‘We have not taken lightly the decision to impose vaccination in some locations,’ says Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

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PM Jacinda Ardern has stated that she has never believed that the government should require all New Zealanders to be vaccinated, and that her position has not changed.

 

PM Jacinda Ardern addressing the media in Whanganui.

PM Jacinda Ardern addressing the media in Whanganui. Photo: RNZ/Samuel Rillstone

Ardern failed to show up at a planned media event at a vaccination clinic in Whanganui where a group of about 200 anti-vaccination protesters gathered.

She then gave a stand-up at a new location just after 1.20pm and said she wasn’t taking the protest personally and was not surprised by it.

Watch the PM addressing media here:

Ardern said the decision to move the press event was based on practical considerations as she was there to encourage people to get vaccinated: “It becomes counter-productive when people congregate in a way that stops people’s access.”

Ardern said she wouldn’t refine yesterday’s disruption at a media event in Northland as “protest action”.

“We had one individual and one other in the press crew. There wasn’t a formal protest yesterday.”

The incidents would not stop her from visiting vaccination centres, she said.

Whanganui’s vaccination rates are behind the national average.

In the stand-up, Ardern said: “We are at a stage in the vaccine roll-out where we are trying to reach into communities that may hold firm views. But we need to have those conversations and, just talking to some of our health practitioners, their goal is to talk to everyone wherever they can to have those conversations about why it’s so important that people are vaccinated.”

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On teachers who may be about to lose their jobs due to the government vaccination mandate, Ardern said: “We have not taken lightly the decision for some areas to require vaccination. It’s taken a lot of discussion and careful thought and we have focused in on those groups that we consider high risk.”

On whether mandates have destroyed social cohesion and forced some into corners, Ardern said although it may have had that effect with some, for others it had forced a conversation and made people ask questions.

“We had the experience of having already rolled this out for our border workers and what we noticed was by putting a date it did cause those who had questions to go and seek advice, talk to trusted health professionals and then make a decision.”

On her statement at the beginning of the pandemic that vaccinations would never be forced on anyone, yet mandates seem to contradict that, Ardern said it was always her view that the government would not force all New Zealanders to be vaccinated and that view had not changed. They will not.

“This is about certain workforces and work places, where we’ve applied assessment on whether or not we have a duty of care to look after those most vulnerable.”

“We’ve guarded against requiring vaccines where we need to ensure that people are always, no matter what, they are able to access health services, food, government support. We have been very clear, we will not require nor will we ever require vaccine certificates to access food, government benefits, access services that people need to live.”

Ardern said plans to visit Auckland had not yet been firmed up as her schedule was still been worked out to fulfil commitments at the border and in Parliament.

On why she is confident visiting an largely unvaccinated part of New Zealand (Northland), she said the area in the Far North had been put into alert level 3 as a precaution as people get vaccinated and those with symptoms get tested.

“I haven’t travelled into those areas. I wasn’t of course in those areas at the time that we believe this may have occurred.”

On shortages of nurses, Ardern said the government would be working with providers to contract nurses beyond the vaccination process.

Vaccination efforts across the country are in fully swing as district health boards work towards 90 percent full vaccination rates.

Only five district health boards have hit the milestone for first jabs: Capital and Coast, Auckland, Waitematā, Canterbury, and, just yesterday, Southern DHB.

Counties Manukau District Health Board is on the home stretch to meeting the 90 percent first dose milestone, only 3951 injections away.

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