Updates to this guidance
We have included additional information to support conversations around the importance of the COVID vaccination.
Information about the vaccine, why it's important and supporting its rollout
Vaccination not only reduces the likelihood and severity of illness from COVID-19, but also reduces the transmission rate of the virus. This means that people who are vaccinated are less likely to pass on the virus to other people. Some people cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons and by getting vaccinated you are helping to protect them as well.
Vaccination is a way we can whakamana and empower each other.
We want tamariki, whānau, families and caregivers to be well, to have access to good-quality information and to experience oranga motuhake. We are not health practitioners, but we have a role to play in having productive, healthy and effective conversations about COVID-19 vaccinations, supporting people to access factual information and offering support and assistance for people to access vaccinations.
For tamariki in the care or custody of Oranga Tamariki, it is important that we support whānau and other guardians to participate in discussions about the vaccine before tamariki are booked to receive their vaccination.
Ensure you are 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)
The COVID-19 website has a range of resources available in different languages.
Consent for tamariki and rangatahi to receive the vaccine
Tamariki and rangatahi aged 12 years or over can receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
At this time, the vaccine is not being given to tamariki under the age of 12.
Tamariki aged 12+ can determine their consent to receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. Tamariki can also decline to give their consent.
It is the role of the healthcare professional to determine whether a tamaiti is competent to give informed consent.
The Oranga Tamariki Act has different requirements for guardian consent to medical treatment for rangatahi in a youth justice residence under a section 311 supervision with residence order. Rangatahi under the age of 16 under a section 311 order require guardian consent to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
If tamariki are unable to give informed consent
Where tamariki aged 12 to 15 are unable to give informed consent to receive the COVID-19 vaccination, this must be sought from their guardians.
Make sure you are familiar with the legal status and who the legal guardians are of any tamariki you are working with in relation to the COVID-19 vaccine.
Even if tamariki can’t provide informed consent, we should talk to them about the importance of vaccination and hear their views, considering their age and development. The Ministry of Health has developed guidance to support disabled people in making decisions about getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
The following situations apply when a tamaiti is not able to give their own informed consent.
When Oranga Tamariki can consent to vaccination
Oranga Tamariki practice leaders have the delegation to solely consent to the vaccination being administered to 12 to 15 year olds where we hold:
- sole guardianship,
- specific guardianship for medical purposes, or
- wardship of tamariki and our role as an agent of the court specifies guardianship responsibilities.
However, we should still engage with tamariki and their parents and whānau around the issue of consent for vaccination.
Oranga Tamariki holds additional guardianship
Where we hold additional guardianship, we must talk with other guardians about the importance of vaccination. If other guardians do not provide their consent, we should respect their decision.
Oranga Tamariki holds custody but no guardianship
Where we have a custody order but no guardianship order, we cannot provide consent. We should encourage guardians to provide consent by helping them to access factual information about the benefits and known risks of the vaccine, but this is ultimately their decision to make.
If there is any disagreement from tamariki or guardians or between tamariki and guardians, seek advice from Legal Services.
Only in extreme circumstances (for example, where not receiving the vaccination may result in serious health concerns for tamariki) would we consider further options to legally enable the vaccination to be administered. This would be by way of on notice application to the Court where all parties would have the opportunity to be heard.
If you are unsure about any aspect, get in touch with your local solicitor.
Engaging with tamariki, whānau or family and caregivers about vaccination
We may have an important role in bringing people together to discuss and share their views, and ensure they are supported to receive factual information regarding the vaccine from healthcare professionals.
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 tamariki or whānau want to be involved. In other cases, tamariki 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.
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.
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.
For some tamariki and rangatahi 12 and over, this may be the first vaccination they remember and they may be anxious about it. We should assure them that feeling worried is 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 tamariki and rangatahi 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 tamariki and rangatahi can make these decisions for themselves even if it goes against their own views.
Help whānau or family to access reliable information and listen to any concerns they have. If whānau or family need support to be vaccinated themselves, ask how we can assist them (for example, transport). Provide specific information about where and when whānau or family can be vaccinated in your community; explore familiar environments and who whānau or family trust.
Talking to caregivers
It is important that caregivers also have up-to-date information on the vaccinations and understand their role in relation to tamariki and rangatahi in their care being vaccinated.
Caregivers are not able to give consent for tamariki or rangatahi in their care to be vaccinated, unless they have also been granted legal guardianship.
In these cases, if tamariki are not competent to provide consent, caregivers should get in touch with the social worker of te tamaiti to arrange seeking the consent of guardians.
In cases where caregivers are also guardians, consultation with other guardians is still required for consent to be given. This is particularly important as it’s likely households will arrange to get vaccinated as a group, and during the general rollout it’s possible that vaccinators may inadvertently seek consent from caregivers.
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.
Help caregivers to access reliable information and listen to any concerns they have. If caregivers need support to be vaccinated themselves, ask how we can assist them (for example, transport or childcare). Provide specific information about where and when caregivers can be vaccinated in your community; explore familiar environments and who caregivers trust.
Engaging with Māori about COVID-19
We have an important role to support addressing barriers to vaccinations for whānau Māori, including acknowledging the systemic barriers Māori face. Trust is a significant part of supporting vaccination. There are useful resources to support vaccine-related kōrero with whānau Māori.
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
There are useful resources to support vaccine-related conversation with Pacific families and how vaccination can protect not just individuals but aiga, friends, churches and community.
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.
Keeping others informed
Where there are multiple kaimahi working directly with tamariki, 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. This information should only be shared if necessary and with the consent of te tamaiti or rangatahi.
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.