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'Don't tell me what to do' no excuse for no jab, Little says

Author
John Weekes, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 18 Nov 2021, 4:20pm
Health Minister Andrew Little says paid special leave or stand-downs give vaccine-hesitant workers time to reconsider. (Photo / Mark Mitchell)
Health Minister Andrew Little says paid special leave or stand-downs give vaccine-hesitant workers time to reconsider. (Photo / Mark Mitchell)

'Don't tell me what to do' no excuse for no jab, Little says

Author
John Weekes, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 18 Nov 2021, 4:20pm

Oranga Tamariki has put 31 unvaccinated staff who cannot be redeployed or work from home on special leave with pay.

The children's ministry and other public sector agencies putting staff on paid special leave have been criticised this week as vaccine mandates take effect.

Asked about taxpayer-funded workers who refused to get vaccinated, Minister of Health Andrew Little today said petulance was no excuse for putting other people at risk.

"Say you disagree with the Government ... but in the end, a personal view about not being told what to do is not a reason for other people to be kept unsafe."

He said if public agencies stood down employees, that gave employees extra time to rethink their position.

Little said he'd not been made aware of any places which were so remote it had been impossible for residents to find a vaccination clinic.

"Most DHBs, and the organisations they're working with, have gone to great lengths to get mobile clinics out to people so it is easy for people to get vaccinated."

OT's tamariki vaccinations mandate programme lead Sina Aiolupotea-Aiono said the ministry was following guidance from the Public Service Commission.

"Of the applicable workforce who is legally required to be vaccinated at this point and have chosen not to be vaccinated, most can take up alternative duties or work from home."

But she said frontline tasks in places where education and health services were provided could not be done by staff working from home.

"We currently have 31 staff who are on special leave with pay," Aiolupotea-Aiono added. That was three per cent of OT workers who were supposed to be vaccinated.

The paid special leave can last up to a month.

More than 1,300 unvaccinated public sector health workers have been stood down. Photo / AP

The Herald has found that more than 150 unvaccinated Corrections staff were also put on special leave.

The Public Service Commission said no blanket provision allowed for special leave.

"It is a matter between the employer and employee and we have not seen any evidence it is being over-used," a commission spokesman said this week.

It was not immediately clear how many of the unvaccinated staff were refusing to ever be jabbed, or how many had just not got around to it yet.

Act Party leader David Seymour on Tuesday said testing every 72 hours would create less disruption and division than suspending workers.

The New Zealand Taxpayers' Union said paying unvaccinated staff to sit at home was absurd and wasteful, and would not be tolerated in the private sector.

Elsewhere in the public sector, more than 1,300 district health board staff have been stood down because they were not vaccinated.

The mandate called for all DHB staff to have had their first dose by 11.59pm on Monday.

By Thursday morning, at least 90.7 per cent of eligible adults nationwide had one vaccine dose, and 82.1 per cent were fully vaccinated.

Vaccines and vaccine passes are central to the planned reopening of domestic travel once New Zealand replaces the alert level system with the new traffic light system.

The Ministry of Health said a surge of interest yesterday caused delays for some members of the public trying to access My Vaccine Pass.

The digital pass is an official record of a person's Covid-19 vaccination status. The ministry said more than 300,000 passes had been issued by 9am today.