Mandatory vaccination order for Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians

The following is a special Covid-19 update from the optometrists and Dispensing Opticians Board (ODOB) on 27 October 2021

 

ODOB: Mandatory vaccination order for Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians

 

On 11 October 2021, the Government announced that it is revising legislation to make Covid-19 vaccination compulsory for ‘high risk’ workers in the health and disability sectors. The Vaccinations Order (the Order) that makes these changes has now been passed.

 

This Order legally came into effect at 11:59pm on 25 October 2021, and requires every Optometrist and Dispensing Optician and their staff to:

 

  • receive their first vaccine dose by 15 November 2021; and
  • be fully vaccinated by 1 January 2022.

 

Some exemptions will be available; for example, those who cannot be vaccinated for personal health reasons.

 

The above dates replace the deadlines initially announced by the Covid-19 Response Minister on 11 October 2021.

 

  • Please click here to view the published Covid-19 Public Health Response (Vaccinations) Order 2021 (the Order).
  • Please click here to view the Health and Disability Worker Vaccinations Order: Guidance document for Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBUs) and workers (the Guidance document) from the Ministry of Health.

 

Does this Order cover all Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians and their staff?


Yes. The original announcement referred to the Order covering only some work settings. Cabinet has now decided that all regulated health practitioners, no matter where they work, should be covered by the Order.

 

Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians are professions regulated under the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003 (the HPCAA), and so every practitioner is required to receive their vaccinations by the above dates. This includes practitioners and their staff who do not deal directly with patients, clients, or consumers, or who do not practice in face-to-face/ kanohi-ki-te-kanohi settings. For example, the Order does apply to practitioners working in telehealth.

 

All staff working in health and disability services are required to be vaccinated as per the same deadlines above. Please also refer the section on “Key responsibilities under the Vaccinations Order”, pages 6 and 7 in the Guidance document.  

 

There is no distinction between private and public services, and under the Vaccines Order, practitioners and their staff may be classified as “Affected persons”. They include:

 

  • Health practitioners (as defined by the HPCAA).
  • Workers who carry out work where health services are provided to members of the public by one or more health practitioners and whose role involves being within two metres or less of a health practitioner or a member of the public for a period of 15 minutes or more.
  • Workers employed or engaged by certified providers who carry out work at the premises at which the health care services are provided.
  • Care and support workers.

 

Staff who do not meet these deadlines will have to be stood down. Employers continue to be responsible for employment issues and we encourage employers to seek advice from their normal employment professional advisers.
 

I don’t work for a District Health Board (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 don't work in a clinical role. Does this Order apply to me?


Yes. The Order covers all regulated health practitioners no matter what setting they work in. The Ministry of Health has confirmed that this includes non-clinical roles, and roles in areas such as management, teaching, sales and research.
 

I'm not currently working as a practitioner. Does this Order apply to me?


The Optometrists and Dispensing Board (the Board) understands that this Order only applies if you are actively practising as a practitioner, i.e., if you hold a current practising certificate. If you are non-practising and currently taking a break from the profession and working in another job (outside of health) the Order will not cover you as a practitioner.

 

However, Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians are not the only professions 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. Alternatively, email the Ministry of Health. 

 

The Covid-19 Response Minister has also now announced specific requirements for people who work in prison settings, including health practitioners and their staff. Earlier deadlines of 6 November 2021 (for dose 1) and 8 December 2021 (for full vaccination) apply to this group. For Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians, these dates apply only to being able to work in corrections facilities and/or with prisoners. The dates above will apply to your work in other areas. If your practice involves working both inside and outside prisons, or with prisoners outside such facilities, we recommend you talk to your employer(s) or contracting agency as soon as possible to clarify the requirements that apply to you.

 

The Board strongly encourages all practitioners 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. A very 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.

 

If you are an employer, please contact the Ministry of Health (email: healthorders@health.govt.nz). For more information, please click here to go to the Ministry of Health’s page on Covid-19: Exemptions and exceptions from mandatory vaccination.



Please click here to go to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Covid-19 support page.
 

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. Failing to observe this Order if it applies to you, may therefore be grounds for a formal complaint or referral to the Board as a result of a conviction, and could lead to disciplinary proceedings under the HPCAA.
 

How is the Board involved in this Order?


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

 

At this stage, the Board has no role in monitoring practitioners’ 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 to the Board as a result of a conviction. This would be investigated in the same way as any other complaint or conviction that is referred to the Board.
 

I’d like to know more about this Order

  • Please click here to view the Covid-19 Response Minister’s initial press release announcing this order.
  • Please click here to view the Minister’s press release on October 23 announcing the new deadlines for vaccination.
  • Please click here for further information from the Ministry of Health about the Order itself.
  • Please click here for more information from WorkSafe about how to decide what work requires vaccinated employees, and risk assessment guidance for employers.

 

For further information about how this Order might affect your practice or your workplace, please talk to your employer. Employers are advised to seek advice from their normal employment professional advisers.


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



If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us

 
Nā māua noa, nā 

Jayesh Chouhan
Board Chair

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