New Zealand doctors and teachers to be vaccinated soon



WELLINGTON, New Zealand – Most New Zealand healthcare workers and teachers will soon be legally required to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, the government said on Monday.

A new mandate requires doctors, pharmacists, community nurses and many other healthcare workers to be fully immunized by December. Teachers and other education workers must be fully immunized by January.

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said many in these professions have already received their vaccines, but they cannot leave anything to chance, especially because these people are caring for sick patients and young children who are not yet approved for the vaccine themselves.

“It’s not an easy decision, but we need people who work with vulnerable communities who have not yet been vaccinated to take that extra step,” said Hipkins.

New Zealand already requires many people working at the border to get vaccinated.

The announcement comes as New Zealand battles an outbreak of the highly transmissible delta variant in its largest city, Auckland.

Early responses from groups representing affected workers were in favor of the mandate.

“Considering the speed at which the delta is spreading across our country, this is a bold call, but a necessary one,” said Dr Samantha Murton, president of the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday that Auckland would remain stranded for at least a week, while neighboring areas of Waikato and Northland could emerge from the lock on Thursday if no significant spread of the virus is detected in those locations.

Auckland has been on lockdown for almost two months since the outbreak was discovered. Thirty-five new local cases were discovered in the city on Monday, bringing the total number of cases of the epidemic to just over 1,600.

Last week, Ardern acknowledged that the virus was in New Zealand to stay and that it would not be completely wiped out through measures such as lockdowns and contact tracing, which had succeeded in eliminating previous outbreaks.

Ardern urged people to get vaccinated as a step towards reopening the country.

This coming weekend, the government is planning a “Super Saturday” vaccination campaign which it equates to election day, when vaccination centers will be open all day and in the evening.

About 68% of New Zealanders have received at least one dose of the vaccine and 47% are fully immunized. Among those aged 12 and over, the figures rise to 82% and 57% respectively.

The government also announced on Monday an early purchase agreement for 60,000 of a new experimental pill by drugmaker Merck, pending approval from New Zealand regulators.

The pill, molnupiravir, would be the first to treat COVID-19, if approved by regulators, including the United States Food and Drug Administration.

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