Cartoon image of a man showing his arm where he received a vaccination

A new COVID-19 vaccination exemptions process has now been announced by the Ministry of Health.

Requests for exemption from mandatory vaccination can only be assessed by a “suitably qualified medical practitioner or nurse practitioner”. This is laid out in the amended public health order, new clause 9B.

Tight clinical criteria must be met. Exemptions will be granted for a specified time, for example, until recovery from clinical conditions or an appropriate alternative vaccine becomes available. Such situations include serious adverse event to previous dose, myocarditis/pericarditis and some other heart conditions, or an acute medical situations where vaccination may need to be temporarily deferred.

If the clinical criteria are met, the doctor or nurse practitioner then applies to the Director-General of Health for a temporary exemption with the decision made by a six-person ‘temporary medical exemption panel’.

Medical exemptions will only be granted for a maximum of six months. People can reapply. The six-month period will “allow individuals who can safely be vaccinated, with either the same vaccine or an alternative vaccine, as appropriate, to be protected against COVID-19 in a timely way”.

The exemption panel is appointed by the Director-General of Health and includes an independent chair, Māori health leader and four registered health practitioners.

Last updated: 15 November 2021