COVID-19 Level 2 advice and FAQ for the mandatory vaccine Public Health Orders

Change to vaccination exemptions

The Covid-19 Public Health Response (Vaccinations) Order 2021 has been amended to cancel existing medical exemptions and to require all medical exemptions to vaccination from 8 November to be approved by the Director-General of Health within specific guidelines.

If you had an exemption you will need to apply for a new one.  After 15 November 2021 you cannot work onsite when students may be present without a new exemption from the MoH or you are vaccinated.

The revised order is available here: COVID-19 Public Health Response (Required Testing and Vaccinations) Amendment Order 2021 (SL 2021/358) – New Zealand Legislation

What will exemptions be given for?

Exemptions will be issued because you are unable to physically tolerate the vaccine. Guidelines on what will constitute grounds for exemption can be found here:

Vaccine Temporary Medical Exemption Clinical Criteria, Clinical Guidance and Resources (Word, 251 KB)

Ministerial exemption

The Minster now has limited power to grant an exemption when requested by an employer after consulting with the Ministry of Education Regional Director.

The advice below has been updated to reflect these changes.

The Government has issued a Public Health Order mandating vaccination for on-site work

Mandate Map

Boards of trustees must ensure that only fully vaccinated staff are on-site from the start of next year. Unvaccinated staff in level 2 cannot be onsite from 15th November. Staff in level 3 who are not fully vaccinated cannot be onsite from 15th November unless providing weekly evidence of a negative COVID test.

Key dates are:

  • First vaccination by 15 November 2021
  • Fully vaccinated effective from 1 January 2022.

Fully vaccinated means having received the second vaccination.

Teachers will need to provide proof of vaccination, the Ministry of Education have provided more information on how to obtain a letter of confirmation of vaccination:

Requesting proof of vaccination
Proof of vaccination form

Members in schools or kura in COVID-19 Level 2

  • If your school or kura is in an area that is not at Level 3 you can return to school from 18 October without being COVID-19 tested.
  • Face coverings on site will not be mandatory.
  • You can work on-site if you are not vaccinated until 15 November.
  • From 15 November if you are in level 2 you cannot work on-site unless you have had at least one vaccination. If you have your first vaccination after 15 November you can return to onsite work from the date you have your first vaccination. If you are in level 3 you can continue to be on-site with one vaccination if you provide weekly evidence of a negative COVID test.
  • A small number of people may not be able to be vaccinated for medical reasons and you will need to provide the employer with evidence an exemption from the Ministry of Health.

Is this legal?

Section 9 of the COVID-19 Public Health Response Act 2020 authorises the responsible Minister (currently Hon Chris Hipkins) to make a COVID-19 Order for mandatory testing and vaccination of employee groups. 

The Act requires a robust process to be followed including an analysis of whether the requirement is a justified limit on the rights and freedoms in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.

The process for making an order under this Act has been tested in a case concerning the order in force for mandatory vaccination of “border workers”:

GF v Minister of COVID-19 Response [2021] NZHC 2526 24 September 2021

The judge found that all the requirements in the Act had been met. Evidence was presented that there was a strong public health rationale for the order in relation to the specific group. This type of evidence has been used to justify the order under the Act being made for teachers. 

Is this a breach of the Privacy Act/Bill of Rights?

The COVID-19 Public Health Response Act 2020 allows exemptions in respect of broader public health concerns.

It is indicated that the orders will also provide an over-ruling authority for the employer to require evidence of your vaccination status.

There is also the point that the mandate does not require you to be vaccinated but puts a requirement on your employing board to ensure that you be fully vaccinated by 1 January 2022 if you are to continue to be allowed on-site. To do this you must have had your first vaccination by 15 November.

The restriction on employment is similar to the one that prevents a board from employing teachers who do not choose to renew their certification.

A recent legal action argued that the COVID-19 Public Health Response (Vaccinations) Order was not legally valid because it undermines the right to refuse medical treatment under the Bill of Rights. This was dismissed on 12 November with presiding Justice Palmer saying that if a limit was reasonable, prescribed by law, and demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society under section 5, it was consistent with the Bill of Rights and that the mandatory vaccination fell within the scope of the Bill of Rights. A link to this decision will be added here when available.

What happens if I am not vaccinated?

From 15 November you cannot be on-site if you do not have either at least one vaccination or a medical exemption from the Ministry of Health.

After 1 January 2022, the employer cannot continue to have you on-site if you are not fully vaccinated.

A very small number of people in the population cannot be vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine but could be vaccinated with an alternative vaccine when they are available in NZ. 

You will need to provide the employer with an exemption from the Ministry of Health via an approved medical specialist that you cannot be vaccinated (see below).

You should talk with your employer about what options are open to you if you cannot continue to be engaged in on-site duties, for example, while you wait for an alternative vaccine to be approved.  Four vaccines are approved by Medsafe for use in New Zealand: Pfizer, Janssen, Novovax, and AstraZeneca, but only Pfizer is currently available in New Zealand. The government had committed to making an alternative vaccine available by the end of this year, but this is now unlikely. Whether waiting for a viable alternative will be reasonable will be a matter of discussion with the employer and may depend on the expectation for delivery of an alternative vaccine at that point in time. 

Your PPTA field officer will assist you with these discussions and suggest appropriate options in your circumstances. Advice about the process can be found here

See also FAQs

The new medical exemption process

If you had an exemption it is cancelled with effect from 8 November. You will need to apply for a new one from the MoH.  After 15 November 2021 you cannot work onsite when students may be present without a new exemption from the MoH or you are vaccinated.

What will exemptions be given for?

Exemptions will be issued because you are unable to physically tolerate the vaccine. Guidelines on what will constitute grounds for exemption can be found here:

Vaccine Temporary Medical Exemption Clinical Criteria, Clinical Guidance and Resources (Word, 251 KB)

How do I apply for an MoH exemption?

The process is described here:

https://www.health.govt.nz/our-work/diseases-and-conditions/covid-19-novel-coronavirus/covid-19-response-planning/covid-19-mandatory-vaccinations/covid-19-exemptions-and-exceptions-mandatory-vaccination.

A new exemption can only be issued by a suitable medical doctor or nurse practitioner.

The PHO amendment defines a suitable medical practitioner as:

  • registered with the Medical Council of New Zealand or the Nursing Council of New Zealand
  • covered by section 114(1)(a) of the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003 as a practitioner of the profession of medicine or nursing
  • having a current practising certificate.

The doctor or nurse practitioner must assess if you meet the specified clinical criteria.  If so, they will apply to the Ministry of Health for the exemption on your behalf.

  • You will need to certify that the information provided to the medical professional is accurate and

sign the application.

  • The medical professional must certify that they have reviewed your medical history and assessed your state of health and that they have reasonable grounds for believing that you meet the specified COVID-19 vaccination exemption criteria.

The MoH will consider the exemption request submitted and decide if an exemption is to be granted and how long the exemption will last and notify you of its decision in writing.

Your medical doctor or nurse practitioner should give you written confirmation that they are applying for an exemption for you to give to your employer while you are waiting for the MoH to confirm your exemption status.

While you are waiting for a decision

If you provide your employer with confirmation from your doctor or nurse that they are seeking an exemption for you, then after 15 November you should either be given alternative (offsite) duties or be put on paid until your application has been processed.

What then if I get an exemption?

If you are granted an exemption then you must provide your employer with a copy.

The maximum length for an exemption is six months. If you need to extend it, you will need to apply for a new exemption using the same process.

What if I don’t get an MoH exemption or it is not renewed?

After November 15 you won’t be allowed to work onsite when you may come into contact with students unless you get vaccinated, or your school applies for a Ministerial exemption (see below).

Further advice

Refer to the advice for unvaccinated members on processes where there is no exemption.

What if it is my personal choice not to be vaccinated?

You continue to have that choice.

All members who work in schools and kura will be required to have a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by 15 November 2021 to be fully vaccinated by 1 January 2022. If you do not have your first vaccination by 15 November and you are in level 2 you will not be allowed to work on-site. You can return to work on-site from the date of your first vaccination if you have one after that. If you are in level 3 and you have one vaccination you can continue to be onsite if you provide weekly evidence of a negative COVID test. 

If you are not fully vaccinated by 1 January 2022 your employer cannot allow you on-site. 

In such circumstances, your employer may terminate your employment. In such a case, your PPTA field officer would support you to ensure a fair and just process is followed.

What happens if I don’t want to tell the employer if I am vaccinated?

The Public Health Order overrides the Privacy Act.

Under the Public Health Orders, you would have to reveal your vaccination status, but the employer must keep this confidential. It is an offence under the PHO to refuse to provide the information.

If you refuse to provide your status your employer must assume that you are unvaccinated.

Ministerial exemptions

The Minister may approve a request from your school for an exemption for you (under clause 12A(4)(a)(ii) D or E of the main order) to prevent significant disruption to learning at the school or to the essential operation of a hostel.  However:

  • the power is revoked on 1 January 2022
  • these would be on an individual case-by-case basis
  • if granted the exemption may be for a period that ends before 1 January 2022
  • before an exemption will be considered the school must first work with the MoE regional director to look for alternatives.

These exemptions therefore will be rare and will not carry over into the new year.

Would I have priority for surplus staffing options if I don’t want to be vaccinated?

Where a school is undergoing staffing reduction through the normal surplus staffing process this year, vaccination status would not be a consideration in the CAPNA process, but it may influence employer decisions at the voluntary options stage. 

Unvaccinated staff in schools that have surplus staffing processes running this year, and who had their positions disestablished by voluntary option or CAPNA, would have access to the appropriate surplus staffing options.

What can PPTA do to support me if I don’t want to be vaccinated?

PPTA cannot overturn the Public Health Orders.

PPTA field officers will work with affected members to ensure the best outcomes possible are achieved under each individual set of circumstances and that all appropriate processes are followed fairly and consistently.

What is PPTA’s position on mandated vaccination?

From the onset of the pandemic, PPTA’s policy has been to support decisions of the Ministry of Health, which are based on scientific evidence and a robust legal framework. Executive believes that this policy provides maximum protection for all of our members and for their students and communities.

Mandated vaccination to perform on-site teaching duties, as required by the Ministry of Health, falls into this policy.

PPTA recognises the right of individuals to choose not to be vaccinated but acknowledges that under the vaccine mandate this will require corresponding compromises to be made in their employment to provide maximum protection for all members.

PPTA advice is for all members to be fully vaccinated, but the Association will continue to support individual members who choose not to be by ensuring fair and just processes apply.

Where do I get evidence of my vaccination/test status?

You will be sent evidence of your COVID test status after the test is assessed.

You can view your COVID-19 vaccination records online via My Covid Record. For your school, a screenshot from this can be evidence of vaccination. In November, you will be able to download vaccination certificates and see your COVID-19 test results.

You can request a letter of confirmation of vaccination status online through this website.

Advice for unvaccinated members can be found here

Last modified on Friday, 12 November 2021 23:13