Mandatory vaccination for the health workforce is being considered as a significant disparity in DHBs' staff vaccination levels is revealed.
In data released today, close to 90 per cent of all staff at several DHBs are fully vaccinated. Auckland and Waitematā DHBs have achieved the highest levels nationwide with 89 and 88 per cent respectively.
Counties Manukau DHB, which is at the centre of the current Delta outbreak, has seen 87 per cent of its staff fully vaccinated.
However, less than half of West Coast DHB staff (49 per cent) have had both Covid-19 vaccine doses.
Bay of Plenty and Canterbury DHBs are also trailing with 61 and 65 per cent of their staff fully vaccinated respectively.
Overall, it's estimated about 75 per cent of the roughly 80,000-strong DHB workforce is fully vaccinated.
National Party Covid-19 response spokesman Chris Bishop said it was "very worrying" so many DHB staffers hadn't had two doses.
"We've got to get those numbers higher as a priority."
While 90 per cent of Tairāwhiti DHB staff are stated as having had both doses, this is only an estimate and will be confirmed later in the month.
Both Southern and South Canterbury are basing their figures on surveys from a percentage of their staff.
There is no first dose data for Tairāwhiti or Wairarapa.
DHB spokeswoman Rosemary Clements said many staff vaccination figures would be underestimated due to privacy requirements.
Under the Privacy Act, DHBs require staff consent to record their vaccination status. Staff surveys and individual kōrero with staff had been utilised to gain permission.
"Some DHBs who started this consent process later than others may have slightly lower figures recorded than those who began the process earlier, however all DHBs are confident of high levels of vaccination in their workforces."
It comes as officials are consulting with stakeholders on how mandatory vaccination might be rolled out to the health workforce.
Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins said he had asked the Ministry of Health to consult with key stakeholders on a proposal to require the majority of healthcare workers to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
This would apply to staff working in roles with a "Covid-19 pathway", that included emergency departments, those in primary care and working with vulnerable patients, residential care facilities, critical support services including medical laboratories and catering facilities, and private and community care services.
Consultation included with health unions, professional associations, the Office of Disability Issues, and the Privacy Commissioner. It would be in line with requirements in place for MIQ staff, he said.
"We do need to ensure that the workers most likely to come into contact with Covid-19 are as protected as possible."
Other countries had required health care workers to be vaccinated, including Australia, the United States, Singapore, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Greece and Fiji.
In June, national guidance was published which dictated all DHBs should have access to the vaccination data of staff in Covid-19 workstreams by August 31.
"DHBs are expected to know by 31 August 2021 the vaccination status of all workers identified as being in a Covid-19 workstream, and will be taking the necessary steps now to identify and record their Covid-19 workstreams, and identify the vaccination status of workers in those workstreams," it read."
Today's data referenced all staff but did not specify the vaccination levels of staff in Covid-19 workstreams.
Bishop said there was tremendous risk in unvaccinated healthcare workers operating in Covid-19 workstreams.
"There are potentially dozens or hundreds of people who are not vaccinated who are potentially treating Covid patients and frankly, that's unacceptable."
He suspected most people would be surprised mandatory vaccination wasn't in place for staff who could interact with the virus, saying it should be an "absolute bottom line".
Clements said DHBs were confident of "very high levels" of vaccination in such workstreams, given the high numbers of DHB staff known to be vaccinated.
"Vaccination is an important measure to keep staff and patients safe, along with the other infection prevention control measures used stringently throughout the pandemic, such as use of full PPE gear. "
In May, the Herald revealed 11 DHBs were not collecting data on whether their staff have received the Covid jab.
At the time, there was no protocol in place requiring DHB staff to be vaccinated before treating patients suspected or confirmed to have Covid-19.
In July, there were still nine DHBs not recording this data.
They were Northland, MidCentral, Whanganui, Tairāwhiti, Taranaki, Canterbury, South Canterbury, Southern and West Coast.
The remaining DHBs were at different stages of staff vaccination at that point, ranging between 69 per cent of staff fully vaccinated, up to 91 per cent.
On August 26, the Herald reported an email - written by a senior Ministry of Health official - which showed the country's response to the latest Delta outbreak was hampered by some DHBs not knowing which of their staff were vaccinated.
"While DHBs have been making good progress with the vaccination programme, many DHBs do not have reliable information on their workers' vaccination status readily available," the email read.
"This has presented a barrier to rapidly and safely deploying staff to where they are needed most in the current Covid-19 response. The three Auckland DHBs and Waikato DHB, in particular, have found this to be problematic since we went to level 4 on [August 17]."