All frontline staff rostered to work at the Auckland Airport have now been vaccinated against COVID-19, weeks ahead of the government’s original deadline for mandatory immunisation, airport authorities announced.
The airport is one of the first to require staff, especially those on the frontlines, to receive the vaccine just as cases of infection from the Delta variant continue to rise.
By moving the vaccination deadline earlier, from 30 September to 31 August, New Zealand is said to have “strengthened its defence” against the highly transmissible pathogen. Just within the first eight weeks when vaccines were made available in February, 90% of the airport’s 271 workers had already been vaccinated.
A small proportion of frontline staff will be inoculated with their second dose, while employees who are yet to receive the jab will wait to be rostered back to work until they have been immunised.
The quick response to the mandatory vaccination drive came by way of incentivising the jab. Airport authorities offered staff paid time off as well as sick day coverage for those who suffered from side effects of the vaccine.
“Auckland Airport has an important role in protecting New Zealand communities from the spread of COVID-19,” said Mary-Liz Tuck, General Manager Corporate Services, emphasising how “vaccinations are one of the best tools we have to manage this pandemic and its impact.”
Airport authorities have also updated stipulations in the contract of new hires, making vaccination an employment requirement even for job candidates applying for the non-frontline roles. New staff will have to submit evidence of their vaccination.
Tuck said not everyone would welcome this decision. However, officials believe the safety and wellbeing of employees and their communities remain their top priority.
“As we watch the spread of new variants such as Delta the safety and wellbeing of our people and community continues to come first – particularly our frontline and specialist emergency workers who are key to keeping the airport running safely,” she said.
“We were supportive of the government’s decision to introduce the mandatory order for all border workers to increase vaccination rates and following the current community outbreak of COVID-19 we made the decision to bring forward the requirement for our frontline employees.”
The compulsory vaccination plan does not apply to all existing staff, but this could change in the coming days.
“We accept that views will differ and not everyone will agree with our position, but the safety and wellbeing of our people comes first, and we will continue to make the decisions that we think are right to protect our people and the community from the spread of COVID-19,” Tuck said.
The general manager urged everyone to get vaccinated. She also said the risk profiles of employees would constantly be reviewed to inform them about the hazards faced by the broader workforce even with a high uptake of the vaccine among staff.