In December media reported vaccination events in Taranaki were cancelled or moved indoors after abuse and physical attacks from anti-vaxxers.
The confrontations included verbal abuse, damaged equipment and in some cases physical assaults.
A police spokesman said police took any reports of intimidation or abuse of healthcare workers in any setting very seriously, “and if we get calls for assistance we will attend”.
“We also undertake community reassurance patrols from time to time at sites such as vaccination centres in the area.” He said police understood that the vast majority of the community were “hugely appreciative” of the work being undertaken by vaccination teams.
NZNO kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku said she had been told by members that it had become a problem.
“It’s got to the stage now where it’s obstructing them from doing the job that they need to do.”
It had been “heart breaking” for nurses who were working to protect and inform patients despite being confronted by aggressive vaccination opponents.
Acting manager, professional nursing services Kate Weston said violence and aggression towards nurses was disappointing – but an increasing trend in healthcare.
Violence in the context of vaccination was especially unacceptable, she said. “Throughout the pandemic, nurses have provided front line support, often with very little notice, which included pop-up testing stations and ongoing vaccination programmes essential for Aotearoa to maintain wellbeing in the community and to limit the aggressive spread of COVID-19 as we see in other places overseas.” Nurses had provided the backbone of the COVID response across the country, she said.
Weston said the vast majority of nurses were themselves fully vaccinated: many were starting to get their booster doses.
“This will ensure their immunity carries them through what might be a very busy period with opening of borders and the spectre of Omicron across the Tasman, and any subsequent variants that may come our way in 2022.”
Meanwhile the demands of the COVID-19 response has now seen proposed changes to nursing training. The Nursing Council of New Zealand proposed students would be able to use their experiences of COVID-19-related practice such as vaccination as part of their clinical learning.
These standards would allow high quality, clinical experiences in the context of the COVID-19 global pandemic.