Mandatory Vaccination Order for Paramedics
On 11 October, the Government announced that it is revising legislation to make COVID-19 vaccination compulsory for ‘high risk’ workers in the health and disability sectors. The Order in Council that makes these changes has now been passed.
This Order legally came into effect at 11:59pm on 25 October, and requires most paramedics to:
- receive their first vaccine dose by 15 November 2021; and
- be fully vaccinated by 1 January 2022.
Some exemptions will be available; for example, those who cannot be vaccinated for personal health reasons.
Does this Order cover all paramedics?
The Order covers most paramedics. The original Order issued on Friday 22 October covered all regulated health practitioners, no matter where they worked.
On Friday 5 November, the government amended the Order to only cover “health practitioners providing health services to patients in person”. This means that paramedics who do not practise in face-to-face / kanohi-ki-te-kanohi settings are no longer required to be vaccinated by the above dates. For example, paramedics working in telehealth are not included in the Order. Paramedics who do not provide health services to patients – for example, those who work in the area of paramedic policy and professional advice – are also excluded from the Order.
The Order applies whether you are working for a charity/ not-for-profit organisation or other non-government organisation, a for-profit company, or in the public health system. It also applies if you are self-employed.
I'm not currently working as a paramedic; does this Order apply to me?
Te Kaunihera Manapou understands that this Order only applies if you are actively practising as a paramedic. For example, if you are currently taking a break from paramedicine and working in another job the Order will not cover you as a paramedic.
If you are unsure whether or not the Order is likely to apply to you, talk to your employer, union, or professional association, or contact the Ministry of Health.
Do I have to be vaccinated to register or renew my APC?
No. Te Kaunihera Manapou understands that this Order only applies to practising as a paramedic. You may join the Register or renew your registration – subject to the normal requirements – without being vaccinated. However, you will not be able to work as a paramedic.
Te Kaunihera Manapou strongly encourages all paramedics to be fully vaccinated as soon as possible, whatever their employment or registration status.
What if I believe I should be exempted from these requirements?
Some people with serious health conditions will be exempt from this Order. This will require evidence from an appropriate health practitioner. A very limited set of other exemptions also exist. If you believe an exemption may apply to you, we recommend that you discuss this with your employer as soon as possible.
What happens if I breach the mandatory vaccination Order?
This Order has legal authority, and legislation sets down specific penalties for not complying. This will also have implications for your current employment.
Complying with relevant legislation is part of both the Te Kaunihera Manapou’s code of conduct, and the competencies for each scope of practice. Failing to observe this order if it applies to you may therefore be grounds for a formal complaint or referral of a conviction, and lead to disciplinary proceedings under the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003.
How is Te Kaunihera Manapou involved in this Order?
This Order has been put in place by the Government, not by Te Kaunihera Manapou. Te Kaunihera Manapou was consulted by the Ministry of Health during preparation of their advice to the Minister and Cabinet on this issue.
Te Kaunihera Manapou has no role in monitoring paramedics’ vaccination status and is not involved in directly investigating or enforcing compliance with this Order. However, paramedics need to align themselves with their employer's guidance and requirements, which should be in turn be aligned with the government’s directives. Investigating and enforcing the Order will be in the hands of employers, the Ministry of Health, and other agencies. However, Te Kaunihera Manapou may investigate complaints, and referrals of convictions, that are related to non-compliance with the Order. This would be investigated in the same way as any other complaint or conviction that is referred to Te Kaunihera Manapou.
Vaccination health exemptions
Following concerns around potential abuse of health exemptions from vaccination requirements, a new centralised system for seeking exemptions has been established by the Ministry of Health. This is intended to cover all legally-mandated vaccination requirements, not just the current mandatory vaccination order. For example, it will be available to people seeking health exemptions from vaccination requirements to attend a major public event.
In this new system, a practitioner does not issue exemptions themselves. Instead they apply on behalf of their patient to a ministerially-appointed panel. This panel will consider the application and supporting evidence before deciding whether or not to issue the exemption.
Health exemptions can now only be applied for by a Nurse Practitioner or a Medical Practitioner. It is also expected that any practitioner who applies for an exemption on behalf of a patient will have an existing clinical relationship with that patient, such as being their main primary health care provider. Exemptions will apply for limited period of time, to a maximum of six months, and are primarily intended to allow time for a suitable vaccine to become available.
If you have previously obtained or issued a health exemption, these are no longer valid. You will need to arrange for a new exemption through this system.
Please note that someone who receives a health exemption may still not be able to work in their current role or area. Their employer will need to conduct a risk assessment based on their unvaccinated status, and this may lead to being redeployed into other positions. For example, a paramedic may be moved into a role that involves no physical contact with patients.
Please note that Te Kaunihera Manapou Paramedic Council has no role in the health exemption process and cannot provide advice or assistance in this area. More information about applying for an exemption is available through HealthPathways or the Ministry of Health.
I’d like to know more about this Order
The COVID-19 Response Minister’s original press release announcing this order is available at https://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/mandatory-vaccination-two-workforces. The Ministry of Health has provided specific guidance on the Mandatory Vaccination Order for Health and Disability workers, which is available online here.
For further information about how this Order might affect your practice or your workplace, talk to your employer.
For further information about the Order itself, contact the Ministry of Health or see their website at www.health.govt.nz
Is there anything else I need to know?
We have released a guidance statement on vaccination and the professional responsibilities of paramedics which you can find here.
Te Kaunihera Manapou firmly believes that vaccination is a critical part of Aotearoa New Zealand’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Getting your COVID-19 vaccination not only helps protect yourself, but also your patients, your whānau, and the wider community. We strongly recommend that all paramedics take up the opportunity to be vaccinated unless there are clear medical reasons not to do so.