Information about the vaccine, why it's important and supporting its rollout
In addition to this guidance, we need to be familiar with the guide for staff and managers about the COVID-19 vaccine and why it is important.
Staff resource: COVID-19 vaccination guide | Te Pae (PDF 219 KB)
Rangatahi aged 16 years or over can receive the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine if they give their informed consent. At this time, the vaccine is not being given to tamariki under the age of 16.
The Government’s medicines and medical devices safety authority, Medsafe, is waiting on more information from overseas on the vaccines before deciding whether any COVID-19 vaccine should be approved for those under 16 years of age.
As a Ministry whose core work requires working closely with tamariki, whānau and communities, it is important that we support and role model the Government’s rollout of the vaccination. This is especially important as we are often working with more vulnerable communities which may be more susceptible to the effects of COVID-19.
This support could range from facilitating conversations and gathering views of whānau and caregivers, providing helpful information to families, helping them understand the importance of the vaccine, or generally alleviating concerns they may have.
The COVID-19 website has a range of resources available in different languages.
Consent for rangatahi age 16 and over
Rangatahi who are 16 or older are able to consent to getting the vaccination without requiring the consent of a guardian, as long as they are considered competent to provide informed consent. They may also refuse to give consent and be supported to understand that they have a right to make this decision.
It is the requirement of medical professionals to ensure this consent is obtained, but we can help rangatahi understand this process and consult with guardians where rangatahi aren’t competent to provide informed consent.
Before rangatahi aged 16 or older can give informed consent to any medical treatment a medical professional must ensure they have been given sufficient information about the proposed treatment, and have the capacity to clearly understand:
- what is actually being proposed
- why the intervention is needed
- whether there are alternatives
- the benefits
- the implications in terms of pain or invasiveness
- the risk of unexpected complications.
Rangatahi must voluntarily arrive at the decision about whether to receive the medical treatment. It is important for them to understand that this is ultimately their decision.
The vaccinator is required to ensure informed consent is obtained as per the Ministry of Health’s guidelines.
We can support rangatahi who are eligible to be vaccinated by helping them understand the information provided to them and answering their questions. People First NZ has some easy-read resources about the vaccine on their website.
We should consider and use the various supports available when engaging with eligible rangatahi to support their decision-making and assist with gaining their informed consent.
Where obtaining informed consent isn’t considered to be appropriate or possible, such as for some rangatahi with a significant intellectual disability, we should consult with Legal Services, a supervisor and our Regional Disability Advisor to confirm and then seek the consent of guardians.
Further information about consent for medical examinations and treatment, including guidance on involving te tamaiti or rangatahi and whānau or family and supporting tamariki and rangatahi, can be found on the Practice Centre.
If you are unsure about any aspect get in touch with your local solicitor.
Engaging with Māori about the COVID-19 vaccine
We have developed guidance for working with Māori throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and detailed guidance depending on the specific Alert Level you might be operating in. Use these documents and the general guidance on the Practice Centre to guide these engagements.
Engaging with Pacific people about COVID-19 vaccine
We have developed guidance for working with Pacific people throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and detailed guidance depending on the specific Alert Level you might be operating in. Use these documents and the general guidance on the Practice Centre to guide these engagements.
Engaging with tamariki, whānau or family and caregivers about vaccination
We will need to engage with the tamariki, whānau and caregivers we work with about the COVID-19 vaccine and what it means for them. We aren’t expected to be vaccine experts, but we have an important role in bringing people together to discuss and share their views, and ensure they are supported to receive factual information.
Consider the most appropriate ways to facilitate the sharing of people’s views and allowing them to have their voice heard. There may be important members of the family or community who rangatahi or whānau want to be involved. In other cases, rangatahi may not wish for their views to be shared with their whānau, so gathering views individually may be better and these shared only with consent. We need to be sensitive to people’s feelings toward vaccines and approach these conversations in a way that is suitable for the needs of each audience.
They may wish to discuss some of their concerns or anxieties, such as whether the vaccine is safe. We can also help them understand the consent process, their role and the rights for rangatahi to make informed consent. Others may be scared of needles for example, and we can discuss support to help them with this.
It is also a good idea to take the opportunity to understand what people already know about the vaccine and where they have gotten this information from. There is the potential for misinformation and apprehension to arise around vaccinations, which we need to be aware of and improve people’s understanding with reliable factual information. Seek to reassure them where possible, or direct them to reliable sources of information such as the COVID-19 website or their GP.
It is important to remember that as public servants, while we are working with people in a professional capacity, we have an obligation to ensure we are unbiased in reflecting the Government advice and information about the vaccine.
Everyone needs to understand the importance of respecting everyone else’s right to keep their medical information private by not influencing or coercing anyone to reveal their vaccination status or putting pressure on anyone to be vaccinated. While we cannot share this kind of medical information without consent we can reassure people of the safety of both the vaccine and vaccinated people. Listen to any concerns and consider the best way to provide reassurances of safety, without specifically revealing anyone’s vaccination status.
If asked about your own vaccination status you don’t have to disclose this if you don’t want to.
Talking to tamariki and rangatahi
It is important to talk to tamariki and rangatahi about the COVID-19 vaccination in a way that is appropriate for their age, culture and stage of development.
Tamariki may want to know why they can’t get the vaccine yet. Explain that the Government is waiting for more information before a decision is made on whether the vaccine may be offered to tamariki under the age of 16 years. This is expected later this year.
For some rangatahi 16 and over, this may be their first vaccination in living memory and they may be quite anxious about this new experience. We should assure them that this is perfectly normal and reiterate the safety and importance of getting the vaccine. It could be helpful to talk through any details if known, such as time and place and who will be there to support them (such as a teacher, nurse or loved one).
Talking to whānau or family
Some whānau or family may have already been vaccinated as a part of their job or through the general national rollout. Others may have doubts or apprehension about getting the vaccine. Whānau or family may be worried about their tamariki not being able to be vaccinated, or concerned about their tamariki living with vaccinated or non-vaccinated caregivers.
Even when rangatahi are 16 and older and are able to make their own decision about the vaccine we should be engaging with whānau or family to keep them informed and gather their views. We might need to explain that rangatahi aged 16 and over can make these decisions for themselves even if it goes against their own views.
Talking to caregivers
It is important that caregivers also have up-to-date information on the vaccinations and understand their role in relation to rangatahi 16 or older in their care being vaccinated. Where a rangatahi 16 or over is unable to give informed consent, unless a caregiver is also a guardian of the rangatahi, they are not able to give consent for rangatahi in their care to be vaccinated – this must come from legal guardians. Caregivers may have concerns if tamariki in their care are visiting unvaccinated whānau or family members.
Even as non-guardians, caregivers can still play an important role in helping tamariki in their care understand the importance of vaccines and relieve anxieties. They also need to be considerate of the views of different cultures when it comes to vaccinations. Caregivers or their own older children may have been vaccinated already and can talk to tamariki in care about their own experiences.
Any medical information we might require to determine if a caregiver is able to provide or continue to provide a safe, stable and loving home to tamariki should only be collected with their consent and for the specific purpose of assessing suitability to care as part of a caregiver assessment or approval review process.
Keeping others informed
Where there are multiple people working directly with rangatahi, whānau and caregivers, such as in a residence, we should consult with each other and keep everyone informed about the conversations we have been having, sharing the views where appropriate and with consent. This will minimise whānau and tamariki having to have multiple conversations about the same thing.
We should make a record of the conversations we have had, people’s views, and decisions that have been made using our usual practice (this includes casenotes and All About Me plans). If the vaccine is given, then we can reflect this in their All About Me plan.
Where we have made a decision specifically in relation to COVID-19 vaccinations we should enter a casenote including the words COVID-19 vaccination in the header.