Covid 19 coronavirus: Nine DHBs still unaware of staff vaccination status

Nine District Health Boards still don’t know which of their staff are vaccinated, and now they’ve only got eight weeks to find out.

In data released to the NZ Herald, 10 DHBs know how many of its workforce has had a first or second vaccine. Another DHB could not produce this data but is retrospectively collecting this information.

However, the remaining nine are not actively recording which of their staff members are vaccinated, which poses a significant risk should a virus outbreak prompt hospitalisations where staff aren’t protected by the Pfizer vaccine.

“Well, this is a problem because actually understanding who’s vaccinated in theseimportant health roles is very important,” said University of Otago epidemiologist Nick Wilson.

“This, I would have thought, is a very basic kind of thing that should have been set up right from the beginning.”

Now, new national guidance has outlined all DHBs need to know their staff’s vaccination status by August 31 to ensure all staff in positions where they could potentially catch the virus are immunised.

National Party Covid-19 response spokesman Chris Bishop said it was “staggering” such a large number of DHBs weren’t aware of their staff’s vaccination status.

“It’s just quite amazing and you would have thought it was a top priority for DHBs to identify those staff.”

While he described the national guidance as “sensible”, Bishop said the nine DHBs would have a tough time playing catch-up.

“If [the DHBs] had been recording it properly from the start, that job would be a lot simpler.”

The nine DHBs are:

• Northland

• Mid Central

• Whanganui

• Tairāwhiti

• Taranaki

• Canterbury

• South Canterbury

• Southern

• West Coast

In a statement on behalf of the nine DHBs, a spokesperson said these DHBs had not sought consent from staff to record their information because vaccination wasn’t mandatory.

“In the case of a suspected or positive Covid-19 case, all DHB staff are required to follow strict health and safety protocols while caring for these people, as has been the case throughout the pandemic.”

Tairāwhiti and Northland have some of the largest Māori populations. Modelling on the initial Covid variant found Māori could be twice as likely to die from the virus, and were more likely to catch it.

Wilson said unvaccinated staff treating potentially positive Covid-19 patients increased the risk of infection for other vulnerable patients as well as staff.

“It’s the responsibility of the employer to ensure that staff who are at risk because of their job are protected as much as possible.”

A statement had been sought from Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins.

The remaining DHBs were at different stages of staff vaccination, ranging between 69 per cent of staff fully vaccinated up to 91 per cent.

• Waitematā: First dose – 86 per cent of staff, second dose – 82 per cent

• Auckland: First dose – 88 per cent, second dose: 85 per cent

• Counties Manukau: First dose – 87 per cent, second dose – 82.4 per cent

• Waikato: First dose – 95 per cent, second dose – 89 per cent (this is frontline staff only)

• Bay of Plenty: At least first dose – 79 per cent

• Lakes: First dose – 97 per cent, second dose – 91 per cent

• Hawke’s Bay: First dose – 76.5 per cent, second dose – 69.7 per cent

• Capital & Coast: First dose – 83 per cent, second dose – 78 per cent

• Hutt Valley: First dose – 81per cent, second dose – 75 per cent

• Nelson Marlborough: At least first dose – 70 per cent

• Wairarapa: Retrospective consent to record this data is being sought, and the DHB expects to have indicative numbers of staff vaccinated later in July.

In May, the Herald revealed how 11 DHBs were not recording this data. Since then, Waikato and Hawke’s Bay had begun collecting this information.

In the same article, the Herald detailed how there was also no protocol requiring a staff member to be vaccinated when treating a patient suspected or confirmed to have the Covid-19 virus.

The national guidance, which was prepared by all DHBs and consulted on with unions and the Ministry of Health, was later published on June 21 that confirmed all Covid-19 “stream work” should be done by vaccinated staff.

Covid-19 stream referred to tasks where a staff member was with a patient considered to pose sufficient risk of the virus or worked in a location likely to pose risk of virus spread, such as MIQ facilities or hospital wards which housed Covid-19 patients.

It also referred to locations which exposed staff to the virus via airborne transmission, fluids or surfaces where the virus may reside, and close contacts of infected people.

In the document, it outlined how DHBs were not able to force staff to be vaccinated, except for staff covered by the Covid-19 Public Health Response (Vaccinations) Order.

However, DHBs could require a specific role was performed by a vaccinated person and could redeploy unvaccinated staff to other roles.

If staff did not inform the DHB of their vaccination status, the DHB would assume the staff member was unvaccinated but must inform the staffer of this assumption.


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