COVID-19 Update: Vaccine certificates coming, Rapid Testing update, AstraZeneca and more

15 Nov 2021

We have received the below information from the Ministry of Health

COVID vaccination certificates available this week

Everyone in Aotearoa New Zealand aged 16 and over can now view their COVID-19 vaccination records online via My Covid Record|mycovidrecord.health.nz

From this week, you'll also be able to download a vaccine pass for use in Aotearoa New Zealand, and a separate vaccine certificate for international travel, from My Covid Record|mycovidrecord.health.nz

Decisions are still being made about exactly when a vaccine pass might be required for entry to some domestic events and venues. The timing is expected to coincide with the introduction of the new COVID Protection FrameworkOnce required, presentation of a valid vaccine pass will give people access to businesses that choose to provide access only to vaccinated people, such as bars, restaurants, gyms and major events.

Once available, the international vaccine certificate will support people travelling overseas. The international vaccine certificate complies with European Digital COVID Certificate standards, and has more personal information so that it can be used alongside your passport.

Both the vaccine pass and vaccine certificates will include a QR code which you'll be able to print or save on your smartphone in your Apple Wallet or Google Play.

The Ministry of Health is the only issuer of New Zealand’s vaccine pass and international vaccine certificate.

Click here to  learn how to use My Covid Record. If you have problems accessing a computer, providing identification or have an exemption from vaccination, please call 0800 222 478.

Vaccine pass use – requirements for businesses

Under the new COVID Protection Framework, requiring customers or patrons to present a vaccine pass will be optional for many locations. There will be some higher-risk settings where vaccine passes will be required, in order to open to the public.

At all levels of the COVID Protection Framework, businesses, retail, and public facilities will generally be able to remain open for vaccinated people. Businesses, events, organisations, community, and a range of sectors may legally choose to implement an entry requirement using the Ministry of Health vaccine pass.

If a business, organisation or service does not wish to require vaccine passes on entry, they will have to operate with strict limits on capacity and space requirements. They may need to close in Orange and/or Red levels of the new COVID Protection Framework.

The Ministry of Health is building a free Verifier App to be made available on the App Store and Google Play, for businesses to use to scan and verify a domestic vaccine pass. The verification app will be available to download later this month.

Technical information published to support COVID-19 vaccine pass and verifiers

The Ministry of Health has published the technical specification for the COVID-19 domestic vaccine pass and verifiers to the Ministry of Health’s Github account. The release of the specifications means business and the public can understand how the technology will work.

The Ministry’s Verifier App can be used for in-person verification, however if companies would like to introduce more sophisticated capabilities, such as integration into existing digital journeys or pre-verification processes, then the technical specification provides enough details for them to do so. The specifications that are being released describe the data in the QR code, the technology that is used to encode it, and how the QR code is expected to be interpreted and processed.

Businesses may want to incorporate the verifier process into their existing software or may have an interest in how to offer this service. The specification and other documentation is available from: github.com/minhealthnz/nzcovidpass-spec

The Ministry of Health has appointed New Zealand tech company MATTR to construct vaccination passes for use domestically and internationally. MATTR and other tech companies can be engaged separately to provide additional verification tools and capabilities.

If you would like to talk to MATTR about the technology and standards behind the Ministry of Health’s Verifier App please contact: info@mattr.global

Feedback or questions can be sent to integration@health.govt.nz

Rapid Antigen Testing trial - update

The 29 businesses participating in the Rapid Antigen Testing trial have started using rapid antigen tests. To date, there have been a total of 1,763 rapid antigen tests administered,

Mainfreight, a participant in the trial, has trialled two different approaches to testing. Point of entry testing occurs before a team commences work. The team are observed and wait out the full 15 minutes of the test and test result timeframe, before entering the worksite. The second approach is surveillance testing, where the team work their normal day and cycle through testing (when prompted) during their shift.

MBIE representatives are meeting with participants in small groups to share knowledge, lessons learned and to raise any questions that have cropped up in the early stages of the trial. Data from the trial (number of tests, number of positive tests, number of invalid tests) is being submitted twice weekly by participants.  Data collection and meetings will continue until the trial ends on 30 November 2021, before the information is used to inform the wider rollout of rapid antigen testing.

About the Rapid Antigen Testing Trial

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) is working alongside businesses and the Ministry of Health to trial rapid antigen testing. This work will support businesses to roll out rapid antigen testing in their workplaces to help them meet their health and safety obligations.

This is a collaborative process between government agencies and the private sector and we will be seeking expertise from all parties to ensure that this is successful.

Rapid antigen testing will not be a replacement of any other testing or vaccine requirements required as part of the public health response, it will sit alongside these services.

Queries about the rapid testing scheme and for business to register their interest in being part of further stages of this trial in the coming months, can be directed to AntigenTest4Biz@mbie.govt.nz

AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines

New Zealand purchased a portfolio of four COVID-19 vaccines to manage risk and provide options. So far, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and Janssen COVID-19 have been provisionally approved by Medsafe.

To date, New Zealand’s immunisation programme has focused on rolling out the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine and this will continue to be the primary vaccine used in New Zealand.

However, there are a small number of people who cannot have the Pfizer vaccine for medical reasons (estimated to be only a few hundred) and others who have different reasons for wishing to have a vaccine option.  This includes people who need to be immunised against COVID-19 because of the nature of their work – to protect themselves, their whānau, and the people they work with including patients and school children.

We are working towards making the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine available as a second option for people aged 18 and over. Similar to the Pfizer vaccine, you need two doses of AstraZeneca to be fully vaccinated.

Details will be announced next week and work is well underway to prepare for the arrival of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines in the coming weeks. This includes workforce training, establishing the clinics, preparing cold storage facilities and ensuring logistics measures are in place.

Additional Pfizer does

Last week the Government announced an agreement to buy an additional 4.7 million doses of the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine.

This means there will be a continual supply of the Pfizer vaccine next year if eligibility is extended to include children aged 5 to 11, for booster doses, and for those who did not access a vaccine in 2021. The continual supply will also support ongoing immunisation efforts in Pacific Island nations.

Pharmac has also announced that Ronapreve,  a new medicine shown to reduce the risk of severe infection and hospitalisation for those with mild to moderate COVID-19, will join the range of medical tools at our disposal for preventing and treating COVID-19.

Risk assessment process not applicable where Vaccination Order mandates vaccination

On 26 October 2021 the Government announced a new risk assessment process will be introduced to assist employers to determine what work requires a vaccinated employee.

The risk assessment process will not apply to work that the COVID-19 Public Health Response (Vaccinations) Order 2021 specifies must be carried out by people who are fully vaccinated. Where the Order mandates work to be completed by someone who is fully vaccinated, no risk assessment needs to be carried out, nor does an employer have the option to consider whether other public health measures such as physical distancing and use of personal protective equipment can minimise the risk of exposure and transmission of COVID-19.

The risk assessment process will be introduced under public health legislation later this year.

Exemptions from mandatory vaccination under the Order – new process and criteria established

In some situations, boarder workers, health and disability, education and corrections workers may be able to get an exemption from being vaccinated against COVID-19. However, there are very few situations where a vaccine is contraindicated and, as such, a medical exemption is expected to be rarely required.

A centralised process has now been established to manage vaccine exemptions. The process includes a layer of independence and objective criteria. Exemptions previously granted are now void, so people will need to reapply.

Please note that the exceptions process for Border workers, including MIQ and port workers covered by the vaccination order, remains unchanged.

Read about who can apply for an exemption or exception, what criteria must be met, and how to apply.

Read more about mandatory vaccination for workers at COVID-19: Mandatory vaccinations and on the Unite Against COVID-19 website. For further information or to ask questions email healthorders@health.govt.nz

For more information please visit this website  www.health.govt.nz