*This article has been updated with a statement from the union NZEI Te Riu Roa, which represents ECE workers.
More than a quarter of respondents to an early childcare education survey say the Government vaccine mandate will "very likely" cause them to leave the sector.
The mandate, announced last Monday, means anyone who is in contact with children in an education setting must have had their first vaccine dose by November 15 and their second by January 1.
More than a third of the 2100 people surveyed said they had not had their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine.
The Office of Early Childhood Education survey was not scientific, as respondents were self-selecting and did not have to prove they worked or volunteered in the sector.
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The office's chief adviser Dr Sarah Alexander said the results suggested ECE may be a sector where the Government needed to focus its attention to help increase vaccination uptake.
She guessed those who actually left the sector would be one in 20 or even fewer. Instead responses were more reflective of the high levels of dissatisfaction in the sector, which already had high staff turnover.
Alexander said it was possible the results were skewed because those who felt strongly were more likely to respond. But she thought the survey was "probably pretty reflective" of how people were feeling, and the sector's vaccination rates.
But the NZEI Te Riu Roa - which represents thousands of ECE workers - said the vast majority of its members supported the mandate and called the survey "irresponsible and misleading".
Director of campaigns Stephanie Mills said the survey was damaging to ECE teachers' reputations as it gave the impression a large number opposed vaccination, which was not the case.
"We've seen no evidence that the rate of vaccination in ECE teachers is any different from the general population."
Just 0.2 per cent of NZEI's members - or one in 500 - had resigned their membership due to being anti-vaccination, Mills said.
Mills said the ECE teacher shortage was because of a pay gap - up to 52 per cent - between ECE teachers and their colleagues in kindergartens and schooling. Fully funding pay parity in next year's Budget would have far more impact on staffing than the few teachers who might leave over the vaccine mandate.
NZEI was also providing guidance to members should their employment be at risk because of medical reasons or because of their personal stance on the vaccine.
"The best way to encourage people in the sector who are vaccine-hesitant is to ensure they have access to trusted professionals who can answer their questions, and address their concerns. On a practical level, the government should ensure all employers offer paid time off work to get tested and/or vaccinated."
What the survey found
Overall 62 per cent of those surveyed had had a first dose of the vaccine, compared to the national rate of 83 per cent of the eligible population on October 14.
That rate masked some variation - 80 per cent of service providers or owners had had their first dose, while 63 per cent of employees and 66 per cent of home-based carers had had a dose.
Just 40 per cent of voluntary workers, and 36 per cent of "involved parents" had had their first dose.
Lower vaccination rates among parents and volunteers could spell trouble for Playcentres, which rely on parents' involvement to run.
One respondent said they were likely to lose their Playcentre president and possibly other members but thought they could still pull through.
"I believe in vaccination but I desperately hate that this will break apart out community and leave some children out of their favourite place because of their parents' choices," they said.
Another said they could see reduced numbers but "in all honesty, I think our ECE as a rural playcentre is on borrowed time anyway".
Reasons for not being vaccinated
Respondents said they hadn't been vaccinated for a range of reasons, from being too busy, wanting more safety information, waiting for a different vaccine, or being advised by a health professional that they should not get the vaccine due to pregnancy or medical reasons.
Some also said it was a personal choice not to be vaccinated, either believing the vaccine was not necessary, or was harmful.
"I am not willing to undergo stress anymore if the Government doesn't see the need to help the sector," one person wrote.
Another person - who was vaccinated - said that "with a sad amount of pay parity coming in January, I will use the possibility of others leaving the education sector to look for a better paying position in primary teaching".
Around 43 per cent of respondents believed the mandate would cause some hardship to their service.
One service provider spoke of a teacher who followed naturopathy. "She will not expose her body to the vaccine and therefore will have to leave. Our children will miss her."
But others said the mandate made them feel safe, and some were aware of teachers or families who would leave the service if others at the centre were not vaccinated.
Most respondents supported the mandate's timeline - requiring the first dose by November 15 and January 1 - and the weekly testing requirement for unvaccinated people.
However, some thought testing should be more stringent and include vaccinated people.
Home-based carers yesterday published an open letter to the Government complaining they were being singled out by the requirement that everyone in their homes must be vaccinated, even if not child-facing.
But Alexander said those groups needed to realise they were a licensed, publicly-funded service and their homes were a workplace.
The mandate was similar to the requirement for all adults in a home-based carer's home to have a police check, she said.
However, the requirement for children in the home over 12 to be vaccinated was a new development.