On Monday 4 April, it was announced that Otago Polytechnic would be suspending our Ko Kā Tikaka Mate Korona / Covid-19 Vaccine Policy.
This decision followed a short consultation period with learners and staff, and also took into account advice and information we had received from Te Pūkenga, the Chief Medical Officer of the Southern DHB and the University of Otago.
In Monday’s email, we indicated that we were working through the feedback we received during the consultation period.
Thank you again to everyone who responded to our consultation feedback survey. We received well over 800 comments which provided a wide range of perspectives on the issue of Covid-19 vaccination.
Whilst we aren’t able to respond to every piece of feedback received, we do want to respond to some of the more common concerns and questions.
Te Kāhui Manukura still supports vaccination as a key way that individuals can keep themselves safe during the pandemic or endemic when it is re-categorised.
We still encourage everyone who can get one of the current vaccinations to do so (including Novavax which has now been approved for us in New Zealand), and to get their booster.
If you have not yet been vaccinated, or received your booster, we really encourage you to do so as soon as you possibly can.
We will still ensure that learners and staff in areas covered by the Health Order are fully vaccinated. This now only includes our health programmes and areas where staff and learners attend corrections facilities. This is a legal requirement that we will uphold.
We’ll continue to keep an eye on changes in this space.
Wearing masks, physical distancing, and hand washing/sanitising remain critical on campus.
Masks must be worn in all teaching spaces and in public areas. They are also encouraged in all other settings. We know that wearing a mask for long periods is difficult, but they really are a key defence against the spread of covid-19.
You will be supported by your lecturer and the Student Support and Te Pūnaka Ōwheo teams.
Reasons for not being vaccinated are personal, and so we need to take a personal approach to this.
We know that the current outbreak of Covid-19 in our communities is causing concern for many learners who are worried about contracting the virus, especially on campus. We’ve also heard concerns from learners about the suspension of the vaccine policy leading to an increase in their chances of catching Covid-19 and/or passing it on to vulnerable members of their whānau.
In conducting our risk assessment, we concluded that the risk of catching Covid-19 on campus is generally no greater than the risk of catching Covid-19 in the community. We also have very high vaccination rates in the general population, and on-campus, so do not consider allowing unvaccinated people to be on campus to increase the risk of catching Covid-19.
Wearing a mask, washing your hands, and keeping your distance from others are important factors in reducing this risk.
If you consider yourself to be more vulnerable and at a higher risk of contracting Covid-19 and would therefore prefer to learn from home or have other health measures in place on campus, please talk to your lecturer about this. You can also visit this Covid-19 Government webpage about ways to prepare and stay safe if you’re more vulnerable.
We know that this has been a challenging time. We know that vaccination is a personal issue, being played out in a public health pandemic.
We also know that the removal of this vaccine policy might make some of you feel really anxious and even consider not studying with us anymore. This is the last thing we want and we will do everything we can to support you so that you feel comfortable and can continue your learning journey.
Our student support team and the team at Te Pūnaka Ōwheo are here for you every step of the way. We have dedicated staff who want to talk with you and work through any concerns or issues you're facing.
Please do reach out to them – it’s what they're here for.
Thank you again for continuing to respect the personal views and beliefs of others, even when they are different to your own. These are unprecedented times. We will continue to do the best we can, with the information we have available, to keep all of our learners and staff safe on campus.
If you have any further questions, or feel that we have not responded to your specific concerns, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.