nurse members, in particular, would work with proposed unregulated vaccinators.

“I’m not sure what the actual specifics of a relationship to a registered health professional will be,” Weston said.

Usually, she said, responsibility for the new workforce would fall on the regulated health professionals. In the case of the rollout, this could be anyone from nurses to doctors to physios, with a raft of people needed to actually deliver the programme.

Despite the lack of consultation with the NZNO before the decision by director general of health Ashley Bloomfield, there would still be “roles for everybody” in the programme, Weston said.

“There’s the consent process, there’s the crowd control, there’s the meet-and-greet, there’s recovery. There’s a lot of places where we could really welcome and use lay people in the team.”

If lay people were going to be delivering the vaccine, then their training should be robust, Weston said.

“So it’s not just minimised to just a [single] skill. It’s not just about jabbing someone in the arm. It’s actually a much wider skill of ensuring that person’s wellbeing throughout the whole process.”

Another concern was whether community members would be made aware their vaccinator was not a registered health professional.

Under the Code of Rights people did have the right to know, she said.

There were worries too that lay vaccinators might be working predominately with Māori health providers, she said.

“If it’s going to be across the board for everybody, ok let’s talk about it… but is it just going to be put into those communities? What’s the rationale for that?”

Weston said she would like to know if it was genuinely about providing a high quality service, “or is it actually about providing something that’s a bit second rate?”

The Ministry of Health and Bloomfield have come under pressure to muster a vaccination workforce.

This has created further concerns that the demand would soak up nurses from other areas of the health system – leaving them understaffed.

NZNO recognised vaccinating the best part of 5 million people would require “a huge workforce”, Weston said.

“But we would have appreciated a bit more consultation before the decision was made.”

Weston said it appeared the unregulated vaccinators were not yet in the vaccination workforce.