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Apology from DHBs after Auckland company working at border unable to access Covid-19 vaccinations

Auckland's district health boards have apologised to a company working at the border, after its employees were unable to access Covid-19 vaccinations.

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There’re concerns staff at smaller businesses are falling through the cracks. Source: 1 NEWS

Right now, 97% of managed isolation and quarantine workers have been vaccinated, and from tomorrow, the rest have to be redeployed.

An Ministry of Business, Innovation and Enterprise spokesperson said, “To keep workers protected and our communities safe from transmission, all public and private MIQ workers, contractors and visitors (permanent and occasional) will, from 1 May, have to provide proof of vaccination each time they enter a facility".

But 1 NEWS can today reveal, some workers haven’t been able to access vaccinations.

UniPump owner, Curtis Cosh, says his staff haven't had invitations to get jabbed, despite providing an essential service to a number of facilities at the border.

"One of the MIQ facilities, we're there every other month at least and then we provide specialist services to the airport", he said.

UniPump ensures buildings have working water and air conditioning.

"In March, I was on site at an MIQ facility organising a couple of jobs, and the question was posed to me - 'have you guys been vaccinated or been notified to be vaccinated?' My answer was no", he said.

"My site contact gave me the vaccination hotline number, I rang them, they passed me onto the ministry, they passed me back."

"I followed up a week and a half later and they gave me the same ring around", Cosh said.

"I spoke to four or five people the second time ... it's just been a matter of pass the buck, all the way through".

1 NEWS put his concerns to the Ministry of Health and Auckland District Health Boards last week.

The company's now had an apology, Cosh was vaccinated today, and his other staff have been booked in.

"It was only after the follow ups you guys have made to the ministry and the DHB, that things actually got actioned", he said.

He's concerned others working at the border are facing the same problem.

"Speaking with the person who handled our vaccination booking in the end she was saying we're definitely not the first company to go through this", Cosh said.

"I'm just trying to be on the front foot in terms of, there's companies out there, that're trying to initiate this process who aren't getting anywhere cause the systems aren't in place".

He's says he's discussed the issue with a number of other companies that work on MIQ facilities, whose staff haven't been registered to get a jab.

Epidemiologist, Professor Michael Baker, said, "This is a real problem, because the highest priority group for vaccination in New Zealand are of course the border workers, and because we've got an elimination approach in New Zealand, we can actually be very strategic and focus on this group first, because that's going to greatly improve the effectiveness of our defences against this virus".

"It's very important we identify this group fully, and ensure they're being vaccinated ... and also their family members need to be vaccinated".

In a statement, the Northern Regional Health Coordination Centre, representing Auckland's DHBs said, "There are a number of different processes for companies which may work on the border to ensure that their staff are registered to be vaccinated".

It said some companies may not have been included in the initial communication about vaccinations, "because they weren’t working in the environment at the time".

"If any border company believes its staff are eligible and they haven’t been contacted we would ask them to call the Vaccination Helpline on 0800 28 29 26".

It says it tries to make the process as easy as possible for people to access.

Cosh said he contacted the vaccination helpline, but that didn't lead to a solution.

While he has now been vaccinated, his concerns about the system remain.

"I don't think there's cracks, there're holes", he said.

He says the new requirement, blocking those who aren't vaccinated from working at the border, would have been problematic if he still wasn't vaccinated.

"Cause, if we provide an essential service, and they lose water to half a building, or heating to a building, and it’s a piece of equipment we maintain. How're they supposed to get that sorted?".

MBIE said, "On any given day we have around 4,500 people working in our 32 MIQ facilities from over 300 different employers".

"Anyone not vaccinated, in order to meet the border order requirement, will be redeployed by their employer. These are individual employment discussions for employers to have with their employees. We have supported them with assistance from the Ministry for Social Development to explore other employment options."

“Border and MIQ staff have now supported more than 134,000 people to safely cross the border to life in New Zealand. Having a vaccinated MIQ workforce will provide a critical additional line of defence to keep them, their whānau and our communities safe and well, and help prevent Covid-19 from spreading into our communities. It’s an extra layer to help protect all New Zealanders against Covid-19.”

Does your company have border workers who still haven't received the Covid-19 vaccine? Contact laura.james@tvnz.co.nz