Vaccine mandate extended to police, more Defence Force staff

The Covid-19 vaccine mandate is being extended to cover police and more members of the New Zealand Defence Force.

A file image of a New Zealand Police officer at a public gathering.

They join other mandated workforces which includes teachers, health care workers, port, border, and prison workers.

Workplace Relations Minister Michael Wood said the mandate for police and NZDF was in preparation for the country to move into the new traffic light Covid system next week.

"Vaccination is our greatest tool in keeping New Zealanders safe, so we have extended vaccine requirements to include constabulary, recruits and authorised officers of New Zealand Police, and the armed forces and civilian staff of the New Zealand Defence Force," he said.

"We want to ensure that those who serve and protect our communities on a daily basis can do so without unintentionally spreading the virus."

Staff will need their first doses January 17 and their second doses by March 1 2022.

Many workers were already vaccinated after working in border and MIQ facilities.

Defence Minister Peeni Henare said there could be deployments where they would come into contact with Covid.

"For example, the recent mission to Afghanistan saw our defence force personnel assisting in the evacuation of New Zealand visa holders, some of whom had Covid."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was asked about extending the mandate to police last week.

"We've had the Police Commissioner make very strong representations on behalf of the police, asking for mandates," Ardern said, adding there was already high rates of vaccination within police.

"Cabinet will consider that alongside some of the other vaccination work we're doing and give a final decision in due course.

"A number already were required as a requirement for those working in the border facilities."

When asked about mandates last Thursday, Police Minister Poto Williams said Cabinet was looking at mandates "across the whole public service".

Almost 87 per cent of police were already fully vaccinated.

The latest 1News Colmar Brunton Poll showed almost three quarters of Kiwis supported vaccine mandates for certain workforces.