Covid-19 vaccination policy – FAQs

These frequently asked questions (FAQs) have been compiled in response to the feedback and questions raised by students and staff in the consultation on the University's Covid-19 vaccination policy.

Updated Monday 28 February 2022

This is a working document, and more content will be added as information comes to hand and more decisions are made.

This page only relates to our vaccination policy. Information about masks and requirements for coming on to campus appears on other pages.  

Why did the University adopt this policy?

This decision is firmly based on the health and well-being of our community and is in line with decisions the government has announced for other industry sectors. It also follows the lead of similar leading universities around the globe.

Vaccines are the most effective means for protecting against Covid-19, particularly as restrictions are lifted and life in New Zealand returns to relative normality.

As restrictions are lifted, our preference is to return to on-campus teaching, learning and research as soon as possible, so that our students and staff benefit from the full on-campus experience.

It is clear from the government’s directions so far on the ‘traffic light’ system that proof of vaccination will be a core requirement for a wide range of activities and freedoms. It is important therefore that the University has a clear policy that enables students and staff to make their decisions with clarity and confidence before we return to campus.

When will the University's Covid-19 vaccination policy take effect?

It came into effect on 4 January 2022, and will be reviewed after six months, or earlier if conditions or Government requirements warrant it.

Who does this policy apply to?

It applies to anyone who wishes to come onto the University’s campuses or take part in face-to-face University-managed activities, including students, staff, volunteers, visitors and contractors. The only exceptions will be:

  • People who have a valid medical exemption (see the question "Will medical exemptions be accepted?") – note, they still need a My Vaccine Pass
  • Patients of the University Health and Counselling Service, and the University clinics

Which system is being used by the University to store the uploaded staff and student vaccine passes?

What data security is there to protect this uploaded information?

The University's Vaccination Declaration Portal allows students, staff and long-term visitors to upload the information contained in their official My Vaccine Pass (MVP). The data from the MVP stored by the University are: name; date of birth; expiry date; not before date; and a unique identifier. In addition, the date of upload and the responses to the options entered via the portal are also recorded.

The University stores this data in our Enterprise Person Registry (EPR), which shares data to the University Data Warehouse for reporting purposes. The data within the EPR is subject to strict access controls and is protected through our enterprise data protection platforms (ie. for backup and recovery purposes). All data in these systems are stored and managed in New Zealand, not overseas. Reports from the University Data Warehouse are only made available to staff carrying out specific work in support of the University’s Covid-19 Vaccination and Testing Policy.

Security of the systems associated with managing data is important to the University. Neither the EPR database nor the University Data Warehouse can be accessed without being connected to the University’s virtual private network (VPN), including use of Multi-Factor Authentication. The authorisation for access to the data is handled using the same industry-standard group-management approach the University routinely uses to manage sensitive and private information.

For more technical details on the data structure being used by the University in accordance with Ministry of Health specifications, you can refer to the Ministry of Health's GitHub repository.

How do I upload My Vaccine Pass into the Vaccination Declaration Portal?

Watch the embedded video below, or in YouTube.

How does the policy apply to babies and children (who may come on campus with staff and students)?

Our approach to babies and children is informed by our Babies and Children on Campus Guidelines and Government guidance.

We do not require the vaccination status of children (including those of secondary school age not studying at the University) coming on to campus.

To help keep other children and staff and students safe, we strongly encourage:

Does the policy apply to the out-of-Auckland campuses?

It covers all University of Auckland campuses including Tai Tokerau in Whangārei, the Leigh Marine Laboratory, and Te Papa Ako o Tai Tonga in South Auckland. Entry onto campuses includes all teaching and learning spaces (such as workshops, classes, labs, tutorials, meetings, noho marae, exams, and assessments), libraries, student services, student accommodation, gyms, offices and research and related activity settings.

Will medical exemptions be accepted?

Yes. We follow the Ministry of Health’s guidance and requirements for establishing a medical exemption. You can refer to their COVID-19 vaccine: Exemptions and certificates page for more information.

Does this policy apply to University residential accommodation?

Yes it does, and it has been included in the Residential Rules.

I got my Covid-19 vaccination overseas. Will my proof of vaccination be approved by the University?

The vaccination policy and associated procedures now set out the requirement for your My Vaccine Pass to be verified through the University Vaccination Declaration Portal.

You can check whether your Covid-19 vaccination is accepted on the Unite against COVID-19 page: My Vaccine Pass, section If you were vaccinated in another country.

How will the University monitor whether someone taking part in a face-to-face University-managed activity is fully vaccinated?

Our approach to monitoring the policy is informative and educational. Staff and students upload their My Vaccine Pass to the University's Vaccination Declaration Portal.

Our security team randomly check passes in person on campus and check use of access cards through safety and security systems. People who are not complying are flagged, and reminded they need to upload their pass as part of the conditions of being on campus.

For non-teaching events, organisers are expected to sight a MyVaccinePass for all participants.

Our contractors know they must carry their MyVaccinePass when they come on campus.


What if my personal choice is not to be vaccinated?

The University recognises that there will be some students and staff who do not wish to be vaccinated. You continue to have that choice, however those that do not satisfy the requirements of the policy will be unable to take part in face-to-face University-managed activities or enter our campuses.

This includes teaching and learning spaces (such as workshops, classes, labs, tutorials, meetings, noho marae, exams and assessments), libraries, student services, student accommodation, gyms, offices and research and related activity settings.

In adopting this policy, the University is balancing people’s rights to make their own choices and decisions on vaccination against the rights of our students and staff to study and work in a safe campus environment.  

If I don’t want to be vaccinated, I shouldn’t have to be. Doesn’t this policy contradict my freedom of choice and rights to bodily autonomy?

This policy does not force you to be vaccinated. That decision remains entirely a matter of personal choice, and the University respects your right to choose.

However, if you make that choice then you need to be aware that it will carry consequences which may include limitations on the courses open to you for enrolment, limitations on your eligibility to participate in work-based learning or practicum activities and limitations on your ability to take part in University activities.

Doesn’t this policy discriminate against people who are unable or unwilling to get vaccinated? How does this square with the University’s equity values?

The University acknowledges that these are difficult issues that unfortunately pitch some rights and freedoms against others. However, our priority throughout the Covid-19 pandemic has been to protect the health, safety and well-being of our University community. This is a legal and ethical duty.

In adopting this policy, we are reaffirming that this duty remains our primary concern. While this policy may limit some rights, it reaffirms what we consider to be the University’s primary responsibility, which is to keep our campuses and people safe.

My religious beliefs do not allow me to be vaccinated. Will the University respect that?

The University respects your choice not to be vaccinated, however  those that do not satisfy the requirements of the policy  will be unable to take part in face-to-face University-managed activities or enter our campuses. This includes teaching and learning spaces (such as workshops, classes, labs, tutorials, meetings, noho marae, exams and assessments), libraries, student services, student accommodation, gyms, offices and research and related activity settings. 

If I choose not to be vaccinated, will I still be able to continue studying and complete my courses?

If you choose not to be vaccinated then this will not necessarily impact your ability to continue to study and complete your qualification.

However as not all University courses are available online, there may be limitations on the courses open to you for enrolment. There may be limitations on your eligibility to participate in work-based learning or practicum activities that may impact your ability to complete your programme.

We currently make reasonable temporary provisions for students who are unable to come onto campus, such as students who are offshore and unable to enter New Zealand due to border restrictions. This includes provision of a number of courses via online delivery.

Will some courses require full vaccination status?

Yes, access to some courses will require full vaccination status due to current government-mandated requirements in the health and education sectors. This includes courses that involve clinical placements in healthcare settings or practicums in schools. As more and more employers introduce their own vaccine polices, courses involving other work-based learning components may also be affected.

Any students who choose not to be vaccinated are advised to check their programme requirements to determine whether they can complete their programme without being vaccinated.

How will staff who choose not to get vaccinated be supported? Will staff keep their jobs?

The policy imposes conditions for coming onto campus, not for working at the University. We are working through how this approach will impact staff who choose not to be vaccinated.

Vaccination questions and answers from a staff expert forum

In November 2021 an expert University panel facilitated by Professor John Fraser, Dean of the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences answered staff questions on a wide range of issues relating to Covid-19 vaccine safety and effectiveness. 

A selection of these questions and answers are below:

Vaccine side effects/adverse reactions

What are the common side effects of the Pfizer second jab? How long do side-effects such as heart palpitations appear to last and should this be any concern for long term health?

There are multiple systems to monitor immediate side-effects among vaccine recipients via text message or apps – in the UK, Australia, US and now in NZ. These have shown similar results to the clinical trials – i.e that either or both of local (pain, swelling or redness at injection site) or general (fever, muscle aches, chills, fatigue, headache) occur in about a third of people after dose 1 and about 60% of people after dose 2 – more commonly in younger than older adults.

Occasionally, symptoms like fatigue can persist for up to weeks, but in the great majority of people resolve within a few days to a week. Even if associated with something more specific like heart muscle (myocarditis) or heart lining (pericarditis) inflammation, these symptoms also resolve in almost everyone in a few weeks but may require anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve symptoms. There is no evidence of long-term symptoms.

Vaccine injury is proving to be a real issue as our global pandemic response evolves, yet is rarely spoken about or addressed by health experts or politicians. Rather, there seems to be an underlying sense/urgency that everyone get vaccinated, regardless of the potential side effects or injury to the few. What is your view on the topic of vaccine injury and how do we best address it?

For the Pfizer vaccine, there is now a well-documented number of uncommon to rare adverse reactions following the first or second vaccine dose which are causally linked. The most robust evidence of the relative risk represented by these events compared with Covid-19 infection comes from a large Israeli study which compared approximately 850,000 people who had received the Pfizer vaccine with an identical number who had not, matched for age, gender, ethnicity, and pre-existing medical conditions.

This study showed that compared with the risk with Covid-19, the additional risk of getting inflammation/swelling of the lymph glands (lymphadenitis) was about 1/1300 and of shingles about 1/4,000 whereas myocarditis, which did occur about three times more commonly in vaccinated than unvaccinated, was more than three times as common in people who got Covid-19. Clots in the leg or lung occurred in about 1/950 people with Covid-19 but were actually less common in vaccinated than unvaccinated people without infection. Well-documented vaccine-related problems like myocarditis are eligible for compensation through ACC.

Immunity: vaccine vs Covid infection

There is also evidence that people who have had Covid-19 and recovered have more immunity than someone who was vaccinated. Although I don’t endorse trying to catch it, the question is why are these people not included in the stats as having adequate protection against Covid-19 and thus could boost the numbers of our overall immunity and help us get to that 90% vaccination target?

This is incorrect. There is now clear evidence that those who have developed immunity through infection are more inconsistent in their ability to defend against re-infection. Vaccination gives a more consistent protective response. What is becoming apparent is that if you have had a Covid-19 infection, and then are vaccinated, you are likely to develop what is called a hybrid immunity that is even more robust.

How the vaccine works/vaccine efficacy

Please explain in general terms what the vaccine is and is not, regarding protection from Covid-19.

The current Pfizer vaccine is a safe and effective means of protection against developing the serious consequences of Covid-19 infection. While still very effective at reducing infection and transmission, there is evidence that breakthrough infections occur, particularly as the immunity from two doses wanes but protection from serious disease remains.

I would be interested in the expert panel’s comments on the UK Health Security Agency data reporting that among people 30 years of age and over, those vaccinated with at least two doses are more likely to contract Covid-19 than the unvaccinated. In the panel’s opinion, what do these data state about the effectiveness of the vaccination in preventing or reducing the infection rates in the over-30 population?

The UK data certainly does show there is currently a higher number of infections in vaccinated people compared to unvaccinated people. That is because the vaccinated group is three times larger (UK is current at 70% double vaccination). Remember that the vaccine prevents severe disease but is less effective in preventing transmission of mild infections.

The next table in the UK Agency data is much more important, showing rates of serious infection between these two groups. In the 30-39 age group for example, there are 3.2/100,000 serious cases in the vaccinated compared with 13.4/100,000 in unvaccinated people.

Given the vaccinated group in the UK is now three times larger, this means that unvaccinated people are 16x more likely to get a serious infection. This is probably even higher if you consider that many in the unvaccinated group will have developed some immunity through an unreported natural infection.

Vaccine efficacy over time

Is it true that a reduction in the effectiveness of the vaccines, after only six months, can lead to a wave of vaccinated people getting sick with Covid-19? We will need to take the third dose after six months to be better protected? Which will be the better strategy to manage this loss of effectiveness with the time?

The protective anti-spike antibodies generated by the vaccine will wane over time. We can expect a rise in mild infections across a population, even those with high herd immunity, but the number of serious cases should remain low. Transmission will be reduced. Other countries are seeing this, including Israel. Evidence for the Pfizer vaccine is that protective immunity lasts for at least six months and probably longer, but the jury remains  out on how long protective immunity will last and it will vary from person to person. A booster shot significantly prolongs protective immunity and lengthens immune memory.

It is important to decouple serious disease from mild infection as individual immunity wanes. While protective immunity afforded by the vaccine antibodies wanes over months, your immune memory lasts a very long time (years). This memory means that even though you have lost your immediate protective response, your immune system remembers and can respond very rapidly should you encounter the virus again. Protection against serious illness is therefore likely to last for a lot longer than protection from mild infection.

Why are we forcing mandatory vaccines on our staff and students who want to be on campuses? Even though you say it’s not mandatory, you can't come to campus, which certainly puts a damper on things. However in nine months’ time, all of our immunity to Covid will be gone and you're perhaps more likely to catch Covid-19 from someone who was vaccinated, rather than our unvaccinated counterparts. Coincidentally these people deemed ‘unsafe’ won’t be allowed on campus.

The University is not forcing staff and students to be vaccinated, but they must choose vaccination if they wish to return to campus next year to provide the safest environment for everyone. The choice remains, but staff and students must accept that will have consequences for study next year. It is premature to assume that in nine month's time, all our immunity will be gone.

Vaccination and virus transmission

According to a recent article in The Lancet, the Covid-19 vaccination can't stop the transmission of the Delta variant. In this case, it is very dangerous to stay on university campuses, irrespective of whether people have been vaccinated or not.

Vaccination does reduce transmission, rates of infection and dramatically reduces the likelihood of serious consequences. Moreover, you are more likely to catch Covid from an unvaccinated person. A recent study shows that this difference is as high as 5.5 times (more likely to be infected by an unvaccinated person).

Coming onto campus where the majority of people are vaccinated is the safest way of protecting everyone from future infection and makes the most of herd immunity. Will it be safe for people at risk if they catch Covid-19 to be on campus; can’t vaccinated people still transmit the virus?

People will be at much lower risk of catching Covid-19 if everyone else is vaccinated, and if they do, it will likely be a mild infection. Yes some vaccinated people can still catch the virus in the nose and throat, but they are at much lower risk of the virus infecting lungs and other tissues. Vaccinated people who catch mild Covid are less likely to pass on the infection because their total viral load is lower and their infection is shorter lived.

General topics

What is the view of the expert panel on mandating a vaccination in the context of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 section 11;  the right to refuse to undergo medical treatment.

The panel does not advocate the mandating of vaccines for the general population. People should continue to have the right to choose, just as they have the right to choose to refuse a medical treatment. However employers also have the right and responsibility to provide a safe working environment.  

What's your advice for those who either cannot or choose not to be vaccinated?

The only valid medical contraindication to the first dose of Pfizer vaccine (the only Covid-19 vaccine currently available in NZ) is documented anaphylaxis (not simply allergy) to a vaccine component. This is rare, requires specialist clinical immunology review for confirmation and many people even in these circumstances have been able to be safely given the vaccine under supervision.

A larger but still small number of people have serious adverse reactions to the first dose which may constitute grounds for a temporary exemption. People who do not qualify as having a valid reason for review before the first or second dose and choose not to be vaccinated for other reasons, must carefully weigh up the risks and consequences of remaining unvaccinated, ignoring all the misinformation that it is unsafe, and consider the obvious freedoms that are likely to be curtailed in a post-Covid world.

Since everyone is vulnerable to acquiring and transmitting Covid-19, is there any scientific reason/explanation for the vaccinated to fear being around the unvaccinated?

No not really except that an unvaccinated person who is infected, is more likely to spread the virus.

Is there any truth to recent findings/discoveries that nano metallic particulates, in particular graphene oxide, have been found in the Pfizer vaccine?

No, this is misinformation.

Mixing and matching various booster shots/technology – is it wise/safe to mix different kinds of shots (e.g., Pfizer with Novavax), given the different technologies and likely development techniques behind them?

There have now been studies of a number of mix and match combinations of vaccines and all so far have proved to be equivalent or better than the same vaccine for both doses, which is reassuring that if it is necessary to have two different types of vaccines this is not a disadvantage.

Given the Pfizer vaccine is part of a conditionally approved trial until 2023, when will we have data available that shows the impact on the human body's natural immune system and long-term health?

The conditional approval process is a routine one for all new vaccines and medicines so applying it to Pfizer comes as no surprise. However, unlike infections for which there are plenty of examples of long-term later harms occurring (like the brain degeneration SSPE 10 or 20 years after measles or cancer of the liver many years after Hepatitis B infection) there are no known examples of long-term problems arising from vaccines.

Problems which have been identified to date have all been short-term and studies looking for longer term problems (like autism, multiple sclerosis or even leukaemia) following vaccines have not shown any evidence to support a relationship. So it seems very unlikely that this would occur with Covid-19 vaccines.

What does the future look like? Are we going to need to take booster shots every 6-12 months to retain our vaccine immunity? For how long?  Is there any data that suggests what the long-term effect of this approach will be on our health?

It is very early days as Covid-19 vaccines have been in general use for less than a year and in that time we have had several variants in quick succession followed by the Delta variant which has now been dominant for at least six months globally.

Too early to call for sure, but it may be that Delta's high infectiousness is "peak fitness" for the virus – infecting another person is all the virus is interested in doing and as it is still possible to do that with vaccinated people, there may be little pressure on the virus to escape vaccine immunity.

For now, boosters to protect against severe disease look most likely to be required for the very elderly or frail who are likely to continue to require them given the still present risk of severe disease should they develop infection despite vaccination.

For young healthy people, it may turn out that once fully vaccinated, the best long-term immunity is developed from an infection, which in many cases may have few or no symptoms and provide broader immune protection than is currently available from repeated re-vaccination. A wait-and-see at this early stage.

Please visit the Unite against COVID-19 website for more information about vaccinations.

If you have further questions