141 port workers in Bay of Plenty unvaccinated, some risk redeployment

A handful of workers at the Port of Tauranga may be redeployed if they miss the deadline to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

It comes as the Ministry of Health releases updated figures on all those vaccinated at the port.

The Government widened the vaccination order last month, giving a lead-in time before all higher-risk border workers had to be vaccinated.

For public-sector border workers, the deadline was August 26. For privately employed workers, the deadline is the end of September.

The deadline for the second dose is November 4.

A Ministry of Health spokesman said the latest data showed the vaccination rates for the Bay of Plenty District Health Board’s resident port workers continue to rise.

Seventy per cent of the Bay’s active port workers had now “at least” one dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

Of the 473 port workers in the Border Worker Testing Register (BWTR), 230 were fully vaccinated, 102 port workers had one vaccination and another 141 workers are still to be vaccinated.

“This is a significant increase from three weeks ago (August 11), when just over half of all active port workers had received a vaccination, and work is ongoing to continue to lift rates,” the spokesman said.

Active workers are those recorded in the ministry’s BWTR who have worked in the last 14 days.

Nationally, 98 per cent of government-employed border workers were fully vaccinated, with a further 17 recorded as having had one dose, the spokesman said.

“Another 50 workers who were originally showing as unvaccinated, on follow up had in fact received at least one vaccination.

“As of September 1, less than 10 remaining unvaccinated workers are being offered redeployment options.”

Workers would not be able to continue working in a high-risk border environment until they were vaccinated, he said.

The Ministry of Health would not provide local specific data, citing privacy reasons.

Information sessions had been held since mid-August with clinicians available to answer questions in an extension to the effort which began in March to encourage staff to get vaccinated, the spokesman told the Bay of Plenty Times this week.

Maritime Union of New Zealand National Secretary Craig Harrison said misinformation was threatening health and safety in ports.

He said the union recognised and respected the freedom of choice for its members and would work with employers and members to try and resolve any situations where jobs were in jeopardy, Harrison said.

He believed the country could not afford to lose staff in ports that were already under massive pressure.

However, the situation was quite clear, as was the union’s position.

“The public health order has been made, and as good health and safety practice, both employers and workers must abide by it.”

The Port of Tauranga annual report stated four of the company’s 49 eligible employees had not yet been fully vaccinated.

“Redeployment options are being explored for any who do not meet the September deadline.

“The company strongly recommends vaccination as an additional measure to the existing Covid-19 precautions.”

A port spokeswoman confirmed the figures were still correct this week.

Bay of Plenty DHB incident controller Trevor Richardson said a total of 174 workers were vaccinated at the Hull Rd site between August 16 and August 20 and another 373 workers and their whānau were vaccinated at the Sulphur Point site between August 23 and August 27.

“In addition, the Bay of Plenty DHB undertook education sessions with a number of staff from several companies operating within the Port of Tauranga grounds during August.”

In the meantime, New Zealand had purchased sufficient volumes of vaccines to ensure everyone who was eligible has access to a vaccine this year, the ministry spokesman said.

“At the end of last week, vaccinators around Aotearoa administered more than 545,000 doses. This represents a more than an 80 per cent increase from the week ending August 15, the last week before the country moved to Alert Level 4.

“We are ahead of schedule.”

It comes as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told the country yesterday that vaccine demand had been at 180 per cent recently.

To keep up with this surge in demand the Government had been negotiating with Pfizer and other countries to increase supply.

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