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Vaccinated Air NZ pilots grounded as jabs other than Pfizer not recognised

Newshub logo Newshub 18/10/2021 Juliet Speedy
Watch: Air NZ has grounded a handful of vaccinated pilots. © Video - Newshub; Image - Getty Images Watch: Air NZ has grounded a handful of vaccinated pilots.

Air New Zealand says it's in urgent talks with the Government asking them to recognise other COVID-19 vaccines, not just Pfizer.

In the meantime, the airline has grounded a handful of vaccinated pilots.

It comes as thousands of Kiwis returning to New Zealand are immunised against COVID with something other than Pfizer - meaning they're not recognised as vaccinated.

For a growing number of workers - it's a case of "no jab, no job".

And the Government has stipulated that jab is Pfizer - no choice.

But late on Monday, the Government conceded that's about to change.

"An alternative for people who may be willing to be vaccinated but have a particular concern about the mRNA vaccines and we've nearly finalised that advice," Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield told reporters. "Once… decisions have been made, there'll be an announcement about that."

Among the heavy hitters to lobby the Government over the matter is Air New Zealand. 

The national carrier has revealed to Newshub it's in urgent talks with the Government, asking them to recognise more than Pfizer.

About 3 percent of its pilots say they don't want Pfizer and some have opted to get the Janssen vaccine while on a layover in the US. 

"We have a handful of pilots who have been vaccinated with a vaccine not currently recognised by the Ministry of Health," the airline says.

"Air New Zealand recognises these pilots as being fully vaccinated and have been in urgent talks with the Government over an exemption or change in the order to allow these pilots to continue operating. While we await confirmation, these pilots are not flying."

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Pfizer being New Zealand's only vaccine supplier is also a problem for the thousands of expat New Zealanders who have come home or are planning to.

"The Indonesian government put us on their vaccination programme and we had Sinovac," said Jakarta-based Kiwi Eva Niehorster. 

Nearly 50,000 people moved to New Zealand in the 12 months up until August - many with a dose of something other than Pfizer. Right now, as far as the Government is concerned, they aren't vaccinated.

But that's another thing the Government says will change.

"We are working to the point where we can recognise those Kiwis' vaccination status," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

Pharmacist Annabel Turley, from Unichem Cashel St in Christchurch, said New Zealand's vaccination rate would rise if there was another choice like Janssen or AstraZeneca

"I've had a number of my customers who are always first to turn up to have a flu vaccination come in and say, 'How do I get another type of vaccination?'"

The stakes are now higher with the growing number of vaccine mandates the Government and private businesses are likely to introduce. The Master Builders' Association is the latest to ask the Government to increase its mandate to the building and construction sector, saying many residential clients want all workers on site to be vaccinated.

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