Vaccinating port workers ‘paramount’

The container ship Mattina, which is quarantined in Bluff

ABOUT 68% of active port workers in Bluff and Port Chalmers have been fully vaccinated, the Ministry of Health (MoH) says.

The ministry revealed last week that 15 of 21 crew members of the container ship Mattina, which is quarantined in Bluff, tested positive for Covid-19.

Five crew, who have tested negative, have been transferred to managed isolation facilities onshore, the remainder remain isolated on board the vessel at this time, where they will maintain the minimum functions on the vessel.

The news raised concerns about the vaccine rollout in the region, especially for port workers.

MoH Covid-19 vaccination operations group manager Astrid Koornneef said vaccinating border workers was paramount for the success of the country’s response to the virus.

Since May, all workers at managed isolation and managed quarantine facilities and government officials working at airports and ports were required to be vaccinated under the Covid-19 Public Health Response’s Vaccinations Order.

A few weeks ago, “a much broader range of workers” at airports and ports were included in this order, she said.

“This will add even greater strength to our border protection.”

She said it was unable to provide vaccination data about border workers by specific workplace. However, in the Southern District Health Board, within which workers for the ports of Bluff and Port Chalmers reside, of the about 208 currently active workers, 142 have been fully vaccinated and six have had one dose only.

“The remainder will be vaccinated before September 30, 2021.”

South Port last week revealed in a statement that 100% of its workers who came under the Covid-19 Health Response Vaccinations Order had been vaccinated.

Ms Koornneef said protecting the nation’s borders was a top priority.

“As part of that, the border workforce, including those who work at our ports, are in the highest priority group to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

“The Ministry of Health has been and continues to work to place an emphasis on increasing the vaccination uptake by those workers.”

All newly covered government employees have until August 26 to receive their first dose of the vaccine, while privately employed border workers have until September 30.