Vaccine mandate FAQs
Find out the why, who, where, and when of the University's vaccine mandate, including what to do if you aren't vaccinated or are hesitant about the vaccine.
Some of our staff and students have questions about the University's decision to introduce mandatory COVID-19 vaccination for those studying, working, and visiting our campuses and premises in 2022.
We've done our best to answer your questions here, and included some links to further information and useful resources about the vaccine mandate.
Why is the University making it mandatory for people coming on to campus to have been vaccinated against COVID-19?
The University’s priority throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has been to protect the wellbeing, health, and safety of our community. Vaccines, along with other controls such as wearing a face covering, physical distancing and good hand hygiene, are the most effective means for protecting against COVID-19, particularly as restrictions are lifted and we move to the new COVID-19 Protection Framework (’traffic light’ system). As restrictions are lifted, our preference is to encourage as many people as possible to remain on campus but in a way that is as safe as possible. Vaccinations are part of our overall safety strategy.
The University has completed a detailed Health and Safety Risk Assessment which highlights the serious risk posed by COVID-19 and therefore a mandatory vaccination requirement is necessary to prevent harm and ensure the health and safety of individuals and/or members of the University community. Vaccination is an important tool to help minimise the risk and it is important that the University has a clear position that enables our community to operate with clarity and confidence.
Who does the vaccine mandate apply to?
The intent is that this mandate will apply to everyone who comes on campus including staff, students, visitors and contractors—all roles within the University and those undertaken on campus no matter who is undertaking the role. These include those employees who are permanent or temporary workers, as well as visitors.
The mandate does not apply to:
- those who have obtained a temporary COVID-19 vaccination exemption through the centralised government process or who (if not covered by a Public Health Order mandate), produce a valid medical certificate issued by the Ministry of Health. Only a qualified medical practitioner with a current practising certificate can apply for these on your behalf. Information about the application process can be found on the Ministry of Health website;
- people who are not eligible to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in New Zealand;
- any child, or any parent of a child, enrolled in the University’s Early Childhood Centres in order to access the Early Childhood Centre unless, in the case of parents, they act as a volunteer or the Early Childhood Centre is hosting a particular event where attendees must be fully vaccinated;
- students or other people accessing basic needs services (such as Mauri Ora) on campus;
- secondary school students participating in a secondary-tertiary programme or a school learning programme held on the University campuses in order to engage in these programmes;
- any other person for whom a relevant Public Health Order from time to time prohibits the University from restricting entry.
Does this apply to offshore campuses?
No, the vaccine mandate currently only applies to the University’s campuses in New Zealand.
Other than vaccination, will controls such as regular onsite testing be considered instead of requiring the work to be undertaken by a vaccinated person?
No, our mandate is based on a health and safety risk assessment that takes into account the risk elimination and mitigation measures and controls available to the University at present. The University will continue to monitor and review new, emerging and changing controls. We will then review our risk assessment to see if these controls change our current risk assessment settings.
Will people who are not able to be vaccinated and have an exemption be able to enter the University campus?
Yes, but only if they have a My Vaccine Pass. (A My Vaccine Pass is for vaccinated and exempt people.)
What if I am not comfortable working alongside those who are not able to be to be vaccinated?
It is important that you discuss this with your Manager so that a plan for your area can be developed.
Does this mandate discriminate against people who chose not to get vaccinated and how does this align with the University’s inclusion and diversity values?
The University is committed to a workplace free from discrimination and harassment in accordance with its obligations under human rights laws. You are entitled to choose not to be vaccinated. However, our priority throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has been to protect the wellbeing, health, and safety of our community. By adopting this mandate, we are reaffirming that this remains our primary responsibility, which is to keep our community safe.
Will the direction apply to workplace gatherings such as conferences, meetings etc?
The requirement to be vaccinated will apply to all the University work-related gatherings including in-person attendance at external and internal meetings, training and conferences.
Will we need to provide proof of vaccination?
Yes, we are expecting everyone coming onto campus to provide proof of vaccination. We intend to develop these processes in the coming weeks.
What if I choose not to disclose my vaccination status?
The University acknowledges that vaccination status is personal information however the University needs to understand whether you are vaccinated, or are an exempt person, in order to keep our community, others who come on to campus, and those we interact with as part of our work, as safe as possible.
The University recognises that there will be some students and staff who do not wish to be vaccinated. You continue to have that choice, however those that do not satisfy the requirements of the vaccine mandate will be unable to take part in face-to-face University-managed activities or enter our campuses.
This includes teaching and learning spaces (such as workshops, classes, labs, tutorials, meetings, in-person exams and assessments), libraries, student services, student accommodation, gyms, offices and research and related activity settings such as fieldtrips.
Does this decision to allow only vaccinated people on campus contradict my freedom of choice if I don’t want to be vaccinated?
No, this decision does not require you to be vaccinated. That decision remains a matter of personal choice, and the University respects your right to choose.
However, if you make the choice not to be vaccinated then you need to be aware you will be unable to take part in face to face University activities or enter our campuses.
What if I have one dose of a vaccine but not a second?
All those wishing to come to campus after 31 January 2022 must be fully vaccinated in line with Ministry of Health Guidance.
Will I be required to maintain my vaccine status?
Yes, the vaccine mandate requires members of the community to have received a full course of any of the COVID-19 vaccines approved by the New Zealand Government. The University will regularly review the mandate, it may be a requirement in future to have booster vaccinations, based on public health advice.
If I have had COVID-19 and a subsequent antibody test which shows that I have natural immunity—would that support an acceptable exemption?
We are not proposing to grant exemptions to the requirement to be vaccinated on the basis of natural immunity. We will continue to consider any further guidance from the Government on this, as it develops the requirements for vaccine certificates.
How does the University propose that it would monitor its campuses to ensure people are complying with the Policy?
This is complex, particularly given our locations and the number of people who access our sites. We’re currently assessing how this will be done. Our approach will also be informed by our implementation of the Covid-19 Protection Framework.
People sometimes bring young (under 12) children on site, will this be allowed?
The mandate does not apply to those who are not eligible to be vaccinated.
How will we advise stakeholders—visitors and contractors—of our approach and how will we check their vaccination status?
We intend to develop these processes as soon as possible.
Can we let our immunocompromised people know if someone on site is not vaccinated?
As vaccination status information is personal information, we must handle this information in accordance with the Privacy Act 2020. It is therefore unlikely that we would be able to disclose this information without the person’s consent.
What does the University propose to do between now and the proposed effective date to ensure that I am safe at work?
The University has measures and controls currently in place to manage health and safety risks or hazards. This includes the management of risks associated with COVID-19. We continue to follow Ministry of Health advice and Government directives.
Will face coverings be required on campus if everyone is vaccinated?
Face coverings will remain part of our health protection measures at all levels of the COVID-19 Protection Framework. Find out more.
Will medical exemptions be accepted?
Yes, medical exemptions from the Ministry of Health will be accepted provided the medically exempt person is issued with a valid My Vaccine Pass which can be verified by the University.
Where can I access information and resources for Māori?
You can find COVID-19 information on:
Where can I access information and resources for Pacific peoples?
The Ministry for Pacific Peoples’ website is a trusted resource for information on and booking vaccines, with support for individuals, families and businesses also available.
If I choose not to be vaccinated, will I still be able to continue studying and complete my courses or programme?
If you choose not to be vaccinated, then in most cases you will be able to complete your courses online, and complete your programme. However, there are some courses that may be compulsory for your degree that will not be able to be offered online e.g. some laboratory or field work. In this situation you should discuss your options with your Associate Dean.
For research students who require access to facilities on campus (e.g., laboratories, physical archives) you should discuss this with your supervisors and clarify how you can adjust your research project so that you can complete it online.
We currently make reasonable temporary provisions for students who are unable to come onto campus, such as students who are offshore and unable to enter New Zealand due to border restrictions. We will be working out the details for 2022 as soon as we can.
I am aware that the government has made vaccination mandatory for some people working in the field of Health or Education, what impact will that have on my study if I am not vaccinated?
No-one is required to be vaccinated however there are some courses or programmes related to health and teacher education where it will only be possible for vaccinated people to complete the requirements, due to the provisions of the COVID-19 Public Health (Vaccinations) Order. This includes courses that involve clinical placements in healthcare settings or practicums in schools and early childhood centres.
Any students who choose not to be vaccinated will be unable to complete their course or programme requirements while the Order remains in force.
If I am feeling hesitant about taking the vaccine, what can I do?
We appreciate that some people will have questions and will want to seek reassurance that taking the vaccine is safe. If you would like support to make a decision please:
- Call the Practice Nurse at your local medical centre
- Talk to a trusted advisor
- Talk to your manager
- Speak to a counsellor for guidance and support:
- Students—Student Counselling
- Employees—the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a free, confidential, national counselling service accessible to all staff. Please phone 0800 360 364 or email email@example.com to talk to a representative who will assist you to find a counsellor or you may choose your counsellor online.
I have questions, who can I ask?
There are many people you can approach, depending on the nature of your questions:
- Speak to the practice Nurse at your local medical centre if you have any questions about the vaccine or COVID-19;
- Students can seek general support
- Students can speak to VUWSA about support they may be able to provide you
- Employees can speak to your manager if you have any questions about what the mandate may mean for your employment;
- Employees can speak to a union delegate/organiser about support they may be able to provide you.
For health advice, please refer to the Ministry of Health’s website.
For cross-agency information about COVID-19, including vaccination information, and your local traffic light setting (from 3 December) visit the All-of-Government website.
To keep updated on travel restrictions and visa information visit Immigration NZ’s website.