Only nine port workers out of the 98 who encountered the Rio de la Plata container ship had been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 and only two had received their first dose.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern today spoke about the impact the spread of misinformation around Covid-19 had on vaccination levels among the port workers, saying it could cost jobs as the enforcement of mandated vaccination for those workers nears.
The Ministry of Health confirmed earlier today that 11 of the 21 crew onboard the Rio De La Plata container ship had contracted Covid-19 . Ninety-eight port workers came into contact with the ship while unloading cargo in shifts when it was berthed at the Port of Tauranga last Wednesday through to Saturday.
Ardern said they had faced a range of barriers when it came to vaccinating some port workers, including misinformation, hesitancy, "and from the ports themselves a concern that mandating would destroy potentially supply lines".
"However, we cannot afford to have a situation where our port workers are not vaccinated, which is why we have mandated it from the 26th of August our port workers must have received their first dose, or they will not be able to work in those roles any longer.
"It may mean job loss."
Ardern said people were being told ""things that are absolutely rubbish".
"What we’re up against here is disinformation, we need to get through that though because this is a health and safety issue for them and their families."
When asked the time frame between when the port workers had come into contact with the ship and when the port workers went into isolation, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said there was a four-day period where the ship was berthed.
He said that was "one of the things we will be looking at and whether earlier action should have been taken".
Hipkins said the port workers "by far fall into the lowest vaccination category of any of our frontline border workers, has been an area of concern for me for some time".
"It does appear clear there is a greater degree of misinformation here, a greater degree of conspiracy theory and that's something we've been working to address.
He said many people, after having a "good one-on-one conversation with someone who is knowledgeable about vaccines, can give them good impartial, fact-based, scientific information, a lot of that hesitancy disappears, but it's quite an intensive process".
National’s Covid-19 spokesperson Chris Bishop today released statistics revealing around 60 per cent of port workers in the Bay of Plenty are yet to receive their first vaccine dose.
Professor Michael Baker said crew on cargo ships coming into New Zealand was "a huge area of vulnerability".
"We could put a lot more effort into it and turning down this risk," he said.
"The Delta variant is very unforgiving, it only takes fleeting contact, particularly in a poor ventilated indoor environment."