Mandatory Vaccination Order for Nurses

Under the COVID-19 Public Health Response (Vaccinations) Order 2021, most nurses practising in Aotearoa New Zealand must be vaccinated against COVID-19. The original deadlines for vaccination were that a nurse covered by the Order must:

  • receive their first vaccine dose by 15 November 2021, and
  • receive their second vaccine dose by 1 January 2022.

Some exemptions are available, such as for those who cannot be vaccinated for personal health reasons. Otherwise, nurses must now be vaccinated to work in most settings and areas. If you are unsure whether the Order applies to you, please discuss this with your employer.

At the end of the Intro text (i.e. just before the Booster heading) the following should be added as a new paragraph:

In May 2022, the government amended the Order to allow a temporary exemption for nurses who contracted COVID-19 from May 16th onwards. Under clause 7A, an unvaccinated and/or unboosted nurse who is not otherwise exempt from the Order can now practice for 100 days after testing positive. The following points apply to this exemption:

  • You must have a positive result for COVID-19 from an authorised laboratory or authorised Rapid Antigen Test (RAT).
  • You must have received this result on or after 11:59pm on May 15th, 2022. Older results do not qualify you for an exemption.
  • You must provide your employer or place of work with evidence of the positive laboratory or RAT result. Your employer must also provide information to the Ministry of Health on how many staff are working under this exemption.
  • The exemption lasts for 100 days from when you received your positive result, not 100 days from when you first displayed symptoms or from when you provided evidence of this result to your employer.
Once the 100 day exemption period is over, the normal provisions of the Order will again apply to you. This means that after the exemption, in most cases you will need to receive your initial and booster vaccines to work as a nurse in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Booster Vaccinations

In January 2022 this Order was amended to include ‘booster’ vaccinations. Nurses covered by the Order must now also receive a booster dose of an approved vaccine either:

  • before 25 February 2022, or
  • before the close of the date that is 183 days after the date on which they were vaccinated (i.e. received their second dose of an approved COVID vaccine).

This means that if you received your second vaccine dose on or before Thursday 26th of August 2021, you must receive a booster by Friday February 25th 2022. Otherwise, you must be boosted by 183 days after the date you received your second dose. This is around 26 weeks or approximately six months after you received Dose 2; some examples are shown as a guide in the Table below. Your employer will be able to help you identify the specific date by which you must receive your booster.

 If you received Dose 2 on...
 You must receive a booster by...
 1 September 2021
 3 March 2022
 1 October 2021
 2 April 2022
 1 November 2021
 3 May 2022
 1 December 2021
 2 June 2022
 1 January 2022
 3 July 2022

Does this Order cover all nurses?

The Order covers most nurses. The original Order issued on Friday 22 October covered all regulated health practitioners, no matter where they worked.

In November 2021, the government amended the Order to only cover “health practitioners providing health services to patients in person”. This means that some nurses who do not practise in face-to-face/ kanohi-ki-te-kanohi settings are not required to be vaccinated. Nurses who do not provide health services to patients – for example, those who work in the area of nursing policy and professional advice – are also not directly covered by the Order.

However, staff working in areas where health services are provided to the public – such as hospitals and private practices – must in most cases be vaccinated regardless of their specific role. Many organisations and employers are also adopting mandatory vaccination requirements for staff and/or visitors to their premises. Always check with your employer, union, and/or professional association if you are unsure how your vaccination status might affect your work.

I don’t work for a DHB; does this Order apply to me?

Yes. The Order applies whether or not you are working in the public health system, a for-profit company, or a charity or other non-government organisation. It also applies if you are self-employed.

I'm not currently working as a nurse; does this Order apply to me?

The Nursing Council understands that this Order only applies if you are actively practising as a nurse. For example, if you are currently taking a break from nursing and working in another job the Order will not cover you as a nurse.

However, nursing is not the only profession covered by this and other mandatory vaccination orders. For example, many health and disability care assistants will be covered by the Order, and if you are registered in another regulated health profession then the Order will apply to any work you do in that capacity.

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 need to provide evidence of my vaccination status to the Nursing Council?

No. The Nursing Council is not responsible for checking vaccination status. You will need to provide evidence of your vaccination status to your employer.

Do I have to be vaccinated to register as a nurse or renew my APC?

The Nursing Council understands that this Order only applies to practising as a nurse. 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 nurse.

The Nursing Council strongly encourages all nurses 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. As noted at the top of this page, a 100 day exemption now exists for nurses who contract COVID-19 after 15 March 2022. A 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 Council’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 the Nursing Council involved in this Order?

This Order has been put in place by the Government, not the Nursing Council. The Council was consulted by the Ministry of Health during preparation of their advice to the Minister and Cabinet on this issue.

The Council has no role in monitoring nurses’ vaccination status and is not involved in directly investigating or enforcing compliance with this Order. Doing so is the responsibility of your employer, the Ministry of Health, and other agencies. However, as noted above, non-compliance with this order may be grounds for a complaint or referral of a conviction to the Council about a nurse. This would be investigated in the same way as any other complaint or conviction that is referred to the Council.

I’d like to know more about this Order

The COVID-19 Response Minister’s initial press release announcing the Mandatory Vaccination Order is available at https://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/mandatory-vaccination-two-workforces.   

The Order itself can be found at https://www.legislation.govt.nz/regulation/public/2021/0325/latest/LMS579320.html. Schedule 2 describes the groups to which it applies. The text of this Order is updated as additional amendments are made and incorporated.

For further information about how this Order might affect your practice or your workplace, talk to your employer, union, and/or professional association.

For further information about the Order, 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 nurses. You can find this here.

The Council firmly believes that vaccination is a critical part of Aotearoa New Zealand’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Getting your COVID-19 vaccination – including boosters – not only helps protect yourself, but also your patients, your whānau, and the wider community. We strongly recommend that all nurses take up the opportunity to be vaccinated unless there are clear medical reasons not to do so.

This page was last updated 27/05/2022